What should my contribution be?

Sep 17 2010

"Happy Birthday Lil guy...:O)))" by Kevin Law on Flickr

"Happy Birthday Lil guy...:O)))" by Kevin Law on Flickr

Read this today in Peter Drucker’s Managing Oneself:

Throughout history, the great majority of people never had to ask the question, What should I contribute? They were told what to contribute, and their tasks were dictated either by the work itself—as it was for the peasant or artisan—or by a master or a mistress—as it was for domestic servants. And until very recently, it was taken for granted that most people were subordinates who did as they were told. Even in the 1950s and 1960s, the new knowledge workers (the so-called organization men) looked to their company’s personnel department to plan their careers.

Then in the late 1960s, no one wanted to be told what to do any longer. Young men and women began to ask, What do I want to do? And what they heard was that the way to contribute was to â€œdo your own thing.” But this solution was as wrong as the organization men’s had been. Very few of the people who believed that doing one’s own thing would lead to contribution, self-fulfillment, and success achieved any of the three.

But still, there is no return to the old answer of doing what you are told or assigned to do. Knowledge workers in particular have to learn to ask a question that has not been asked before: What should my contribution be? To answer it, they must address three distinct elements: What does the situation require? Given my strengths, my way of performing, and my values, how can I make the greatest contribution to what needs to be done? And finally, What results have to be achieved to make a difference?

Indeed. To quote Fight Club, “Our generation has had no Great Depression, no Great War. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.”

My generation, and the generation now growing into adulthood, must discern the right and the good. My parents’ generation rejected it, and previous generations knew it through osmosis.

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