When you are given a task to complete, are you just checking off the boxes or actually providing the best possible product? We have all experienced that moment when we were technically finished with the assigned task and still had some time leftover. What you do with that time is difference between good and excellent.
I have hired many people to do work around my house over the years and there is a clear difference in those who simply finish a task and those who take the time to complete it well. It kills me when someone does a job and then does the bare minimum or a shoddy cleanup effort. If I am paying you to do work, I shouldn’t have to clean up after you or fix your mistakes. Then there is the guy who came to paint my house and caulked all the seams because “I was already right there, just made sense,” he said humbly.
“Good enough for government work,” is a saying we have all heard at one point or another. I know this is said in jest, but it is still a mindset many have. My dad always told me to do the job right, not just to get it done. Whether I was digging a trench, painting the garage, cleaning my car, shoveling snow for the old couple next door, or whatever the task; it was not done simply because I went through the motions. When I stepped back to review my work, was it something I could be proud of knowing I gave it my best effort. I could always tell when I put effort into the job and when I was just trying to move some snow. I was like a kid coloring a picture: some scribble all over the place to simply fill in the picture, while others take their time to make art.
Really this is the difference between a journeyman and a craftsman. 5-Levels are learning to become experts at their trade and simply getting all the boxes checked is often hard enough. We are given a deadline and want to be sure it is completed in time. We are still honing our skills and it is tough to judge if we have time to create art or just scribble through the task. It takes time and repetition to perfect our abilities and learn where we can improve.
There are two things we can do to get better. The first way to grow into the 7-level craftsman shoes is to properly prepare for the task. When you go into a task think about what else could be done. If you are pulling a part off of the engine and know there is another that goes bad often sitting right behind it, change that too. When I was a young crew chief on C-5’s, there were some jet troops doing work in the pylon area. I asked them if they could fix a couple small things while they were right there and they blew me off. Then about two weeks later, I came onto shift and saw them taking off that same part to gain access to the area to fix what we talked about before. I felt like Kermit the Frog in the meme where he is drinking his tea smugly.
Lastly, when we complete the job and there is time left over, what you do matters. If you are simply happy to be done with the minimum and move on, you are not going to get better. Rather, take the time to clean up the area and look for something else that could be done while you are there. I had a SrA from CE repair some water damage in our building last week and after he was done, he asked me if he could look into why the air conditioning was so weak for that room. He didn’t have to, but he already had access to the area and all the gear in place and it only required a few extra minutes of his time.
We all know when we are giving our best efforts. We know when we are just trying to get done so we can go play Pokemon Go or update our Facebook page. Doing things in a shoddy way just to get done will never help you to stand out amongst your peers. In fact, doing this repeatedly will just make you really good at doing a crappy job. Take the time to think about any value you can add to your task before, during and after you complete it. That is the mark of a real craftsman.