“It’s about the work”

If you follow Humans of New York then you’ve probably heard the pretty amazing story of a boy named Vidal, who met the HONY photographer Brandon Stanton on the street one day in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Vidal claimed that the most influential person in his life was his principal, Ms. Lopez. See the original post here. Since this first post was published Vidal’s school, Mott Hall Bridges Academy, has raised over a million dollars in donations from people across the world. Ms. Lopez, Vidal and Brandon have been featured on Good Morning America, Ellen, and they even took a trip to the White House to meet President Obama.

Brandon documented the White House trip on the HONY Facebook page. In this post Obama was asked “When is the time you felt most broken?” I really liked the response…

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped. I had been in the state legislature for a long time, I was in the minority party, I wasn’t getting a lot done, and I was away from my family and putting a lot of strain on Michelle. Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself—if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.

I really like the last part of that quote. Don’t worry about whether you’re succeeding, just focus on the work. Obviously you should focus a little bit on whether or not you are being appreciated, but often times I get worried about whether or not I’m in the right place or doing the right thing. I can worry about that forever but it would do me no good. Ever since I saw this original post about a month ago Obama’s advice has stuck with me. I’ve been focusing on doing good work, whether that be at my job, in grad school or just in general. It’s helped me feel better about where I am and who I am.

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