Jason Fried of the software company 37 Signals once posted a tweet, saying how sad it is when business surveys set “satisfied” as their highest metric for success on a customer survey.
What a “low bar,” he lamented.
I'm inclined to agree. But not just for business. For life and everything we do.
What an indictment this is. Against our malaise, our work, and our lives. How often do we give up when we should persevere? How often to we opt out and say “no” when life gets a little tough? How often do we settle for mere satisfaction when truly abundant life awaits us?
Certainly, we can do better than just “satisfied” — right?
Satisfaction is keeping us from our best work
I believe it was Steven Pressfield who said in an interview that if you do something long enough, if you get serious about any craft (including writing), there comes a time when it begins to “kick your ass.”
When you break down and cry, because it's just so hard, that's a great place to be. Because you're beginning to treat your work with care. You're beginning to act like a professional.
This is when the real work begins. When you feel anything but satisfied and just want to give up. This is your first step towards mastery.
Having a little discontent is good. It's okay to be unsettled, to want more, to strive for the seemingly unattainable. This is the stuff that dreams are made of, the place where faith is required, and how true artists spend their whole lives.
Don't avoid the dissatisfaction. Live in it. Move through it. Keep wanting more.
The other extreme
Of course, there is the other side of the spectrum — the life of the perfectionist. Where nothing ever feels good enough, when no one could ever please you, when your desires are unreasonable and your appetite insatiable.
Make no mistake: that's no way to live.
The “George Bailey” way of looking at the world, of questioning your significance, is not good for anyone. Because your life is probably better than you think. You have more of an opportunity to make an impact than you realize. The trick is to do something with it.
Don't just wallow. Work towards something that matters. Leave a legacy.
Our choice to give in to mere satisfaction or press into a more inspiring life is just that: a choice. It hinges on our ability to see beyond our own myopia, believe our lives have purpose, and do something that makes a difference
If you do this, we all win. Because the whole world benefits when you give it a gift. And what is that gift? YOU. The whole messy thing. No cut corners. No mere satisfaction. All of you.
This applies to everything
When you are satisfied, your work suffers. So do your relationships and craft. Because “satisfaction” is just another word for status quo.
And no one ever speaks up when things are good enough.
Make no mistake: “good enough” will always erode people's confidence. It will lead to divorce, losing all your clients, and a legacy no one remembers. Sure, nobody will complain now, but trust me: little by little, you're losing this fight.
If you're going to do epic stuff, don't wait till people complain before you change things. Then, it's too late. You've already lost.
Always be pushing. Always be tweaking. And always be obsessing over making something better.
This doesn't mean you don't ship. You still have to put something out there. You still have to hit publish and release your work into the world.
But it means the things you build, the words you write, the work you do, better not suck. This is the stuff of weirdos, how the “crazy ones” live their lives, and the only way you ever have a hope of doing something that matters.
So, how's your business? Your marriage? Your work? Your life? Are you satisfied? That's not enough. It never was.
If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.