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Home > Audio, Podcast > Ugliness and Beauty

Ugliness and Beauty

May 23rd, 2008

Career Opportunities podcast logoUgliness and Beauty
By Douglas E. Welch


Listen: Ugliness and Beauty

You may think that ugliness and beauty are only concepts that occur in art, but they are both part of everyday life. More importantly, they are also a part of your work. Every action we take, everything we do can often be divided along these lines. Were we kind to our fellow bus passengers? Beauty. Did we drop our litter on the ground? Ugliness. While it may seem extreme to divide the world into only two sides, it can give us a very clear idea of how much effect our actions have on the world.

First, it is important to remember that you have complete control over whether you create ugliness or beauty in your life and your work. You have it in your power to add both to the lives of those around you. The simple gesture or small kindness is often dismissed as worthless or unremarkable by many people who are rushing through their day. They can’t be bothered to say “Please” or “Thank You.” They’re too busy moving from one crisis to another to worry about the feelings of those around them. What they don’t realize is that every time they create ugliness in the lives of others, through inattention or malice, they are also bringing ugliness into their own lives.

Every action, every step, every conversation, every email can bring ugliness or beauty. Which would you rather have in your life?

You have seen how this works. You are brusque with a waitress, retail person or co-worker and it inevitably comes back to you. Either you don’t get the service you need or it sets up an altercation that neither of you really wants nor needs. Even if the reaction to your brusqueness is not immediate, your overall demeanor carries the ugliness into the other interactions along the way. At the end of your day you find yourself stressed and aching, both mentally and physically, without ever knowing exactly why. Call it ugliness. Call it “bad energy.” Call it just being a jerk. It takes a toll on you and everyone around you.

So, starting Monday, take a hard look at your work and see whether you are creating ugliness or beauty in your own life and the lives of those around you. Did you tell someone you would call them back and then break that promise? Did you say you would ship something overnight and then let it set until it was too late to make the delivery? Even worse, did you then blame it on the delivery company or a fellow employee? Did you refuse to help a co-worker, even though you had the time to help? Did you say “Please” and “Thank You” throughout your day? Did you treat every customer, regardless of their question or their demeanor, as the idiot you expected them to be?

Now, add up all the interactions of your day and imagine what a painting of your day might look like. Is it a pastel colored garden like Monet might have painted, or a dark, brooding mass of blacks and browns that you might see in a Munch painting. (Munch was the creator of the well-known painting, The Scream.) More likely, it has a bit of both. There are the splashes of yellow where you solved a recurring problem for a client and then slashes of black where you lashed out at someone for no good reason expect your own mood. Regardless of how your painting might look, visualizing a painting of your day gives you a clear indication of the beauty and ugliness you are creating with every action. What would your painting look like today? What will it look like tomorrow, now that you can visualize it in this way?

Every action, every step, every conversation, every email can bring ugliness or beauty. Which would you rather have in your life? Which would you rather be known for creating? It seems clear that if more of us created beauty, in our work and our life, the less ugliness we would have to experience. Which will be the focus of your work and career? It seems clear that beauty is the path to the career you deserve.

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