“Nothing great happens on the O.K. level.” ~Robert Schuller
I added a new skill to my repertoire this week: I learned how to operate a chain saw. It’s a small one, electric, with only a 14” blade. But still, I’m beaming with pride. Not every 71-year-old woman would tackle such a feat.
I enlisted my 81-year-old neighbor to give me lessons. He taught me how all the parts worked, how to hold it properly, how to stand securely while using it, and where to place the blade relative to the wood I intended to cut before starting its motor. Then he held wood while I practiced, pointing out things to watch for, reminding me to let the saw do the work. I don’t consider myself proficient, and I’m fully aware that the primary piece of the process is to maintain focused attention. Fortunately, I’m good at that. By winter’s end, I expect to be darned good at sawing thick branches for my fire. I’m committed to excellence.
My neighbor gave me a demonstration of that, too. He built a saw buck for me, a x-shaped cradle made of 2×4 lumber that holds the pieces of wood you want to cut at a comfortable height so you don’t have to bend over while you’re cutting.
I watched as he drew a sketch of it, then watched him picture in his mind were the screws would go that held the cross pieces and the bolts that let you adjust the width of the X to accommodate both the thickness of the wood and its height from the ground. We bought the lumber and hardware, and I got to see him carefully measure where the screws would go and mark the pieces, “top left, bottom left, top right, bottom right.” I watched as he selected exactly the right size drill bit and figured out how deep to drill into each piece. I watched as he made sure everything was perfectly aligned and that the screws would drive in straight.
It was a simple construction, but he wanted it to be perfect, and he took the time to think it through and to carefully execute each step of the process. When he finished, we were both grinning at the great job he’d done. The buck will last me a lifetime.
Wanting to do things as well as you possibly can is a hallmark of positive people. That doesn’t mean being a perfectionist. But it does mean that you want your work to stand as a testament to the fact that you put your best effort into it. And it doesn’t matter whether you’re washing dishes, writing a report, kissing your partner, or designing a jet airplane. The old adage still applies, “Any job worth doing is worth doing well.”
Taking pride in your work not only produces a feeling of satisfaction, it speaks well of you to others. It lets them see that you take responsibility for what you do. It makes you stand out from the mediocre many. And because it allows others to trust in your commitment to excellence, it paves the way to greater opportunities and success.
Not only that, but you become a silent standard-setter. Your commitment to excellence inspires those around you to raise their levels of performance, too. Your doing-well becomes the rising sea that lifts all ships.
And just as in operating a chain saw, the key lies in only two things—committing to doing the very best you can and giving the job your unflinching, focused attention. The first is a decision. The second is a matter of ongoing practice.
Decide you want to be great. Set your sites on excellence, and keep on keeping on.