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Lost your pride? — Why you’re not producing your best design work

Humility and self-confidence lead you to strive for quality no matter the task. Lose that pride, and you’re destined for design mediocrity.

Do you ever wonder why you can exceed your expectations on some projects, but feel no better than mediocre at others? Why sometimes you put in 110% to get the details just right, and on other jobs you can’t be f*cked to do any more than the minimum? It’s the difference between a job done, and job done right.

There’s one word that describes this difference. It’s the single most important factor in determining if anyone will perform their job well.

Pride.

I don’t care how well trained you are or how many years of experience you have. If you don’t take pride in your work, you’re no better than everyone else who coasts through their responsibilities waiting for the next weekend to roll around. If you don’t take pride in your work, you’re building a false ceiling that holds you at mediocrity and blocks your growth to expertise.

Pride is the first ingredient for good design. Without it, nothing else matters. But has it become a lost art? Has our digital world of instant-cheap-everything created a generation lacking in pride?

What does it mean to take pride in your work?

Pride is a mindset in everything you do. It’s a subtle mix of humility and self-confidence that, according to Maison Piedfort of Workzone, says “I must prove myself again and again through my work,” — yet at the same time, says, “I’m confident that I can prove myself again and again with my work.”

Pride is knowing you’re only as good as your worst work.

Pride is doing a great job even when nobody is looking. It’s an eternal enthusiasm that strives for quality by your own self-standard, not because someone else is expecting it. Pride is akin to a chivalrous notion of honour above all else. It’s knowing your reputation is tarnished when you fail to honour your work.

Pride is, at its essence, whether you love your job or hate it. Whether you relish the challenges of your work, or you live only for the weekends. Usually, pride correlates to whether or not you see yourself as a respected voice and meaningful agent of change, or as a passive, powerless, spectator.

What pride isn’t

Pride is not suffering through the daily grind and moaning about how long it is until quitting time. Pride is not delivering just enough to get away with, and not an ounce of effort more. Pride is the opposite of treating your work as an annoying obstacle that takes time away from doing what you really want.

Taking pride in your work is not conceit. It’s knowing you’re good enough only if you give your best effort every time. You have to earn your pride by constantly proving yourself every day, week, month, and year. Pride is balanced by the humility of knowing you can always get better. There’s always more to learn. If you’re not improving, you’re failing to meet your potential.

What causes a lack of pride?

You lose pride in your work if you don’t believe in the vision of your company, or don’t trust that they can accomplish their goals. You lose pride if your work doesn’t align with your values or ethics.

You lose pride when your work falls too far outside your strengths or comfort zone. Your pride dips if a project gets off to a poor start, and you don’t know how to force it back around towards success.

But most of all, you lose pride if you don’t feel like your work is meaningful.

If your voice isn’t being heard, or your concerns are not being taken seriously. You lose pride when you don’t feel in control of your career, or even of the outcomes, you’re directly in involved in. You lose pride when you feel expendable, replaceable, or of no lasting impact.

Pride requires enough belief in your work that you want to honour it by giving nothing less than your best. It’s knowing that every effort, every day becomes part of your long-term reputation, and the higher you build it, the better your future will be. Pride requires being your own harshest critic. Caring more about your output than your boss or client does.

How can you build pride?

Pride starts with finding a career path you love enough that it often doesn’t feel like work at all. It’s feeling dignity and joy in your work.

Pride requires believing the “why” of your work so you’re motivated to take responsibility for executing the “what”.

Pride builds by being picky, saying “no” more than “yes”, so you’re only working for clients you can get fully invested in and devote 100% of yourself to. It’s earning the privilege to ensure you only have to work in environments that are conducive to prideful work. It’s surrounding yourself with others who share your pride and uplift each other so you can feel pride in your whole team or organisation.

Pride lasts by embedding the same mindset in everything you do — from the way you raise your family, to the weekend DIY job you tinker with, to the hobby or side project that helps you grow. Pride is infectious. If you let it grow into your work you’ll invite it into all aspects of your life.

The one-question to know if you take pride in your work

Do you hate yourself anytime you deliver less than what you know you’re capable of? Are you your own harshest critic? If your answer is “yes”, you’re the first person I want on my team.

The moment pride leaves, laziness enters. Focus suffers, details get lost, and mediocrity seeps into everything. I can forgive a lack of experience and can appreciate undeveloped skills that are eager to improve. But I cannot forgive a lack of pride.

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Benek Lisefski

Hi, I'm Benek Lisefski. Since 2001 I've run my own independent design business. Join me as I unfold 18 years of freelance business knowledge: honest advice and practical tips to help you take your indie career from good to great.

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