“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Steve Jobs
In any kind of project, it is a rare enough person who will get things done on time and without complaint. Dogged persistence is immensely valuable in any workplace. But there is one other attribute that good employees, interns, volunteers, and entrepreneurs have: they do as they are not told.
What I don’t mean by this is that the best creative workers as a rule refuse to “do as they’re told” and reject any tasks given to them. There will always be a role for that, of course. Nothing great has ever come from obedience (the pyramids are highly overrated). What I mean to say is that even in the worthiest of instructions, assignments, or requests there is always something missing. No one has ever fully known the best use of time, labor, and resources for producing value. This is precisely why entrepreneurial action is necessary.
When you are receiving advice or instruction from those genuinely wiser than you, consider taking it. But go a step farther. What they haven’t told you is far more valuable, because it is what even they do not know yet. This is your engraved invitation to identify what could be done to meet their goals in a way which is not mapped in their strategy documents, job titles, customer surveys, or “age-old wisdom.” If you are looking for ideas, the blank space around today’s established tasks and tactics is one of the best places to look.
Be proactive in seeking out ways to add value to the people in your life, even when that means doing what is not expected of you. It will always require more work and thought to improve the plan than to follow it, but this is how you make an original impact and how you will be remembered. This is how you make the change from being a passive but acceptable team member or founder to being an exceptional one.