Weekender: Barack Obama and Jerry Seinfeld on Maintaining Perspective

Obama-SeinfeldWelcome to another edition of leadersayswhat’s the Weekender, a bean’s worth of thought to start your weekend on the right track. Why just a bean (versus the whole coffee pot)? Because it’s the weekend!

Once someone reaches the pinnacle of success and receives all the riches, rewards, and accolades that accompany it, have you ever wondered what motivates them to continue trying to be successful? With more money than they can ever spend, there has to be a part of them that asks, “Why am I going to work today? Heck, why am I even bothering to change out of my pajamas?” And yet, they continue to push themselves to greater feats of attainment.

On a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Barack Obama and Jerry Seinfeld discussed what keeps them engaged in work. The President asked Seinfeld, “[With everything you’ve achieved] how did you keep perspective?” to which Seinfeld responded:

I’ll give you the real answer and I’m sure it’s similar to your life. I feel in love with the work and the work was joyful and difficult and interesting and that was my focus.

These two highly accomplished individuals are not compelled to put in the effort. They do it because they enjoy what they do. If you’ve ever “loved” your work, then you understand how they feel. For those fortunate enough to have been in this situation, money, awards, and acclaim cannot stop you from heading into the office. The tangible incentives are not your driving force; it’s the adrenaline rush of a looming deadline, the feeling you get when you’re earned a win.

Are you working towards goals you care about or are you measuring success simply by what you will get at the end? Life’s short and your career is shorter. Spend your professional time in ways that matter to you. Every day will not be fun and you (probably) will not end up with a network television show or a desk in the oval office, but loving or even liking your work beats simply tolerating it both for you and those you lead.