If you’re going to do something, you may as well do it well. Otherwise, find someone else who can. Ask them how to do it better now so that the next time a similar opportunity comes up, you can be the one who does it. It’s ok to make mistakes, as long as you learn from the experience and don’t make them again. We go through training and spend our time learning in order to better ourselves, in order to do whatever we do, better. Or at least, that’s the intention. It doesn’t always work out that way and I see this in all aspects of my life.
For me, I enjoy doing a good job. It doesn’t really matter whether I’m repairing a computer, building a retaining wall, making a Subway sandwich, proofing an advertisement, running a raid in World of Warcraft or writing. I am where I am and it’s pride in my work, no matter how shitty that work, that helps me move forward. When people describe me, I want them to use words like capable, competent, hard-working. Talented, intelligent, friendly are nice too, but are a subset of the prior descriptions.
When I owned my own business with a friend, one of our company philosophies was to do the best work for the most reasonable price. While monetary profit is important, our reputation for doing our work right the first time, for giving not only good advice, but the best advice was more important. A perfect example: one of our customers was having internet connection problems after her ISP changed their hardware. She spent hours on the phone with them and their solution would have cost her hundreds of dollars. She called us and we found the simplest, cheapest, and ultimately the only right answer to her problem. . . she reset her router to the factory defaults and voila, everything worked. The fix took about ten seconds and cost her nothing. Guess who she took all her business to until we closed our doors?
The subject is so important to me that I recently left my guild in World of Warcraft and started one of my own called <Competence>. It’s founded on the idea that a casual group of skilled players can accomplish end game raiding goals in spite of minimal time spent. And our first night we killed a raid boss on our fifth try (similar to a puzzle game like Labyrinth, in which your marble can drop into a hole and you have to start over, only with 10 people who have to work together), in spite of a more experienced raider’s doubts about our ability to do so. For all that it’s a game, I’m proud of our accomplishments so far.
Finally we come to the spark that inspired this article. I work as a proofreader for an in house advertising agency. A recruiting project for our company made its way across my desk today and after reading through the copy, I was disappointed. It was limp, lifeless, repetitive and unengaging. Had they been attempting to recruit me with this project, I would not have been impressed. I wrote down some suggestions for changes and took them to the copy director. She hadn’t even seen the copy and both agreed with my opinion of the work and approved of the suggestions I made. While it feels good to have my own ideas accepted, I don’t think it should have made it that far. As an advertising agency for a major brand, our standards should be a little higher. We should look for and expect the product we ended with, not the product that came to me to be “finalized”. Maybe the company would be doing better overall if that were the case.
So there it is. Competence. You can only hit a target if you aim for it in the first place.