Nothing is better than quality. Money is great only when it helps us buy more of quality from others
I spent three hours hand-polishing my car on New Year’s Eve. Just removing packed dirt from the gaps and creases on the roof, the grille, the dam of the windshield, etc, with a brush took about an hour. There were tiny, hardened specks of grime even on the flat panels of the doors and the bonnet. The boys who clean my car by turns every morning had been doing so with a very light hand. My wife said I should not expect a better job at their very low rate — about $3 a month, unchanged since 2009 (it’s the standard rate where I live).
That correlation between pay and work is universally accepted. You get what you pay for. On Christmas, my grocer was selling packaged plum cakes for Rs 100 each, and a good bakery nearby had fresh cakes of the same size for about Rs 500 each. The two cakes taste very different. We expect better or higher or greater quality when we pay more for an article or a service. The seller also, perhaps, feels obliged to deliver to a higher standard when charging more.
But there is another side to this. Many times in my early career, when I felt shortchanged, I thought I would do a shoddy job. I would come to work determined to clear copy at lightning speed, looking only at the commas and full stops like many of my colleagues. But a few minutes into a story I would forget my plan and start rearranging and rewriting it. Yes, I was very unhappy about my pay but doing a shoddy job would have deprived me of the only reward work offered. Then, I would have been poor in pocket AND soul.
Nothing is better than quality. Money is great only when it helps us buy more of quality from others (more on this theme another time). If you have no interest in art but manage to buy the Mona Lisa for your room, have you acquired quality?
I hope you will have more money this year, but even if you don’t, I hope you will find more quality in these five things:
Are you thinking quality? Perhaps not if your thoughts are always focused on achieving work targets, paying bills and keeping the wolf from the door. Are you looking and feeling careworn? If life/work is a road that is wearing you out early, it must be a low-quality road. I hope you will find something that helps you set aside the cares for a while every day. It might be poetry or music or cycling, or cinema, or something else that gives you time and cause to think beyond your immediate cares. You are more than a cog in someone else’s machine.
If you feel tired, sluggish and ill all the time, your health is low-quality. Everything — food, drink, stress, lack of sleep or exercise — that makes it so is also low-quality. You may eat the best meat and drink the best wine, but if the result is choked arteries and a damaged liver, their consumption is low-quality. Here, a word about New Year’s fitness resolutions. Say, you have decided you will jog daily. It will be easier to stick to it if you focus on the quality of your running technique — which is in your hands — rather than its impact on your weight and abs. Improve your stride, your posture and your breathing like an artist; fall in love with running; you will never give it up.
Parents, siblings, spouse, children, cousins. Friends too. Whatever your private universe, I hope you will infuse quality in its orbits too. Bad vibes — low-quality — in this universe are injurious to your work as well. Family is your space, buffer and cushion. The job that forces you to sacrifice it, hack at your own roots, is low-quality.
If you have to clean 50 cars every morning, make 100 client calls or solder the same kind of joint in 2,000 circuit boards every day, you probably feel like a machine. But you can — till you find something better — bring to this repetitive work a Zen-like calm by focusing on quality. “I will do it well to keep up my own quality” can be your mantra. Telling prayer beads is repetitive too, but we call it meditation.
I won’t wish you fabulous riches in 2017 because the concentration of wealth in a few hands makes the world a low-quality place, but I wish you solvency. May you always live within your means and yet have enough to improve the quality of your mind, health, family and work.
A very happy and memorable 2017 to you!