Everyone knows that the pursuit of approval is not a good driver for effective work. Irrespective of whether the approval is met from superiors or peers — you feel great when they smile upon you and lousy when they frown. And inter-/intra-personal environments are such that you’ll always get both pats on the back and snide grumbles: it’s no one’s fault, just the emotional ebbs and flows of the human collective.
By working for approval, your own emotional state will be a micro, condensed reflection of this macro mood machine. And you will be like a slave to its essentially unpredictable ebbs and flows. You’ll ultimately become unproductive and miserable.
But it’s not that simple.
Ignoring approval and striving only for perfection in work, divorced from the valuation of others — this inevitably leads to inferior product. I had a terrible postdoc who failed to produce anything of merit because he insisted on doing math for math’s sake and wasn’t interested in impressing his boss. In contrast, Van Gough cut off his ear in misery, driven mad by failing to achieve recognition he craved.
We don’t need dilettantes.
The solution is to ensure you are always in control. Determine who is worth working for/with. Play the emotional approval game: but never forget that it is a game. It’s a game of chance but it is still a GAME of chance. Strategize, plan, be tactical, hedge your bets and strive for maximum impact. Eliminate your competition: without anger. Fight: delete obstruction, without malice. Befriend only those who you trust. Don’t be consumed by the dragon: ride it.
The dragon is chance, it is ebb and flow, it is the ups and downs. It’s the Face: a godface, your face, god’s face. And while random, through the contemplation of its nature, you will find success.
But first of all, ensure you are working in the right environment. There are some irredeemable warzones out there — volatile situations — you can spot them a mile away. And there are also places that are simply no longer productive — where there is, for you, only ebb and no flow. These are still part of the game, a wider game, a bigger game. Still part of the dragon, its bigger fractal image, the bigger machine: a bigger trough, devoid of all opportunity for progress — but leading to a bigger crest elsewhere, with greater bounty and reward.
Stay for as long as necessary but immigrate when you get the chance.