Axel Valdez

Design Engineer

Get paid for playing


There is this quote from drummer Keith Moon I heard from Ira Glass and deeply resonated with me:

I am the best Keith Moon-style drummer in the world.

It reminded me of my approach to work for my first few years of employment at Nearsoft, a company that heavily promoted self-management. I divided my work into two categories: tasks I had to do and tasks I wanted to do. Although both types of work were part of my daily routine, I prioritized completing the "had-to" tasks quickly to ensure I had more time for the "want-to" tasks.

At the time it felt as if I was taking advantage of the company by being paid to work a little and play a lot. But, I eventually (and slowly, to be honest) realized that the "want-to" tasks were my most valuable contributions. By pursuing work that aligned with my interests and the company's objectives, I discovered the intersection of our mutual goals. It was still work, but it was refined by my experience and understanding of my role and the company's business.

This realization has become a guiding principle in my work ethic. Once you comprehend and internalize the company's business, your role, and the value of your skillset, the work you genuinely want to do becomes the most valuable contribution you can make to the organization. You effectively become the best "you-style" worker in the world, as there is no one else who can offer exactly what you bring to the table.

I'm not suggesting that you stop doing tasks that don't interest you, that would be terrible advice. But once you adopt this mentality, you'll find that the "want-to" bucket overflows while the "had-to" bucket remains mostly empty, because as you start doing things your way, and feel more and more confident in that, most things become genuinely enjoyable. As a result, you'll be happier, more fulfilled, and contribute a lot more to your company's success.

Axel Valdez w