Want to Make Things Easy for Your Team?

Give them something hard to do.

Every few weeks, a numbered list of rules, or insights, or “things I wish someone had told me” stumbles into my feed. And for the most part, I like reading them—especially if they’re written by someone who’s doing something interesting.

Yes, doing a list like this is pretty cliché at this point, but it also forces whoever’s writing it to be concise and at least try to say something original. And sometimes they succeed.

The latest one to catch my eye was from Sam Altman at OpenAI, a guy who’s definitely doing something interesting. And while several of the insights are predictable, there’s one I wanted to dig into:

“It is easier for a team to do a hard thing that really matters than to do an easy thing that doesn’t really matter; audacious ideas motivate people.”

I’ve written before about the importance of giving people meaningful work. It’s one of the best ways to find and hang onto great talent, even if they could be making more somewhere else. I had this exact conversation just last week, in fact, with the head of engineering at a startup, concerned he couldn’t compete with bigger, better funded competitors. He was right, budget-wise, but also missing the point: above a certain pay level, the best talent is looking for the most interesting challenges with the greatest potential for impact.

But beyond this, Sam makes an even deeper point: for great talent, meaningful work is easier. Not just more rewarding, or worthwhile, but actually easier to do.

I agree. Making something new is hard work—especially the mundane parts that feel meaningless but still must get done (and there’s an endless supply of those).

But the genuinely important stuff? If you’re working with a team that’s up to the task, it just feels easier.

Securing the next round of funding? Hard. Solving a distribution problem that’s going to revolutionize how media is consumed? Easy. Even if it’s 10x the work.

But that’s just me — and there’s another good lesson here. There are plenty of people out there who find real meaning in securing funding. Or maintaining code. Or setting up databases. For them, that’s the stuff that’s easy.

So yeah, make sure you’re always seeking out ideas and problems that really matter to you, because it’ll make your job easier and the outcome better.

But also make a point of finding people who are different from you, and who find meaning in the things you don’t. Because those things have to get done too. And the best way to make sure different kinds of tasks get done is to make sure everyone’s got something meaningful to do…even if it’s not your meaning.



To find other things I’ve written and much more, check out MarcRandolph.com

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