by Leo Babauta
Less than a decade ago, it seemed to become a trend to create “passive” income and outsource everything and go live on a beach while the money piled up in your bank account.
The idea seemed to be that doing less work is good, and automation is the way to go.
I too became lured by that dream for a little while, so I don’t judge anyone who goes down that path.
But I’m here to say that there’s another way: doing things yourself, and really caring about the work you do.
This is the way of the old craftsman who spends days, even weeks, working on a single piece because he wants to create something useful, beautiful, and meaningful. Not mass produced, not factory made, not mindlessly manufactured and consumed. Something to enrich your life.
This is the way of the writer who pours her soul into a novel, not to crank out a best-seller every year but to change the way someone sees the world.
This is the way of anyone who works at a company not just to clock in and get a paycheck, but to make a contribution, to do work he’s proud of, to create something powerful in the world.
This is the work of any artist or creator, any entrepreneur, any coach or athlete, any parent or auto mechanic … who puts more effort than is required into the work, because from that effort is created meaning.
Why waste your time creating something you don’t care about, aren’t invested in? Life is too short. Perhaps it would be better to spend the little life you have on something that matters to you, that will matter to those you are creating for.
My Care-filled Work
I’m not perfect in this regard — I’ve produced substandard work, I’ve phoned it in, and I aimed at growth rather than quality in different times in my life. But lately, I’ve been trying the approach of caring, and it makes a huge difference.
I decided to spend a year creating a book, not just cranking out the words but working with a group of people to see if the book resonated, made a difference to them. I rewrote it several times. I published it the old fashioned way, with my own company, paying well above the normal cost so that it would be of high quality.
When freelancers did a poor job with the ebook versions, I tossed out their work and did it myself, hand coding every little tag and metafile in the ebook, so that it would be a good experience for my readers.
When the cover of the print book was flimsy, I had them replaced (at double the cost) with higher quality covers, so that it would be a good experience for my readers.
While I could grow my Sea Change membership program to many more members than I have now, I have eschewed growth for trying to make the program better, working with the community to see where they’re frustrated and committing myself to constantly improving the experience.
I do all of this work the hard way, by hand and collaborating with others who will work hard, because I care. And the simple act of caring has transformed the experience for me, and I hope for the people who receive the work as well.