Effort's Tricky Accomplice

The crazy thing is, you don't have to do the job well. What job? Any job. No one's forcing you to get outside, shovel the walk to the edges, clear your car windows frame to frame, completely dig out the mailbox. It's up to you how to do it.

But getting a job done versus getting it done well will almost always reduce to one essential decision: are you willing to do what it takes to do the job properly?

For most things in life it doesn't really matter. To build a peanut butter sandwich like a perfectionist is to misappropriate effort to goals of limited value. Not everything demands perfection.

But walk carefully along this ledge. The slapdash peanut butter sandwich may not matter too much, but there's a measure of finesse that accrues to the person who can balance the knife across the open jar rather than simply set it down on the counter, requiring you to clean up the smear. More precisely, the implied finesse is not one of manual dexterity; it's is, instead, one of awareness, of attention to detail, of genuinely taking pleasure in the conscious choice to do things attentively rather than chaotically. There's an aesthetic value in placing the peanut butter covered knife across the jar without slathering up the counter that goes beyond simply not having a messy counter.

Doing a job right means holding up standards you cannot deny. Doing a job right is often subjective, too; there's rarely just one way to do a job right. But there are guidelines to consider. Is there a measure of invention, no matter how small, in the technical performance of incremental tasks? Is there an economy of effort in the overall performance? Do the results confer an aesthetic value beyond the simple delivery of a completed job? Are there details that might have been perfected if they had only received a little time or attention? Are you rationalizing a low quality effort just to get it done?

Quality matters. But without a singular definition of what that means, the pursuit of quality matters most because it helps build an intangible something greater than the thing itself.

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