My Family (a long time ago)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An "A" for Effort

I am totally amazed by the number of people on Facebook, YouTube, and the internet in general, during work hours. There are a number of people where I work that are constantly doing anything but the work they’re getting paid for. They’re uploading pictures, videos and news items to Facebook or commenting on their friend’s status or pictures they just uploaded; they’re texting or chatting with friends; they’re shopping or at least looking at stuff. Yes, these people are younger, in their 20’s or early 30’s. No, this is not about me being older and being cranky or grumpy. The fact that we have a looming deadline doesn’t seem to matter to some people, or the fact that what they’re supposed to be working on is holding something or someone else up doesn’t seem to bother them.

I’m not saying I never go on the internet at work. I take about 30 minutes at lunch and check out Facebook, the latest sports news and read what I think are important emails. I even occasionally check my emails at other times, but I don’t read them if they’re not important. And by important, I mean something that can’t be taken care of once I get home or a family matter. That rules out 99% of my emails. Before you start pasting a big “SELF RIGHTEOUS” label on me, I am the first to admit that I am far from perfect. I’ve already admitted that I sometimes go on the internet during work hours. However, I don’t do this when we’re under a work avalanche and we can barely keep our heads above the surface. There are times when you just need to bust your tail for 8-10 hours straight. I think it is the time-appropriateness (if that’s even a word) of the actions that bother me. Or maybe it’s just that it appears that the people I’m talking about just don’t seem to care if they do a good job or not, even though they know they’re being watched.

When I was a kid, we had chores to do. There were daily chores, such as setting the table for dinner, clearing the table after dinner, washing the dishes, drying the dishes and sweeping the floor. All of us had a responsibility each day. We also had weekly chores, which included vacuuming, dusting, washing the kitchen floor and washing the dining room floor. All of us had a weekly responsibility, too. In addition, some things not included in these categories are shoveling snow, cutting the grass when we were old enough and cleaning our rooms. And these are the ones I remember, there were probably more. We all learned to pitch in and do our share. But no matter what our assigned chore was, we were expected to do it right. It’s called responsibility.

I remember having to wash a floor a second time because I did a half-baked job the first time because I wanted to go hang out with my friends. Dad took one look at that floor and knew I didn’t do it right. He didn’t yell at me or make a big scene, he simply asked me if I thought the floor was truly clean and if I had done the best I could in washing the floor. I said “No” to both questions, figuring he’d let it go and let me go hang out with my friends and do a better job next week. But that’s not what he did. He actually made me do it again, do it right, before I could go and hang out with my friends. I’m glad he did.

That lesson was reinforced throughout the time I lived at home. Both my parents taught all nine of us to do the best we could no matter what we were doing. They did not expect perfection, but they did expect our best effort. Win, lose, pass, fail – it didn’t matter; what mattered most was that we gave our best effort. I remembered that lesson all through school and tried not to worry about grades. I remembered that lesson when I got my first job when I was in high school, working in the kitchen of a function facility on what was called the “slop table”. It was as good as it sounds. I remembered that lesson when I was in college and worked in the local skating rink, making the ice and sweeping up the place at the end of the night. No one would have known that I didn’t sweep everywhere, but I would have. I remembered that lesson when I got my first “real” job after college, doing something I hadn’t planned on and for a lot less money than I expected. I still gave it my best effort. I remembered that lesson at every job I’ve had since then and I still remember it today.

My wife and I have taught our kids the same lesson: to always give your best effort and do the best you can. As long as they can honestly say they gave it their all in school, I’m OK with whatever grades they get and they are, too. In their extra-curricular activities, as long as they give their best effort, I’m OK with their performance or outcome and I hope they are, too. Sure, you can pretty much always improve on something, but perfection is not the goal. People much wiser than I am have said something to the effect that it’s the journey not the destination that matters. I just think that if you give everything your best effort, the destination will be that much sweeter.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree. You were blessed with the parents who brought you up with such wisdom and I'm blessed to have you now.