The compounding, non-obvious value of doing exceptional work

In Crazy Charlie’s Window Michael Lopp says something that has stuck with me for a couple of weeks now (emphasis mine):

The reason, decades later, I frequently think of this unpaid weekend adventure sifting through a year of garbage, hardware, and knick-knacks is because it is when I discovered the compounding non-obvious value from doing exceptional work.

It’s a great story, well worth reading. Matthew Ström makes this point in a slightly different way in The polish paradox (again, emphasis mine):

The polish paradox is that the highest degrees of craft and quality are in the spaces we can’t see, the places we don’t necessarily look. Polish can’t be an afterthought. It must an integral part of the process, a commitment to excellence from the beginning. The unseen effort to perfect every hidden aspect elevates products from good to great.

Doing good work and getting the details right result in better outcomes, yes. But it’s about more than that. It’s not just about the job, it’s about us. The sense of accomplishment and purpose that comes from doing great work is an intrinsic reward that is life-giving far beyond the confines of our immediate job duties.