A man is armed with a handful of paper towels and a squirt bottle.
“Looking good,” I said, genuinely enjoying the clear window beside me.
Turning, the man smiled.
“Anything worth doing is worth doing right,” he said. “Am I right?”
We shared a few more words before he returned to his work, tipping his hat as we parted. But after I left, it wasn’t the clear view through the window that remained with me, but the pride beneath his words. To him, there was nothing more important than to do his job to the best of his ability.
I think about this often — of how many of us really understand the principle driving this man to leave behind a window so clean you’d think he’d signed his name in the corner.
There is honor in a job well done.
I remember my dad telling me about being a child during the Great Depression and men on his street going to work in factories that could not afford to make good on their payroll checks for weeks in a row.
My grandfather, it turns out, was one of those men. According to the story, he told my dad he’d rather be busy with a chance to cash a paycheck one day than sit around and do nothing. Work rewarded the soul, made you whole.
I once heard someone say you can’t teach “give a damn.” That is, your motivation comes from inside or it does not. The drive to do your best regardless of the task must come from somewhere deep inside. Lectures don’t work, nor does berating someone into working harder.
My cousin, now a retired electrician, told me you could always tell if his team installed the light switches or electrical outlets by merely looking at the direction of the screw head.
“Ours always finish horizontally,” he said. “That is our calling card.”
There is an oft-told story of how Apple founder Steve Jobs was so fastidious about the quality of the products his team was creating he insisted they sign the inside of the exterior casing. Every circuit on the board, so goes the story, had to be properly aligned and squared up to the edges. When a frustrated engineer once asked him who would know once the outer shell covered up the motherboard, Jobs replied, “I will.”
Which brings me back to the gentleman who worked so patiently to ensure the windows he worked on would be free of smudges or streaks. To him, this was his canvas, his reputation. The only thing missing was his signature in the corner of his work.