It may be a tough pill to swallow, but no one cares about the quality of your work. They care about the quality of their own.

In the vast majority of cases, your quality doesn’t matter.

Yup, that’s right. Why? Because no one cares about the quality of your work; people care about the quality of their own work.

This does not apply to the unconditional love given by your mother and a few close friends (if you’re lucky). But it rings true in almost every other case: for countries, companies, products and even yourself. It doesn’t matter how well-written your blog is, how visually appealing your website is or how well you spoke during an address to the nation.

What matters to others (users, clients, citizens, friends, families, employees) is their quality. If what you do doesn’t make them better at what they do, you’re useless to them. This is extremely important to understand in the professional world. If you can’t provide value, they’ll forget your name 30 minutes after they meet you.

Even though your quality doesn’t matter, keep striving for it

This is a tough pill to swallow. But does it mean we stop striving for outstanding quality in our products, relationships, governments, friendships and organizations? Absolutely not.

Striving to improve as an individual will help you provide value to your friends, family and work. Striving for unblemished products will aid in providing value for others, but only if the product itself is valuable. Crap products don’t to provide value for anyone.

There’s no denying the connection between focusing on quality and creating value for others. But the correlation between the two does not equal causation. Well-written fluff is still fluff. It doesn’t matter if you have the etiquette of a Victorian duchess if you can’t get the job done.

Help others help themselves or improve their product

So how do you ensure you’re consistently focused on making others better?

First, don’t ask others how you can improve. Instead, ask others what they need from you to help them improve.

With your focus on creating a product that makes them better, this will shift attention from your own quality to the quality you create in others. The idea is to learn what’s needed and fill that need. Or you can be like Segway and start with the product, then try to fabricate a need.

So it comes as no surprise that when you’re advertising yourself in, say, a job interview, don’t talk about your quality. Talk about what you can do for them, not what you’ve done in the past. Provide the vision of how they can be better with you on the team. If you’re selling a service, give customers a clear picture of the new and improved them because of you. Create a brand that they can’t live without.

Ask yourself if what you do provides value for others

Is this new feature helping users be more awesome? Is the way you interact with a friend enriching her life and your relationship? Does the way you manage and lead help your employees do their jobs? Is what you’re doing at this moment helping those around you improve?

Because in the end, only your mom really cares about how good you are. Everyone else cares about what you can do for them.

Ben Drake is an Air Force Officer, grad student and the Communications and Branding Lead at @be_influential. Create your portfolio today and show the world what you have to offer.


  1. Colin McMullin

    You said very well what I’ve been trying to convey to companies for some time now. This is why I consider myself a “support” person, because I enjoy helping other professionals be successful in their endeavors. If they’re successful, then I’m successful. I don’t feel the need to always be in the spotlight.

    • Ben Drake

      That is excellent, Colin. It sounds like you come by naturally what I struggle with and must constantly remind myself. By focusing on improving others, I can create value around me. Learning to derive meaning and value from that instead of individual accolades is the key. Thanks for the read and comment!

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    Actually, they all should worry about providing ME value.

  5. Rana Sinha

    Very important points. Yes, if we don’t provide value of any kind why should people remember us?In the modern workplace, people do care about other people’s quality too. Sometimes it seems that people tend to criticise other people’s work quality but never their own.

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