Make it your own

How fulfilling would it be to work as a painter that merely copies the work of other painters?

We hate repetitive and robotic tasks partly because we cannot leave our personal mark on them. It is an innate human desire to make our work our own. There is tremendous joy in personalizing our work, and suffering to the same degree in its absence.

When you cook a plate of cous-cous by referring to a recipe, it is fairly easy to make it your own. You just have to tweak the procedure a little. But how do you make something your own when you’re handed a repetitive and mindless task at work? How do you leave your mark when any deviation from rigid spec is seen as an error?

Several tasks don’t lend themselves too well to personalization. If you are asked to copy data from one database to another, every deviation is a defect. In such a situation, you cannot make anything your own.

Yet, by asking the question ‘why’, the situation changes. Why are you copying this information down? What purpose does it serve? Does it make sense to finish one part faster than the other? How many such records need to be copied? Is automating this task viable?

There are more ways to leave our mark than we are led to believe. What is often lacking is the will to leave one’s mark.

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