Success Advice from a Fictional Private Eye

Members of my career mentoring site know that reading mystery novels is one of my hobbies.  Laura Lippman is one of my favorite mystery writers.  I especially like her Tess Monaghan character.  I was reading a Tess Monaghan novel a while back and came across something that I wanted to share here.

Tess (I feel as if I know her) is a self-employed private eye in Baltimore.  Like many self-employed people (myself included), she often puts more time and effort into her assignments than what is called for in her contract.  In this particularly book, she has just realized that she had under charged for her services, but in thinking about the situation, here is what she had to say…

“(I) would rather grumble about being underpaid than endure the shame of underperforming.”

Tremendous career advice in this sentence.  Many people come to me for coaching advice telling me that they hate their job, they aren’t paid enough, etc. etc.  Some tell me that they’re resentful about this and have slacked off as they look for another job.

I tell them to take a tip from Tess Monaghan and suck it up – do the best job you can on everything you do.  Don’t fall victim to the “shame of underperforming.”

I’m pretty conscientious about what I do.  But, as I’m not perfect, in the past there were times when I felt that I mailed it in instead of giving an assignment my best shot.  And, like Tess, I was ashamed of myself for not giving it my best.

I’m self-employed so I owe it to my clients to give it my best.  But I owe it to myself even more.  I want to look in the mirror and feel good about the person staring back at me.  To do that I have to give it my best every day.

Giving it your best is important even if you’re not self-employed, if you’re working for a large company — even if you’re unhappy in your job.  Look for a new job if you’re unhappy, but keep doing your best in your current one.  That way you won’t have to endure the shame of underperforming.

Your career mentor,


PS: I write this blog to help people create the life and career success they want and deserve. Now I’m going one step further. I’ve created a membership site in which I’ve pulled together my best thoughts on success. And, as a reader of this blog, you can become a member for free. Just go to to claim your free membership. You’ll be joining a vibrant and growing community of success minded professionals. I hope to see you there.

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