Happiness does not come from doing easy work, but from the afterglow of satisfaction that comes after the achievement of a difficult task that demanded our best. — Theodore Isaac Rubin
It’s as if Mr. Rubin was reading my mind when he penned the message above. I just don’t enjoy certain tasks. I suppose I can admit that this feeling of distaste might apply to some parts of my job. But it is certainly true for a number of projects around the house. Some home improvement projects can be quite enjoyable—particularly those that require a few technical skills or a bit of construction knowledge. But others I often think I would be better served hiring a professional to perform.
This thought is fresh in my mind right now as I recently began painting a couple of bedrooms in my house. Some people enjoy painting, but I’d rather shave my eyeballs. For me it’s a long, tedious process that is impossible for me to accomplish to my perfectionist standards. I end up spending as much time touching up mistakes as I do on the original painting process. The struggle of the work is frustrating to me, but once the job is complete, I can appreciate the improvement.
It’s this feeling of accomplishment that often drives us in our work. A couple of years back, I (with some professional help) refinished my basement. It took about 6 months, but every day I looked forward to spending time on the various projects, whether tearing out, running electric or hanging drywall, because each step brought me noticeably closer to that satisfying feeling of a job well done.
I also take great satisfaction from my writing projects on the job. Some are more challenging than others, depending on the topic, or the availability of my sources, or their ability or willingness to share their knowledge. Sometimes the generation of each word can be as painful as a kick in the shins. But writing is something for which I’ve trained; I’ve practiced. Some people even tell me I’m good at it. And generally speaking, although an article may not seem so great as I go through the process of pulling it together, I very much enjoy the feeling I get when I read through the final product and think to myself, “That’s pretty good after all!”
I suppose I’m fortunate that most functions in my job result in a clearly finished product. I enjoy the opportunity to regularly experience closure on projects, evaluate the quality of my work and realize the feeling of accomplishment. With that finality comes diversification—I can move from one project to another fairly often and not be bogged down with monotony. I see many forms of manufacturing technology, often aimed at almost identical goals, but with their own unique set of features to get there. Many shops I visit manufacture similar parts, but are using different tools and methodology. These differences, along with the ever changing landscape of manufacturing demands and the technology to meet them, affords the variety that helps to keep my work interesting.
Similarly, shop personnel make parts they can touch and see. While these parts are often components of a bigger product, the machinist knows the objective of his or her work and is able to recognize the quality of the work in the end result through clearly defined specifications. The production process has a distinct beginning and end, and typically no ambiguity exists between good and bad parts. The satisfaction of accomplishment comes not only from making good parts, but from finding ways to do it more efficiently.
The fulfillment of a job well done plays a big role in employee motivation, and producing a quality product efficiently can be quite rewarding. I often wonder how people working in retail, insurance underwriters, or even human resource personnel, whose end “product” is far less recognizable, find their motivation.
As we wind down to the end of the year, this is a good time to reflect generally on a job well done. Mostly, 2014 was a good year for our industry, and the outlook is positive for next year. While we’ve been focused on the tasks at hand, whether or not we’ve found great satisfaction in their results, we’ve managed to accomplish a great deal for American manufacturing. For that, we should all be happy.