The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you have not found it yet, keep looking. Do not settle. ~~Steve Jobs.

Last week I wrote about an epiphany I had many years ago, one in which I did not settle. don't settle cropped

I made choices about the work I did. I made choices about the life I lived. I did not settle.

It is an easy life to “go with the flow”; to settle, if you will. Convenience is not always the best way even though it might be the easiest. Did I do great work? I don’t know. Did I hear stories of the work I did? I was told after the fact that I had made a difference because of the work I had done. Perhaps, making a difference is doing great work. Perhaps.

However, this quote from Steve Jobs reminded me that loving what one does is important, even if one does not do “great work”. If one does not love what one does, one needs to do what one

So where does evaluation fit in all this? Let me see if I can connect the dots…

I learned about evaluation because a professor needed a statistician. (What she really needed was an evaluator to determine merit, worth, value of her program.) I was in graduate school at the time and needed an assistantship to help me with the financial load. I got the job. In the process, I realized that my educational psychology degree in cognitive psychology wouldn’t really help me even though there were a lot of puzzles to be solved. Evaluation was more hands on and less abstract. I switched “majors”. I learned that solving the puzzle was great fun; I loved it. The puzzle that I needed to solve was whether the program that is, “a set of planned activities and dedicated resources directed toward achievement of specified goal or objective” (quoted from a 2006 EPA flyer) made a difference. So program evaluation was “an individual systematic study that uses objective measurement and analysis to answer specific questions about how well a program is working to achieve its outcomes and why”(quoted from a 2006 EPA flyer). Important words: systematic study, objective measurement, specific questions, achieve its outcomes, why. I loved this work. I studied hard and long. I learned about bias (everyone has bias and therefore is only as objective as the biases are).  I attended the first national evaluation conference in Austin, Texas in 1981. (Did anyone ever tell you that west Texas goes on forever? Trust me, it does.west-texas-desert) I met other evaluators. I became an evaluator. Bob Ingle was significant in that process. Jim Altschuld was also. There are others to be sure. I loved being an evaluator (still do). I then wanted to do “great work”. The work is the key here, as my work was the doing of evaluation; the being in the trenches. Not the research. Not the teaching. Not the writing (I’ll leave that to Altschuld). The important point here is I LOVE WHAT I AM DOING, being an evaluator. Dots connected.

Bottom line: Love what you are doing; do what you love.

My two cents.






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2 thoughts on “Settling

  1. Thanks, Mollly, for sharing these lovely thoughts about being an evaluator. I think that doing useful work IS great work- doing credible and relevant evaluations within the real world constraints of time and money. You’ ve also done much more in sharing your insights and creating spaces for useful discussions about important challenges and opportunities in evaluation. Evaluators are an amazing bunch of people who are motivated by the challenge of the puzzles and the desire to make a difference .

  2. I often wonder if “doing” the work makes a difference. I have the desire, as do you, to make that difference. Time and money provide many challenges to the evaluator. I often wonder if doing “good” work is doing great work. I will probably not know for sure. Thanks, Patricia, for your thoughtful comments.

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