I’ve witnessed this in many ways in the last few months. I watched bricklayers, painters, roofers, and concrete pourers – who many would say have menial jobs – absolutely amaze me with their skills. The bricklayer could slop (I’m sure he has a better term) mortar down a three-foot row of bricks with almost no spillage, line up the next layer, and clean up the edge in a smooth motion. And the bricks were PERFECTLY straight and level. I could probably do it, but it’d take me three hours for the same row he did in mere seconds.
I watched ice and vegetable carvers on a cruise ship take common materials and turn them into amazing art. There is nothing special about what it takes to make the art – knives and chisels into fairly compliant media – but the finished result was something a person without that skill can only admire. The dining room did not gather to watch me slice my filet and no one’s ever asked me to display my creativity with Cheese Wiz. I had a photographer make me cry with the image made by a simple press of the shutter. People have thanked me for my pictures (I’ve taken over 25,000 this year), but no one’s ever paid me for them. Or cried.
And I sat through seemingly endless awards programs and speeches, all honoring well-deserving kids who had excelled at sports, foreign language, monumental academic performance (a 4.6 on a 4.0 scale?!), and even (perfect) attendance. Not one award for a nice kid who kept his mouth shut, the boy who will be an excellent middle-class worker, or the folks who only missed four days this year.
We wonder and perhaps even become angry at professional athletes who make more for one night’s work than many people make in a year. We bristle at the demands of performers who demand star treatment. We scoff at artisans who create luxury items that sell for exorbitant prices that only the rich can afford. But they are doing things no one else can. Or does. All this just proves the point.
We value (and reward) those who aren’t just good, but off-the-chart great. The best player in your rec league plays for free. The best professional in the same sport commands millions. The suit you bought at Kohl’s is nice, but you bought it with a 30% coupon, don’t know who made it, and you can get another just like it tomorrow if you spill spaghetti on it (I had a client who bought a $10,000 dress for an engagement and another who spent $5,000 on his suit – both custom-made… and people noticed).
As I launch my eldest into the real world, my hope and desire for him (and you) is that of excellence. At something. Perhaps it’s music. Your attention to detail. Your ability to see a landscape where there is currently only a field. You get workers to show up on time. Do it well – I mean REALLY well – and you’ll get your reward, whether it be money, recognition, or opportunity.
But there’s a second intricacy to this. If you can’t express, market, or explain your wonder to the world, you will live in oblivion. People need to hear your story, listen to you explain how you came up with the idea, and be inspired by your greatness. Communication isn’t usually the skill you need to excel at, but if you aren’t at least competent, the world is missing out on a great gift – YOU!