Your Highest Standard

What have I noticed on the assembly line in the last month that I have been back on it? Too many associates and lower-level managers are content with exerting the minimal amount of effort to achieve the company goals. We want our compensation levels to increase, but we are not willing to do more in order to get more.

What happens when the standard is to achieve the minimum? Morale goes down. Safety is sacrificed. Production goals are not met. The potential of an excellent product is diminished by defects. Customers become less satisfied and ultimately choose another product.

“Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great.” –Orison Swett Marden

“Circumstances does not make the man; they only reveal him to himself.” –Epictetus

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” –Leo Tolstoy

“We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

It is easy to fall into the trap. We look at the goal for the day and strive to achieve just that, no more. We complain about the environment in which we work and blame the management rather than take the steps to fix it ourselves. We justify safety concerns instead of addressing them. It is easier to put the blame on the circumstances, not on ourselves.

Last week, I said no more. I have always tried to do a good job. My goals have always been simple: no defects and no downtime. But I looked at it and thought even that was the bare minimum. Shouldn’t I be doing more? So I told myself to set a new standard. Set a higher standard.

It may seem over-the-top, but I am all-in. When I get to my station, I set it in order. I look for ways to improve it. I leave it in better shape than the way I entered it. I clean, always clean. In between units, I pick up. Even if it is not my mess, if it enters into my area or is around my area, I clean it up. I don’t say anything to the other associates about the mess, I just do it. Maybe they see me doing it, maybe they don’t. It is not my concern. My concern is that the mess doesn’t travel down the line to the next person.

I’ve become 100%, a hundred percent of the time. The line may go down, but not me. I keep going, preparing for the next unit to come down the line, setting myself up for success.

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” –Robert Collier

“If I am anything, which I highly doubt, I have made myself so by hard work.” –Sir Isaac Newton

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” –Marcus Aurelius

Have I become the ultimate factory worker? Not at all. Of course, I want to see the company do well. It pays my bills. It provides a certain amount of security in what can sometimes be a chaotic world. But I don’t plan on working there forever, and this company really is just another employer. My reasons, though beneficial to the organization, are really personal ones.

Working on the assembly line has created an imprint on my personal operating system. In order to maintain optimal quality, there should be no deviation to the processes. If you do the same things over and over again, you should get the same results every time. When something abnormal is added to the equation, it has the potential the change the results. When a continuous stream of abnormalties occur, things can get chaotic.

I have become mechanical, almost automatic. I don’t do well with chaos in either my personal life or my professional. It changes the rhythms and affects the results. The idea of a chaos-free world isn’t reasonable. Neither is a chaos-free workplace. Things happen, and I will have no choice but to deal with it. But if I can minimize it, there is a chance I can overcome it and not let it ruin me. If I continuously strive to create an ideal work environment, a work area free of clutter, then a defective unit coming into my area doesn’t become a disaster. I can deal with it on my own terms with less stress.

“If you train hard, you’ll not only be hard, you’ll be hard to beat.” –Herschel Walker

“People create the reality they need in order to discover themselves.” –Ernest Becker

“Become what you are by learning who you are.” –Pindar

“Character, not circumstances, makes the man.” –Booker T. Washington

Jim Rohn said, “You should work harder on yourself than on your job.” Over the last year, those are the words I have tried to live by. But if I was’t working very hard at work and only doing the minimal requirements to get a paycheck, then I wasn’t really setting the bar very high for the “myself” that I was supposed to be working harder on. I had to ask myself a few questions. What if I changed? What if I raised my personal bar at work as high as if would go? Would this raise the level of work on myself? Could I exceed my own personal development goals?

This factory may not be where I want to be the rest of my life, but it is where I need to be right now. It is my personal training ground. It is where I test the methods I want to instill into my own life. It is a place where I can introduce my philosophical beliefs and see what ideas stick and which ones need to be refined. This is a place where I am learning just exactly who I am, while getting paid at the same time.

When I create the ideal environment to work in, magic happens. When I go on autopilot, my body by rote can operate on very little mental capacity. It knows what to do and so it just does. My mind is free to roam. So I think. I think about the job. Can I make it better? Is there any correlation between what I am doing and life. I envision where I want to be and how I can get there. Calvin Coolidge said, “All growth depends on activity. There is no development physically or intellectually without effort, and effort means work.” It is here, at this factory job, where to my amazement I am growing the most.

Bedros Keuilian says, “How you do anything is how you do everything.”  This has become my gold standard. I can’t be half-way anymore. I have to be all-in. If I want the results I am looking for in life, then it comes down to this type of consistency.

The willingness and execution of going above and beyond increases my value. It increases my credibility when I am asked about my beliefs. Maybe nobody is watching and noticing what I am doing. That’s fine. I am not doing this for others but for myself as my own personal standard. But maybe there are others watching. Maybe everybody is watching. A positive change by one or by a few has the potential to change a cultural norm.

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how thing have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.” –Rumi

“The choices you make today will be your biography tomorrow.” –James Altucher