Do Work Worth Doing

@Willsh at work

My Grandfather’s Watch

I only got to meet one of my two grandfathers – my Mom’s father George.  My Dad’s parents both died when Dad was very young.  They each had watches that have been passed down through our family.

I recently put a new band on the watch from Grandpa George so that I can wear it a bit more often.  This is how it looks now:

Grandpa's Watch

It’s about 50 years old.  Grandpa was a bus driver, and wanted a good watch to keep time on his route.  This Waltham was not an expensive watch at the time.  In fact, it was about the cheapest automatic watch you could get, but it was still a big purchase for a bus driver.

Grandpa Lennie was a farmer. His pocket watch was a confirmation gift, so it’s got be getting close to 100 years old now.  According to Dad, it was his prized possession.  It is an Elgin watch, which, again, was not a top-line brand.

Both still run, and keep pretty good time.

With all the hype around new watches these days, I find it interesting that even some of the cheapest watches made 50-70 years ago still work really well.

If you buy a smart watch today, will you be able to pass it on to your grandchildren?

Make Things People Want

Innovation has had a huge impact on our quality of life these days.  And yet, I do think that a lot of it is noise.  David Brooks makes a good point today talking about how we live our lives:

It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?

It reminds me of John Willshire’s slogan for his company Smithery:

Making Things People Want beats Making People Want Things.

Are we doing work that we can pass on to our grandchildren?

Sure, we can pass on money.  But what about the things we make, or the ideas we connect?

Of course, not everyone has a choice about the work they do – there are many people who must simply get through each day.  But for those of us lucky enough to have some choice in the matter, we need to find work worth doing – work that reflects the eulogy virtues, not just the résumé ones.

I think that both Grandfathers would be happy to know that their watches still run, are still in the family, and are still cherished. I think they’d be even happier to see me do work that is worthwhile, worth passing on – I hope I can live up to that ideal.


Note: he image at the top is from one of John’s presentations on slideshare – they are uniformly interesting, and you can check them out here:


Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

7 thoughts on “Do Work Worth Doing

  1. I believe the Elgin is now 101 years old. It certainly would be innovative these days to wear a pocket watch.(i.e no month, no date, no wifi, etc.) I guess it could be innovative sometimes to reclaim what is old . (i.e. getting personal attention or customer service from a business.)

    • I originally wrote 70 years, and then I started thinking about it and realised it must be closer to 100… I keep thinking that there is a huge opportunity for, say, a bank to offer actual customer service – it would really differentiate them. Somehow, none of them ever try it.

  2. In many ways Tim we never fully appreciate what is around us just simply works well, until we have moved on and replaced it with something we thought or were told was better. Like you I really value much that is old but does the job. I wish we could put some different balance into the material world where ‘lifetime value’ is not seen as until it cannot work anymore it is only until the next upgrade, revision or model. A return to a more (perhaps) old fashioned view of lifetime value, where we work harder at extending ‘it’s’ life as against dispensing with it

    • It would be nice to find a better balance. As much as I appreciate what I can do with, say, a smartphone, I do wish we would build things that were more durable. There are some real opportunities in innovating value…

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