Anytime that you have the chance to interact with real craftspeople it is a treat. Their love of their craft and the gifts that enhance that love can turn their jobs into an artistic expression. They take a personal responsibility for doing excellent work.
Since we began building our new house in January, we have had the good fortune of using true craftspeople at every stage. Our concrete, framing, HVAC, floors, cabinetry and masonry have had the touch of excellence applied to them. The great thing for us is that this excellence isn’t the result of throwing loads of money at the project. Since our other house burned, the building fund is comprise of the insurance settlement and what extra we could put toward it ourselves. We haven’t had to blow our budget for incredible quality because the people we have been blessed with simply take a huge amount of satisfaction from doing their work the best they possibly can.
One of the areas that we had planned to do ourselves was the painting. We’ve done plenty of it in the past and are comfortable with what we are doing. Our general contractor (GC), a family member and friend, is very good with his paint sprayer and used some extra time to apply most of the primer for us over a couple of evenings which saved us days of doing it ourselves. He is very conscientious and takes pride in his work so it came out great.
We began the painting process in our kitchen to allow the cabinets to go in and felt good about how it looked. Yes, we planned to do another coat to get it just right, but we were on our way. Two days ago, our GC called to say that he had a couple of guys too many for the job he was working on and asked if we wanted them to come and put paint on for us. The two he mentioned had done other work on our house and had painted for him before so we happily agreed to take the load off of us.
After covering all of the newly installed cabinets myself, I laid out additional drop clothes and tape for them to use and Tammy met them at the house to give specific instructions for where to paint. She also took the time to point out the drop cloths and the newly laid wood floor that those cloths were meant to protect.
They called her within a few hours to let her know they were done and heading out. Fast forward to when I arrive after work and find Tammy, with a broom and a very sour look, trying to sweep the new floor so that we can begin removing all of the paint from it.
From one end of the house to the other, there was over-spray on windows, outlets were sprayed shut with paint, and drips and over-spray covered the floor. COVERED IT! I’ve worked for more than 20 years on controlling my temper and thank God that I’ve had success with it, because I haven’t been that mad in a long time.
Tammy went to get the necessary cleaning supplies for us to get started and I spent several minutes nailing down my emotions. I know the work these guys are capable of and this isn’t it. They had successfully covered one window and half-ass taped about six outlets. That was it! After a little pep talk, I realized that I was far more disappointed than mad. If they actually gave a damn about what they were doing, I couldn’t find any evidence of it. I expected better from them and called the GC to let him know.
Of course, he felt horrible and apologized profusely. I told him, that as the guy accountable for those two, it was important for him to know how they were representing him. To me, this is an integrity issue and not a workmanship issue. They had the opportunity to do good work and blew it off. At the house, by themselves, no one over their shoulder, and they went to the lowest-quality, quickest time output they could.
We are given choices, on a daily basis, that ask us how we want to perform. One choice gives us the opportunity to perform at our optimum, not necessarily perfect, but best available performance. The other choice is to do what is, "good enough". Still another choice is to blow through our day or task with no regard for the outcome. Doing shoddy work in the hopes that no one will notice.
Hopefully, we can all recognize that willfully doing poor work is not a path toward excellence. Hell, it isn’t even a path to mediocrity! It’s just crap, so kick that option completely out of the way.
Good enough is seldom the right choice. It usually results from shortened timeframes or attention spans. Good enough happens at the end of a day or when we don’t feel our best. Good enough also comes on as a result of no supervision or accountability. Thoughts come through the mind like, "I could do better than this, but this is good enough." Is it really? A question that was asked of me years ago still has relevance, "If you don’t have time to do it right the first time, when will you have time to do it over?" I would have rather they not finish the job, but do quality work on what they did finish than to get what they left.
So the only option left is to do our best. It sounds grade school doesn’t it, but the simple truth is that our best is what we should hold ourselves to. I didn’t say, a perfect job, and doing our best is still relative to capability. Am I more capable after a good night’s rest than I am after a long day? Probably. Doing our best is performing at the highest level we are capable of at the time. Don’t use that as an excuse to slack, just know that the goal is to do what we are capable of and not being afraid to push the limits of those capabilities.
To put a little more pressure on the situation, deciding how we perform is our God-given right. Deciding to perform at our best, is our responsibility. To put it in a way that is easy for me to remember, take P.R.I.D.E. (Personal Responsibility In Daily Excellence). By focusing on our optimal performance we cannot help but to raise the level of those around us.
Paraphrasing Ben Franklin, if we would only do what we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.
Be your best,