The mind moves toward more interesting, attractive things, but especially to those things undone. What is it about the staying power of an unfinished symphony?
The Zeigarnik effect says that we remember open tasks more so than completed ones. So we disregard the information we crammed in the night before just following the test. On the other hand, we hold on to any knowledge that may pay dividends in the future.
Work makes an indelible impression. The writer never stops writing; the painter never stops painting; the doctor never stops attending to patients. The professional always thinks about the ongoing job despite the completion of any task. There’s always something to toil on next.
The worker persists if only to think things through. What’s actionable stays top of mind. What’s unactionable remains forgettable. Everyone needs a challenge of a challenge to feel alive.
Making meaning removes meaning. The environment pulls our attention toward a finish while directing our emotions toward the incomplete. The craft is never finished, merely refreshed.
Labor — if we can call it that — begets a burning desire to be excellent and takes on the all-important freedom to fail. Professionals ride a power wave of intrinsic motivation with the ultimate result redefined.