Sunday, March 1, 2009

Versatile Voids 3/01/09

At the end of the day it really comes down to the quality of what you're doing.

Michael Vartan
Are you ready? Good.
There was an item in the news about a teenager who lost her job because she complained on her face book about how boring and tedious it was and her boss read it.
That's too bad. But there's a life lesson or two involved in that unfortunate event. One of them, of course, is "keep you big mouth shut" but that's not the important one.

I don't know of any enterprise in life that doesn't have tedious details connected with it that have to be done in order to get to the interesting parts, even in order that some one else can get to the interesting parts.

Unless you have been among the very rare lucky (or unlucky) ones you have had to face a pile of uninteresting details to handle, tedious, time consuming and well beneath your intellectual capacity. No one likes to admit it, because it sounds like a justification of some sort, but the care and excellence with which those tasks are done eventually affects the way the whole enterprise turns out. Another part of that lesson is to learn that excellence itself is the real task and the more one can practice and achieve it the more likely is one to be given the more important tasks.

Yeah, yeah! We know all that! But the fact is you never get away from those little things. What you do is to learn to keep the big objectives in mind.

I have spent my life as an entertainer, but in the beginning I stuffed envelopes, alphabetized address labels, mopped floors, washed dishes, rotated stock, kept files, added columns of figures, usually for businesses that had nothing to do with my career. But I learned to do things correctly and efficiently. I learned what quality of work was.

I played the bass drum in a town band. It takes very little versatility to do that. You just have to keep a steady beat. But the band depends on hearing that beat.

When I got into theatre I found myself doing things like mopping floors, washing dishes and keeping files. And if you think there is no tedium involved in being an actor, try memorizing a major role in a 200 page script. The other actors and the production itself depend on you getting your words right.

It's a matter of respect. Respect for the work, respect for others and self respect. The stage is cleaned, vacuumed or swept, before every performance. Why? It's a matter of respect. The actors get there words right. Why? Same reason. The painter cleans his brushes, The musician keeps his instrument in tune.

To learn to do all things well, and not in a haphazard way, can be learned at the envelope stuffing table and there should be no complaints about it. And that's a lesson in quality that many of our late business leaders evidently never got the chance to learn.

I know people who "can't be bothered" with the details, and then one day their shoes don't fit or their careers don't fit. On the other hand I know an actor who will spend hours with the costume designer .making sure every detail of his clothes is just right so that when he walks on the stage he looks and feels exactly the way his character does.

Excuse me now. I have to wash my dishes.

Carry on.


Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

They say the devil is in the details, and I must admit, DB your talent for describing and getting to the bottom of the details is an inspiration.

Joann said...

I agree with Ken, you DO have a knack for detail description!! I've had some tedious jobs in my day, but the most tedious one in my current job is filing... I HATE filing, thank GOD we have a file clerk!!! I LOVE HER!!!!!

Linda S. Socha said...

Excellent post! Love the information and I think it is really on track and valid!

Rose~* said...

Rose checking in - it's been awhile. Mundane chores always need to be done around here, but I try to make them as "exciting" as possible. I'm kind of a neat freak, so when I have to clean the bathrooms, I crank up some loud rock and roll, and the time just flies. As for that post about Bebo - I found that they don't provide a secure way of signing in, so I won't sign up, and they want you to enable third party cookies, which I never do - so guess I'm out of luck with Bebo. Think I've moved on with the old AIM profiles anyway, and I hope they deleted them.

Anonymous said...

I've had tedious conversations interviewing potential new employees for this reason. They'd tell me they were "big thinkers" or multi-taskers, but once they had the job, they'd be juggling 100 thoughts & ideas but not bring any to completion. Oh, so you can think big & multi-task, but all the charts aren't labeled yet?
Uhm, that is a problem. 100 started things but none finished. Yikes.
Btw, you constructed this so well...~Mary
ps Ok, I will admit, I don't want to type & file, answer phones. Hate that. But guess what? As a manager I used to come in early just to get the filing & phone messages out of the way for the staff because they had so much to do when they first came in. If you "make" others do something, you should be willing to do it yourself.

Gerry said...

We have just been experiencing in this building the result of would be leaders with grandiose ideas paying no attention to the details of the plan that would make realization impossible. And then blaming everyone but themselves because their plan to improve the lives of the tenants is not workable! The difference between a practical leader and a leader who lives in phantasy is startling, the difference between sane and insane. I hate listening to a despot rant while refusing to listen to any sensible questions raised or take them seriously, and I think has the whole world gone mad? You can't work with those people because they expect everything to be magically done and hate everyone who throws the smallest stone in their path and have no respect for their 'inferiors' they expect to do the tedious and boring parts.

Big Mark 243 said...

It always seems that if you attend to the small things, the larger worries never materialize.

Just a thought.

Dannelle said...

I think I better go back and fix a few things! I have peeled a few potatoes and washed a few pots and pans in my life too- I understand what you are saying DB. Dannelle

Beth said...

Some folks seem to expect that everything about their jobs and their life will be fascinating, brilliant, and captivating. Life just doesn't work that way. In fact, sometimes it's downright mundane.

I always found my job interesting and there were always new things to learn. Not just the practice, but also the theory and technology behind it. But a couple of times a week, supplies came in, and those of us that had finished our bench work would check in boxes of Petri dishes, reagents, etc. We'd cut the lids off of the boxes of Petri dishes, rotate the stock of supplies in the walk-in fridge, and stack all the new supplies on the shelves.

I think I'd do quite well as a stockperson at our local grocery store.

Hugs, Beth

Bea said...

Hi DB...just getting back into the blogs today for the first time in weeks. Those tedious details are indeed part of the bigger picture, but the irony is that once you understand the wisdom of this, they no longer feel tedious. I can understand a teenager feeling that way... although when I was a teen, the times my friends would think were boring were the times my mind was able to access places and times and people even easier than reading a book. It's when my interest in making art, or responding to it, began. I have never been bored. Tired, perhaps, from always thinking and doing, but never bored!! I agree, it's not what you do, it's in how well you do it. Washing dishes even had its artistic moments for me... I got in trouble one evening for staring at and playing with the multi-colored bubbles in the sink. That was my first understanding of light reflection and how a prism works. Love your blog!

Janice said...

Tedious jobs beget dreamers.
I knew you must have been a drummer sometime in your life. I can usually tell. That quiz, tried to figure it out and then tried to cheat in every way I could think of but still no answer. Would appreciate the answer so I can rest my weary mind.

Coy said...

I manage a team of about 40 or so and the way I figure it, they are only there for x amount of hours a day. Boring or not, I expect them to focus on the details while they are there and focus on everything else in once they go home.
*** Coy ***