His bestseller, On Writing Well, provided guidance to a whole generation of journalists.
As a cub reporter, however, he despaired at his own writing. He was going nowhere.
His assignment? Zinsser wrote the obituaries for the Buffalo News.
He soon became frustrated and bored. Where were the opportunities to write cutting edge features and investigative reports? Obituaries don’t win Pulitzer Prizes. He said to his editor, “When am I going to get some decent story assignments?”
“Listen, kid!” his editor huffed in response. “Nothing you write will ever get read as carefully as what you are writing right now.”
“If you misspell a word,” he went on, “you mess up a date, and a family will be hurt. But you do justice to somebody’s grandmother, to somebody’s mom, you make a life sing, and they will be grateful forever. They will put your words in laminate.”
Zinsser never saw his work the same way again.
“I pledged to make the extra calls. I would ask the extra questions. I would go the extra mile.” He decided to write obituaries for others as he would want others to write his own obituary – ones that deserved to be laminated.
So what’s on your plate today?
A meeting that needs to go well?
A meal that needs to delight the people you love?
A word of correction that needs to be communicated with grace?
An assignment that needs to call forth partnership from your team?
Do it with excellence.
Go the extra mile.
Here’s how the apostle Paul put it: “Don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God.” (Colossians 3:22-23, The Message)
Most of us have spun our wheels on the idea that our work is what makes us significant.
But just the opposite is true.
We are the ones who make our own work significant – by seeing our next task not as just another item on our list of things to do, but as an opportunity to please our real Boss.
Your next appointment, your next phone call, your next conversation, your next email – they’re really about working for Him.
— Authored by Glenn McDonald
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