“I’m doing this meaningless/damaging/banal work because that’s what the client wants.”
There are many variations of this.
The plastic surgeon who does hideous work on the faces of people who demand it. The marketer who’s still trying to get teens hooked on smoking. The teacher who blames the curriculum for the boring classroom experience because that’s what the state mandated…
It’s a trap, like all traps, because there’s a lot of truth to it. In fact, the client might be misguided or selfish or lazy. In fact, the boss doesn’t care enough.
Fine, that happened.
But what we do about it is the spot where we either excel or fail. If all we had were great opportunities for insightful clients and bosses, then important work wouldn’t be scarce at all.
As professionals, part of our job is to educate our client to keep them from doing something stupid, short-term or selfish. As linchpins, we get to choose our boss, and if you’re unable to persuade them to raise the bar, then the obligation/opportunity is to go do something else.
The winning sentence is, “Despite having a lousy client or uninformed boss, we were still able to do great work.”
There are two secrets to doing great work:
They dance together every day.
You get better clients as soon as you act like the creator who deserves better clients.