When I worked with James B Irwin I learned about “The Doctrine of Completed Staff Work” – when you do something, you make sure you complete the work. Truth is long before I’ve heard of Mr Irwin I’ve already been practicing it.
For at least three decades now I not only make it a personal principle to always finish what I have started, not only that, but also to do the right things and to do things right.
For over 30 years I made a living based on my intellect and my tacit knowledge. Now, semi-retired and in private practice, I still do. Clients pay for my intellectual firepower, my accuracy and intellectual capital and thought leadership. Because I cannot fail clients, my staff and the network of subject matter experts I use cannot afford to fail me. Because of my standards and relentless pursuit for perfection, I have seen grown men 15, 16 years older than me – even ang mohs – break down and cry like babies in front of me because I have pushed and drove them beyond what they have been used to. I have kicked them out of their complacency and their comfort zones. Yes I am a tough taskmaster. And why not? A person’s output is an indication of his inner character. When clients – some of the biggest multinational corporations in the world – are paying me US$10,000/- a day for my brain power, I cannot fuck up. When you cook a dish, you do not continue cooking when you have one ingredient missing, when you exchange emails with a VIP, you don’t accuse him of behaving like a communist, when you conduct a corporate-wide psychological profiling exercise, you do not start computing the results unless and until all survey instrumentation have come in, if you are a tailor and two pairs of pants you made for a customer have oil stains on them, you do not make excuses and make him pay for a third pair, when you have been given months of advance notice to attend an international event organized at great expense, you do not take off at the last minute, when I’ve requested for your help to take care of a VIP, and if you have agreed to do so, I expect it to be done, when you are the photographer at the wedding of your client’s son, you do not stop snapping because your battery has died and you don’t have a spare with you, when you submit a report, clients do not expect a hastily-put-together cut-and-paste job full of errors or spelling mistakes and when you send an email, recipients do not expect sloppy, lazy email habits.
My pursuit for faultlessness and flawlessness have made me a most hated man among subordinates and have made me many enemies but I make no excuses for that – clients do not pay for a half-cooked dish, they do not pay to be insulted, they do not pay for a psycho profile that is not the complete picture, they do not expect excuses and not a word of “sorry” from you if you are a tailor and the clothes you made cannot be worn, they do not expect a no-show from you at an event planned months ahead, and when they are visitors in your country, they do not expect you to say “take a cab to my place after dinner” and they as hell do not expect to see picture-taking half-done when they engage a photographer. When they anxiously await your report it is a given that they expect it to be absolutely error-free and when they receive emails from you they do not expect you to be so lazy that you can’t even be bothered to start a new email message with a new subject heading. Above all, they do not expect bone-headed stubbornness, boorish behavior and stupidity. And they do not expect you to be resistant to constructive criticism. Clients and people who use your services are the reasons why you exist. Clients who pay for your services are your paymasters; they keep your family alive and people who tap your talents are the ones who continue to hone your skills. Be thankful that you have friends who give you such opportunities. Others stand in line just to be used. Nobody wants to be a deadbeat except perhaps you. Learn to say “sorry” – saying “sorry” is the first thing you do during service recovery, it is not necessarily an admission of wrong-doing – you are merely apologizing for your client’s unpleasant experience. Do not resist saying “sorry” and start becoming defensive instead. Resistance to change can lead to the death of entire species. This year we saw how resistance to change resulted in Singapore’s People’s Action Party retaining power with the smallest margin of popular votes since 1965.
Indeed your work is your hallmark and you will be remembered for it. Now perhaps you will understand why Rick Perry can consider his presidential bid totally over when he forgot a name on TV – during a recent TV appearance he could not recall a name and that “oops moment” have cost him dearly. And people will remember that forever. Sloppiness carries with it a heavy price indeed.
Oh don’t get me wrong. Lest I be labeled a hypocritical bastard I myself am far from being perfect but just because I am unable to be perfect doesn’t mean I stop trying. I will also not stop trying to correct those whom I care for. I will only stop when I have given up on them completely. But I always remember “illegitimi non carborundum.” One of the traits of a perfectionist is that a perfectionist doesn’t suffer fools gladly. (But I do gladly make fools suffer.) Fools are annoying. They walk among us. Yes, obdurate, unteachable bozos breed and proliferate. At my age, I feel I no longer have to put up with them. I flee them. I don’t go around administering IQ tests on everyone but I do recognize a fool when I see one.
To the fools in my life, good bye. My world will be a lovelier place without you.