Sunday, June 27, 1999
TWO bakers use the same ingredients and the same recipe to bake a cake. The cake made by one is delicious -- leaving the customer yearning for more, while the one made by the other is an eminently forgettable. What sets the two bakers apart is their personal attitude and approach towards work. The first baker loves the task of baking. Right from mixing the batter and pouring it into moulds to serving the portions decorated with luscious toppings while happily chatting and joking with the customers. It is the pride he takes in his work that gets transmitted to the quality of the cake and in his special brand of customer service. Little wonder then that his brood of faithful customers keeps swelling. For him baking is a passion, which he wants to share with everyone. The second baker considers baking a chore. It is something that he has to endure and suffer because he is not trained to do anything else. He is disgusted with the idea of baking cakes day in and day out. His cakes may be technically passable, but they lack the flavour and the mouth-watering quality which his rival baker so effortlessly creates.
Taking pride in ones work, whatever it may be, is the highest virtue any person can strive for. Perfection, excellence, quality and expert craftsmanship are offshoots of this very work ethic. Pride of performance, of a task accomplished and of a job well done represent pleasure which comes with understanding, inner tranquillity and humility. Since the quality of the work and the quality of the worker are inseparable, excellence comes when the worker takes pride in doing his best. Every job, therefore, is a self-portrait of the person who executes it.
It is quite natural for a person who takes pride in his work to be a perfectionist. Nothing but the best satisfies him. He has patience and the tremendous capacity to work tirelessly till he is convinced that he cannot surpass himself. There is a story about Michelangelo working on a statue for days on end. To curious passersby he seemed to be slogging over insignificant details as he touched the object from different angles, peeling off its paint and redoing it many times over. When someone asked him why he was wasting so much of his time and energy on something so trivial, which wasnt even visible to the untrained naked eye, he said, "Trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle". So every little detail adds up. And that is what makes the difference between a job done in a mediocre manner and one which is a work of art.
Pride, according to the dictionary, is a feeling of gratification arising from association with that which is good and laudable. Pride in ones work can come only when one believes in oneself. Along with confidence and self-assurance comes a healthy self-esteem. This lends both a sense of purpose and dignity to the manner in which we choose to accomplish our task. This honest and truthful outlook enables us to put in our best. Clarity of thought, prioritising tasks, organisational and managerial skills are natural concomitants since there is an urge to do everything right the first time, every time. This quest for excellence soon becomes a way of life. We begin to take pride, not just in our work, but in ourselves, in the intimate relationships we share, in our homes and in all the things which make life beautiful and meaningful. This is why people who take a healthy pride in their work are often those who know the difference between living and existing.
Three people were laying bricks at a construction site. An onlooker asked them what they were doing. The first one looking irritated said, "Cant you see I am eking out a living?" The second one appearing tired and bored replied, "I am laying bricks". The third one with a faraway look and a sparkle in his eyes said, "I am building a beautiful monument". All three men were doing the same thing and were going to be paid the same amount yet it was attitude towards their work which set them apart. The quality of their work and performance will define their success in the long term and chances are that the third worker will do better than the other two.
Having a healthy pride in ones work is the ideal state of being. However, most of us fall in two of the following categories. One comprises those who belittle their work, run it down and dont take it seriously enough. They are actually convinced that they are doing things which dont merit the admiration of others. They are embarrassed with the job they are doing and are ashamed of the fact that they havent made it in life. They suffer from a complex of under achievement. So even when they do something that is laudable, they brush it under the carpet. Humble to a fault, they are more comfortable cribbing, complaining and sulking. Most of the times their work doesnt rise above mediocrity. This is not because they dont have potential but because they dont put their heart and mind into their work. They dont swell with pride when they accomplish something and lack the motivation to better their performance.
The other category comprises those who are full of themselves. When they achieve something tangible they have a obsessive need to announce it to the world and to be lauded for their efforts. They strut about like proud peacocks. Their pride comes from a lofty and arrogant assumption of superiority. This exaggeration is confined not to their abilities alone but to their physical looks, material acquisitions, family background and a complete overestimation of the self. They are conceited, vain and proud. It isnt easy to keep ones feet firmly on the ground in the wake of enormous success. One must acknowledge ones positive traits, strengths and achievements. But this must be done realistically. Instead of dwelling on them one must move on.
Often ones hard work and striving towards some form of excellence is spurred by the desire to outdo a particular person or to prove a point to someone. The need to get even or to win acclaim can be counter-productive. Here work becomes a means to an end, not the end in itself. People who turn into workaholics, losing their perspective and sense of balance, are usually those for whom work has become a tool with which they can show the world their superiority and success. If they take pride in being a doctor, actor or writer, it is largely because their identity and self-worth are linked with their work. Their wisdom and power come in the limited sphere of their work, rendering them ineffective in other areas of life.
A home-maker takes pride
in keeping an efficient and aesthetic home, a cook takes
pride in his culinary skills, a CEO of a company takes
pride in the fact that other than providing a healthy,
congenial work place he has created a brand which is a
market leader. No doubt, pride comes with the knowledge
that one is good. A singer cannot take pride in his voice
unless he has an appreciative audience. How each one of
us uses our strengths to give a sense of pride, a feeling
of gratification and inner solitude makes a difference to
how we feel about ourselves.
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