As I go through my daily routine, I often end up recalling things I've done in my past. They seem perfectly normal to me, but often others marvel at what I was able to accomplish. I tilt my head to the side and mentally try to see what they see, since I lived it and have my own somewhat biased perspective. What makes certain people more accomplished, more skilled, more worthy of praise? What makes them stand out, basically?
Honestly, all of us have the ability within ourselves to dream, to set goals and to attain those goals. We're born, we learn to crawl, we learn to walk, and so on. The more receptive we are, the more we can take in... which in turn we benefit from both individually as well as those in our immediate circle of family & friends. Put your mind to it, stick to it, and make it happen. Rarely will it happen without you, especially if it is your idea.
When I was a teenager, I worked in fast food. Getting paid hourly was nice, and having money in my pocket was the main goal. I didn't stop there, though. My manager showed me a drink chart and told me that whatever "level" we were alerted to, my job was to have a specific number of each flavored drink ready in a variety of sizes so the cashiers would be able to grab what they needed without delay. The chart was my guideline, but it didn't really match reality. Within 20 minutes, I'd already altered the list to a better suited collection of filled drinks and was able to meet the demand with ease. My boss noticed what I'd done, and I was quickly promoted to a different task. And that was on my first day there. What I ended up doing was learning each position, making myself more valuable for the weekly schedule, and my favorite job was to actually make the sandwiches. Not only did I hone that skill, I wanted to be the fastest at it, while still serving a presentable meal I'd eat myself. Crazy fun. That's where Whopper Races came from, and people throughout the district (of restaurants) not only heard of it, but often challenged me to a race. You can guess who always won, right?
In my 20s, I started my own company because I wanted to be my own boss. I worked very hard at what I did, always trying my very best. I set the standards high, and usually reached them. When customers reacted with surprise, I'd tell them "That's what you asked me to do." They'd blurt out "Sure, but I never thought you'd actually do it." They wanted something done a certain way, and when I did it as expected, they were surprised. Crazy, but true. I was born mechanically inclined, and have a general knack at figuring out how to make something from concept to reality.
Working hard, I've always cared about the quality of my work. I wanted it to be the strongest it could be, the best looking, the longest lasting. Back in my years of framing homes and doing trim carpentry, I had no fear of nail guns to build things. The worst thing I was ever told (which happened from time to time) was that something had to be torn out and redone. I'd roll my eyes because I knew how long it would take for me (or a few of us) to tear apart what I'd built when my goal was for that thing to be solid for the next 20-30 years. Once we had to rip apart a mismeasured beam that was going to be the hip of a roofline, and 20 minutes later we were still trying to tear it apart because I'd nailed it 'for life.' Overall, it costs more in time and materials (and nails!) but I'd rather be living under a roof I trust than to hope it's okay -- 'good enough' isn't good enough for me.
Excelling at your (insert project here) will require focus and determination. That sounds obvious, yet clearly the majority don't get it.
This website has been a work in progress for the past 15 years, and it continues to grow one way or another. Documenting things I've done - right or wrong - has always been one of my main tenets to help others succeed as well as prevent making similar mistakes I've already made. Why repeat what doesn't work when it could be avoided in the first place? My mind is full of useful information and I try to share it via this site and other means, and love seeing how it has helped others with their lovely reefs. I care very deeply how our collective livestock is doing, as much as I care when I visit reefs while SCUBA diving. We have learned what these animals need to stay alive in our aquariums, and I feel that that knowledge makes us appreciate seeing them in the wild even moreso.
As we plan our next aquarium build, we usually spend more money on quality gear and take extra time to predict all the possibilities so we will not only enjoy that new setup, but know we can trust it. We possibly even take the project a little too far, considering it's our hobby and not our career. But that kind of critical thinking, that preparation for all things possible, the ideas of what is to come... it's contagious and motivational. I get excited seeing what others are building, and finding out why they are going that direction specifically.
When you answer other hobbyists' questions, give them your best answers. When you pick up your smartphone to take pictures of something to share, share your best pictures. When you tend to your aquarium, you want the best water, the perfect aquascape, the vivid colors of all types of livestock. If you do your best, others will always recognize that effort and appreciate it. Haven't tried this before? Start today, and you'll see the improvement in your overall attitude toward the world around you.
Even now, I'm trying to improve the quality of the acrylic work I do even though I've had years and years of experience. That passion for perfection drives me to try harder to keep my customers happy, one after the next. At the end of the day, I like knowing that I did my best. That's how I avoid having any regrets.
By the way, check out that picture at the top of this blog again. That's an Acropora millepora that completely encrusted over a ziptie. How cool is that?