Doing Well a Thing That Is Well Worth Doing: The Best Way to Serve The Community is to Forget The Community and Serve The Work

April 21, 2015
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Article by: Mark Thogmartin, VP of BIZ Development at DISRUPT Media

A few weeks ago, I was involved in a conversation with an extremely successful and wealthy young man. He talked of his hard work, of taking opportunities that presented themselves, of wise decisions and risk-taking, and of enjoying the fruit of his labors. In regard to this last point, he mentioned his recent purchase of his dream car…a new Lamborghini. I wasn’t as intrigued at his description of the vehicle as I was his explanation of how he responded when he was driving it home for the first time. This young man who, in the eyes of anyone watching would say “has the world by the tail,” wept because he would miss the pursuit of the dream. Actually owning and driving the vehicle turned out to be anticlimactic. Now his life would have a void because he discovered that the excellence of the pursuit was more fulfilling than the actual attainment. Knowing him, I doubt his disappointment will last long…he will set his sights on a new goal.

As I have reflected on this conversation I’ve realized that the gentleman’s experience is truly one that is repeated by people of all classes and of all stations in life a thousand times a day. Even though we all need to make a living, we don’t really work for the pay. We work because of the self-satisfying nature of the process. Miserable is the person whose only reason for doing what she or he does is to garner a paycheck. We all find joy in doing a thing because it is worth doing, and because the product of our labor has some lasting consequence. When our lives are finished, we want it to be said of us “There was a person who made a difference” and, if we are people of faith, we long to hear the words from our Creator “Well done good and faithful servant.”

In a classic essay titled “Why Work?” Dorothy Sayers, who was a good friend of C. S. Lewis, reflects on the nature of work and of her distain for the wastefulness of the meaningless cycle of production and consumption. In reflecting on the post-World War II economy that would be shifting away from the need to efficiently generate products and services to assist the noble wartime effort, she decried how it would return to a more mundane process of producing merely to produce. She states “We have had to learn the bitter lesson that in all the world there are only two sources of real wealth: the fruit of the earth and the labor of men; and to estimate work not by the money it brings to the producer, but by the worth of the thing that is made.”

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Sayers goes on to make the revolutionary claim that “service” should not be the primary mantra we repeat or the motto we claim as the driving force behind our work. She says “There is, in fact, a paradox about working to serve the community, and it is this: that to aim directly at serving the community is to falsify the work; the only way to serve the community is to forget the community and serve the work.” She explains three reasons why this is so:

  • If you are constantly worried about how the community is responding, you end up taking your eye off the work. The work will not be good because your sole aim is to please the masses. A single-minded drive toward producing good work ends up serving the higher command to do all things with excellence. The end result is that your work is excellent and the community is served well.
  • If your motive is simply to serve other people, it’s impossible to do it without the sense that the people owe you something in return. The true reward in doing excellent work is the pleasure it brings when beholding the perfection you have wrought. The work becomes a labor of pure love.
  • To satisfy the majority of the public, you must give in to its demand. Pleasing the majority becomes secondary to “doing the work as its own integrity” as Sayers states it. The work becomes falsified in order to please the public.

At DISRUPT Media, when working with our clients to set goals, we ask them about their mission. Before they say anything, we require them to take any reference to “service” off the table. Of course they want to provide good service. So do their competitors. It’s a given. This forces them to think more deeply about the product they are providing and how, in order to do the best job possible, they should focus on the unique ways in which they can do great things in pursuit of excellence…for the sake of excellence.

Sayers summarizes her commentary like this: “The only true way of serving the community is to be truly in sympathy with the community, to be oneself part of the community and then to serve the work without giving the community another thought. Then the work will endure, because it will be true to itself. It is the work that serves the community; the business of the worker is to serve the work.”

We at DISRUPT Media would love to help you do your best work by allowing us to do what we do best…take over your social media outreach. This allows you to focus your efforts toward working with excellence while not concerning yourself with what the community thinks about you. Our FUNERAL Social Design Process is what enables DISRUPT Media to claim that we are the funeral profession’s only full service social media provider. Our clients who are a part of our FUNERAL Social Design Process are seeing an increase in post reach and engagement of over 300%. Go to http://funeralsocial.com to find out more about the services we offer.

Mark Thogmartin

Mark Thogmartin

VP of Business Development at DISRUPT Media
Dr. Mark Thogmartin is a life-long educator, working with students from Kindergarten through the doctoral level. He has degrees from the University of Kentucky, the Ohio State University, and Andrews University. Mark's book, Teach a Child to Read with Children's Books, has gained wide acceptance among reading tutors and parents who are teaching their children at home. In addition to assisting his son, Ryan, at DISRUPT Media as Vice President of Business Development, he works part-time as a mentor of doctoral students at Capella University. Mark and his wife Donna live in Millersport and are the parents of three adult sons and two beautiful granddaughters.
Mark Thogmartin
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