Saturday, July 2, 2011

Little things mean a lot

My father always used to tell me if I would watch my pennies, then the dollars would take care of themselves. I don’t think I really understood what he meant when he repeated that old adage, but I did start, from a young age, picking up free pennies off the ground as I walked, and still do. I realize now that that is probably not what he meant. Maybe partly, in a "cents."

If you are looking for perfection in a blog, in writing, or anything else that Relax Max has his imprint on, you will be disappointed. I strive mostly to inform, amuse, even share my learnings on occasion, but perfection is something I have given up on long ago.

It strikes me as paradoxical, therefore, (some might say hilarious) that I spend much of my time, both hobby-wise and income-wise, in troubleshooting systems and describing theories for improvement in the way things are now, or in the way things are being done. You can chalk that up to my personality type.

In the process of defining or describing excellence, or in interpreting what the systematic path to success in a thing might be, it is usually necessary to first describe the current state of affairs, point out shortcomings and tell how one thinks the current status quo falls short of excellence. Only then can one put forth a vision for improvement.

Perfection might never be achieved, but one should always strive for excellence to the degree possible. When one person doesn’t take pride in his work in the assemblyline of life, the entire operation is degraded and will fall short of what it could have been. This is true if one is putting nuts on automobile wheel bolts as they pass by; it is true of individual members of a symphony orchestra; and it is true of armies and governments.

My old Air Force basic training sergeant explained this philosophy more succinctly: "Americans don't do half-assed work." Well, they didn't used to, anyway. Would you rise above the crowd? Then don't do half-assed work.

Since I am primarily a big-picture kind of person, it is especially hard for me to make myself pay attention to the dtails in life that form that big-picture, but we simply must try to make each small contribution we make to the larger whole as perfect and excellent as we possibly can. In all things, try to care.


  1. There is a strange parallel apparently in what we do, since much of my rocket sciency career has been looking over the work of others, pointing out the shortcomings and helping to devise solutions. Perfection, when people's lives are at stake, is not a luxury. That's thing about safety and something as unforgiving as space.

    Once again, I find myself in agreement with you. I wonder if you notice how often that really happens. We have a very different way of looking at many things; at others, not so much.

    I wonder, sometimes, how much better the world would be if we focused on what we had in common rather than our differences.

    Or maybe that's just me.

  2. I agree with you too, but only in part. Your last statement, about the way Americans "used to" do things--well, it's so easy for us to idealize the past. We do it too often, and in the political realm, especially. Kids get abortions today. Too often. But we have no stats on how many did so through illegal means before abortions were made legal. We have no accurate data of how many girls were shipped off to their "aunt's" to have babies, which were taken from them before most were even allowed to see the newborn's face, and then the girls were returned to their families after their little "vacation."

    That is only one way. We tend to look back and see our ancestors as more pious, more moral, harder working, sounder in mind, better educated, and the list goes on. But we miss the horrific schools so many grandparents and great grandparents came from, the high numbers of high school dropouts, the reasons behind why so many are now not very religious--not some insurgence of atheism, but a rejection of the hypocrisy and zealousness of so many religious organizations.

    Now I'm ranting. Sorry.

  3. I have to agree with you... I see lazy kids that I hire: wanting more for doing less all the time. i bet it close to 1 out of ten kids are willing to put forth a solid work effort.

    Kind of went of topic: perfection is my goal, but never my path.

  4. @Stephanie Barr - You are starting agree with me more and more because in your heart you know I'm always right. I have become a guru in your life; an intellectual idol to you; almost god-like.

    You need to turn away from that Japanese stuff, though, while you still have half a brain left. :)

  5. @Shakespeare - since nobody has rebutted you, you must be right. I had never thought the schools of the 1940s and 1950s to be so horrible, actually, compared to today. (Grandfathers of today's generation went to school in the 1960s and great-grandfathers in the 1940s and 1950s.)

    You do know that when farmboys and future factory workers completed eighth grade, they were considered to have completed school, right? Only your students with professional aspirations continued to college. I think there were probably more people in the 40s, 50s and 60s who completed high school than you are thinking though. and perhaps could even read when they did graduate.

    Abortions? I'm not going down that road. You are just plain wrong if you think there were as many back-alley abortions and visits to aunts in other cities then, before the 1970s, as the millions of birth control or inconvenience abortions today.

    Ok, now I am the one who is ranting! Thank you for your comment. You riled me, so it was interesting, thoughtful, and successful. :)

    @Jeff King - I don't think you were off-topic. The work-ethic has changed. The value system has changed. I really believe that. It is my opinion we are worse off for that change.

    I blame the 1960s. Gotta blame somebody other than myself. (Responsibility for one's survival and ones current status in life and society is not acceptable now, so I fit right in.) :)

    Well, it really isn't the fault of the 1960s; its those damn Republicans. Everyone knows that. We were starting to gain momentum again, and then that Alaskan woman showed up. Back to ground zero now.

  6. If one is talking about comparing education today to a date further back in history than the 1940s, 50s, and 60s, I would agree that the school systems of the 1890s were worse than our educational heyday, and some were probably worse even than our schools today. I also think the schools in the Dark Ages were probably even worse. The point I was pushing, though, is the theory that our schools (and learning) were steadily getting better and better until the bell-curve peaked and we started sliding down the other side of the mountain. For want of a better exact date, let's choose November 22, 1963 as the American peak. Today we are not QUITE back to the Dark Ages. Closer to the Dark Ages, education-wise, than to the Renaissance, though, I'd say. Our schooling situation today is due to the lack of accountability aspect rather than a lack of money to build new buildings for the kids to fail in.



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