jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Be Great

If you take a moment to look around the room you are in now, what do you see? Are you surrounded by things that matter, and were built by people who care? Or, more likely, are you surrounded by mass produced, assembly line, imported goods that you honestly don’t believe will last all that long? I’ve been thinking about quality again, and how it applies to me, to what I do, and how I spend my time.

It started with our washing machine. After seven years, our washing machine looks like it’s on its last legs. Seven years sounds like a long time to have an appliance, but its really not. When our grandparents bought appliances they were built to last for thirty years, now they are built to last five. We called up a repair man who stopped by the house to take a look. He was an older guy, and didn’t bring the right tools for the job, so he just looked at the machine and told us his view of the model we own. He said that he had just told a customer that day that his washing machine, same model as ours, was not worth the cost to fix it, and that it would be cheaper and more economical to buy a new one. As older people do, he lamented the quality of todays machines, so I asked him what was being built today that was as good as the machines of the past.

He looked me in the eye and said “There are none.”

The repairman’s view of the world has become so pessimistic that he truly believes that there is nothing built for the common man worth buying. This is sad, but I believe he’s wrong. I believe it in part because I’m typing this on a MacBook Pro, in my opinion the best computer ever built. The perfect blend of power and portability, but more than that, an example of manufacturing excellence. Apple is a company that cares about details, and they are not alone. I believe we may be at the beginning of a renaissance of sorts, a return to traditionally crafted goods created by artisans and engineers.

These people have inspired me to do better, to be more, to remember the attention to detail that the Navy demanded of me. Take a minute to read these stories, watch their videos, and see where they are coming from.

Saddleback Leather, Coudal Partners, DODOcase, Blackbox Case, and finally, Staber Industries.

Staber may very well replace our Maytag washing machine. Its all they do.

We don’t have to live in a world where all of our things are replaceable, where everything around us falls apart after a couple of years of use. We don’t have to live in a world where everything has a computer chip and can’t be fixed if it breaks. We don’t have to live surrounded by junk. But that’s what the past thirty years of steadily declining quality of goods has taught us, it’s become a core belief that affects everything we do. We go to work, and sigh, and think, “here it is, another Monday…”, and do what we have to do until we can go home. Punch the clock, earn a paycheck, who cares if our work is any good? That’s wrong, and it doesn’t have to be like that.

Living in a world of quality goods and services starts with each one of us caring more about what we do with our lives, what we spend our money on, and most importantly, where and how we spend our time. No matter what you do, if it is writing software or changing oil, I want to encourage you to do your absolute best. Because no matter what you are doing, you make an impact on the world around you, you matter because you are here, and when you start to believe that what you do makes a difference, you start to care a little more, and when you care about your work, you make the world around you a little better every day.

So, today, as you go to work, or prepare for the next day, or think about what might come next…

be great.

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