I don't think we smile enough. I know I don't. I was reminded of this a few weeks ago when my friend and partner Aaron came back from a job where he was questioned about a time factor in completing a job. I am not going to get into all the facts in reference to the time element of the job, but he did the job in the time he said he could do it, and I am sure I have nothing to add. But I would like to share the impact that his job had on the owner of the drilling company, and how the owner changed his attitude towards Aaron and our small company.
One of the things I have enjoyed most over the past years is watching Aaron come out of the shadows as a back-yard-mechanic into his new role as a rig mechanic, which includes all aspects of rig and compressor work. I'm not sure just how much Aaron has enjoyed the transition, but as far as I am concerned, it has been fascinating. Finding your own voice is exciting, and recognizing your responsibilities as a leader and as a teacher can be a profoundly humbling experience. Perhaps the most penetrating revelation is the realization that you have something worthwhile and important to say, the awareness that you have some place to say it, and, most important, the knowledge that there are people who are willing to listen.
As a writer, I know inspiration can come from some pretty strange places, so I just never quit listening to my friends. It seems Aaron is special with great self-image and few inhibitions, and he is filled with pride and self-esteem, despite the fact he started with only his intelligence and a great respect for a mechanical attitude, of which he has a great deal. If he has an instruction book he can read, the actual work comes easy. I just never thought it would be that easy for him. You see, unlike most of us, Aaron feels good about his God-given ability to be able to make things work, as well as being a good listener.
As the story goes, upon his arrival at the job site, the customer asked where his hoist truck was, so that he would be able to set a mud pump unit on the rig. Before Aaron arrived, arrangements were made for the customer to provide the lifting facilities, but apparently no one informed the customer regarding this! Aaron, with the help of his partner, quickly sized up the job and fabricated a mounting frame for the mud pump. After two days of hard work, Aaron had the unit ready for start-up. This impressed the customer so much that he couldn't do enough to support Aaron's work. Aaron said he had almost forgotten how much pleasure working on rigs had given him - "I actually enjoyed it," he said. Give your best effort, for, if no other reason, than the way it makes you feel while you are doing it and after you have finished. I told Aaron that he could be satisfied with his performance, knowing he could not have done better. I am not sure I know many people who can do that. I know I am not very good at it, and that brings us to a greater question.
How should we define success? Is the team or the individual who comes in "second" really the "first loser," as some people would say? I don't think so. Our society might like to think that way, but there are individuals who every day put a smile on our faces as they pass by us. We expect to receive additional compressor work from this customer in the future, as Aaron was informed on his departure. Do you have to be the best to do good work? Do you have to be a champion to enjoy a healthy self-image? I hope not, because then the majority of us will never see victory, unless we include some important elements like determination, discipline, effort, excellence, integrity and perseverance. These, and a number of other important traits and values, are too often ignored by a society in which winning isn't everything.
Aaron has helped me rediscover, since I've had the pleasure of knowing him, something all too many of us have lost or forgotten - the knowledge that giving a task, or a job, or a challenge, everything you are capable of, everything you have to give, may not be enough to satisfy everyone now, but it certainly is enough to keep a smile on your face and your business doors open every day. And, yes, while it's true that the customer compensates you for your efforts by giving you money and telling other people about the work you are capable of providing, you reward the customer with the best of everything you and your organization are capable of. Now that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.