Archive: The smallest things matter – Is it possible to care too much?

Career Opportunities podcast logoThe smallest things matter – Is it possible to care too much?
By Douglas E. Welch

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CareerCampLA: Helping to Build the Carer You Deserve

Saturday, March 27, 2010
Northridge, California

A hybrid conference/unconference dedicated to “helping you build the career you deserve”. The day will include scheduled speakers, ad hoc presentations and breakout sessions on all aspects of building your career. CareerCamp is for anyone who wants to build and/or improve their career.

Stop worrying. Relax. Don’t concern yourself with things you can’t change. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I bet you have heard many of these phrases as you work through your high-tech career. Someone is always telling you not to be so concerned with the issues that surround you. Sometimes they even say that you care too much. It is this caring, though, that raises you above the average employee. It is this caring that helps improve your career and your company. I would argue that it is this caring that makes your career worthwhile. Is it possible to care too much about your work? For me, I think it’s is a major pre-requisite for excelling in any career.

Sweating the small stuff

Several years ago I picked up the book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – and its all small stuff by Richard Carlson. It was, and remains, a best seller and promises to help you stop worrying, reduce stress and “bring out the best in yourself and others.” I read a lot of business books, so this seemed a logical choice to pick up at my local library. Little did I know that I would end up hurling the book across the room in frustration and disgust only part way through.

For me, Don’t sweat the small stuff , presented an opinion 180 degrees from my own beliefs on work and life. Its main message was to let go of the small problems, as they aren’t worth worrying about. Surely, I thought, the author must be joking. Is ignoring a problem really a solution? Is giving up really an answer to life’s pressing problems? Is self-preservation the only guideline? I couldn’t believe it, so I kept reading…until I could read no further.

In one regard, the book was useful as it got me thinking. This is one of my main criteria whenever I read any book. I started thinking about how many problems in our society today are caused by just such a laissez-faire attitude. Small issues fester and grow until they become large problems, which take greater efforts, and more money, to address. Had we not ignored the problems in the first place, we wouldn’t be in the position of struggling to solve them now. The same can be said for your career.

Don’t ignore the small problems

Ignoring the small problems in your work is a sure way to limit your career, if not destroy it altogether. While we all have big issues to deal with, these small, perhaps chronic problems will haunt you. Don’t have time for server maintenance? Expect a major, data-destroy crash. Don’t have time to test your UPS battery backups? Expect to lose your entire network during the next power failure. Don’t have time to upgrade software? Expect a major virus outbreak. Don’t want to fire a bad employee? Expect no end of trouble with everyone else in your department.

This isn’t “sweating the small stuff.” These tasks are the basic reason for your employment. Ignoring any of these issues in the guise of reducing your stress level is folly. You address issues by facing them head-on. It is by solving issues that you gain control of your work. It is by providing solutions that you gain a foothold in your career. It is by caring, perhaps too much, that you build the best career possible. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let anyone accuse you of “caring too much.” More likely, they simply don’t care enough about their work or their career. While they may have decided to glide through their career, I challenge all of you to accept the small problems as important stepping-stones and not traps to be avoided. You need to care about these small problems in order to prevent them from growing into large ones.

If you find that you have stopped caring about your work, it is a clear sign that something is wrong. Feelings of futility are never a good sign. You either need to find some foothold in your work that allows you to reconnect with it or find another job, or another career. Otherwise, eventually, someone is going to discover your lack of enthusiasm and more than likely, they will “sweat the small stuff” and make a major career decision for you.

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