Though I’ve already written a blog called “The Beauty of Duty”, I’m writing this one exclusively focused on the workplace and one’s career or business.
The word duty, the rare time it’s heard today, is mostly inadequately understood, and hardly ever applied to self. Give yourself 20 seconds to name at least five things you consider and accept as your duty; then ask yourself whether, or how often, you have ever thought of these in terms of your duty. I dare say that seeing them as duty doesn’t feature largely in your thinking. But there’s no doubt that a clear understanding and acceptance of duty is absolutely vital to your success at work, in your career or business—in short, in any endeavour you undertake.
Think of the soldiers in an army: the call to duty must be obeyed at all costs and without question. If they ignore or refuse to do their duty, the army loses the battle, and ultimately the war. Like soldiers, we have battles to fight on the way to success, and we will not be victorious unless we recognize and carry out our duty. Like them, we are part of something bigger than ourselves, a shared enterprise that claims our wholehearted effort. And as with the soldier, doing our duty involves sacrifice on our part, and a willingness to submit to the daily demands of a job whether we feel like it or not.
As workers, we all have a duty to do our jobs as well as we possibly can at all times. All workers—from those making deliveries or cleaning the washrooms to those engaged in administrative work or management, right up to the president or owner of a corporation—have a duty to give their all to their work, and to do so all of the time, not just when they feel like it. To whom do we owe this duty? We owe it to ourselves, our families, our fellow-workers, our clients, and ultimately to God, who has placed us where we are and has given us our work.
Don’t get me wrong; without doubt, the best and most satisfying work is done when a sense of duty is combined with passion for what you’re doing. But inevitably, in every job, there are long stretches, or unavoidable aspects of the work, where we just don’t feel like it—when the only thing that compels us to give the necessary wholehearted effort is understanding and accepting it as our duty. Duty entertains no reasons or excuses; more pressing even than responsibility, duty insists on being carried out no matter what. When all other motivating factors fail, duty remains a non-negotiable claim on us, an obligation we cannot evade. It is something we owe.
I’ve learned by experience that the career and business growth of a person who recognizes and accepts duty will surpass that of someone who thinks in terms of mere responsibility (although obviously a responsible attitude is desirable). I was fortunate to have both kinds in my company, and the duty-takers were the ones on whom I could rely one hundred percent, one hundred percent of the time. They’re the kind of person you want to have on the other oar when asked to cross the ocean in rowboat. They’re the kind of people who build careers and companies—the kind of soldiers who make winning armies. May you be among this group.
So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” —Luke 17:10