While driving to work a while ago I noticed a new billboard.  It has a smiling man on it with five simple words: “Do the minimum.  (I do.)”  Way to instill confidence, SafeAuto.  I can see how “good neighbors” and “good hands” would be a turn-off.  Your marketing reps must be proud.

Despite that this ad was for auto insurance and had the polar opposite of its intended effect on me, it made me think about all that we do and wonder why we would ever want to promote doing the minimum.  Isn’t that kind of what’s wrong with us?  Everybody wants to get more and give less?  Avoid all the cost and still benefit with all the gain?  Don’t we already spend too much energy trying to claim more while actually doing less?

It reminds me of a former co-worker.  I was new on the job, fresh out of college and eager to learn.  I’ve always been motivated at work – in a behind-the-scenes kind of way.  A wallflower in public, I’m not too big on taking in all the attention, even for a job well done.  But I truly believe any job I do has my name on it and my reputation behind it.  So that makes it worth giving my all.    Anyway, about a month or so into the job a problem arose and I volunteered a solution.  No one really understood how to implement the solution even though it sounded good to them, so I also volunteered my own energy to make it happen.  I viewed it as a chance to sink my teeth into something creative, and they viewed it as an opportunity for an issue to be corrected without taking their time from other duties.  Everyone walked away happy.  Win-Win.

As soon as the directors were out of earshot, my co-worker tsktsk-ed me, warning, “You’d better be careful.  Don’t let them know what all you can do, because then they will expect you to do it.  It’s best to keep quiet and let them do the work.  You’ll see.”

I was dumbfounded, completely blown away that someone with that attitude could actually draw a paycheck.  While I picked my jaw up off the ground, she rolled her eyes and turned back toward her computer, leaving a lasting impression on me.

I suppose that was a lesson that naïve little Lori needed to learn.  No matter how I expect people to behave, many of them will only ever do the minimum.  Some of them will expect me to follow suit.

I won’t.

Not in life. Not in relationships.  Not in my work.

And for the record, I won’t change my expectations of other people, either.  And I fully intend to teach my children the value of exceeding the minimum.  Take THAT, smiling billboard man.