You see someone walk up to a vending machine. They open up their purse or wallet or whatever, and inside is a stack of dollar bills. They carefully examine the stack to select the best possible dollar, then on top of that they take extra care to smooth it out and maybe even clean it before inserting it into the machine. Then, once the dollar goes in, they mash the keypad at random and take whatever the machine spits out. Then they look at it, sigh in a sort of disappointed manner, and hope for better next time.
You would think you were looking at a lunatic, wouldn’t you?
Imagine being so totally consumed with being meticulous about what you’re giving away while putting absolutely zero effort into determining what you’re getting back in exchange. It certainly sounds like lunacy, but people live their lives this way every day.
I see it constantly – people are consumed with their own performance at work, making sure they’re giving away huge amounts of time, effort, and juice, but then just sort of vaguely hoping that their efforts will be rewarded in a way they find satisfying. But never once do they actually tell anyone what a satisfying reward would be or what they want. They might not even know themselves.
It’s good to work hard, of course. It’s good to take pride in what you do and to put in effort to do it well. But that’s focusing on what you’re putting into the vending machine of life. You also have to focus on what you want to get out of it! Don’t fall into the trap of just working hard at working hard. Carefully consider what you actually want and put in the focused effort to actually get it.