No one is ever going to notice that. Full stop. Nobody. So why do it? The stuff that nobody will ever notice, covers many things. For every thing you see, there are fifty things behind it propping it up and perpetuating its state of existence, without recognition. Look at any large company and you will see this. In business it is called the Pareto principle; where about 80% of the work comes from 20% of the people. They are the producers, who are often paid less and have sparse recognition.
So if you feel like you are doing the yeoman’s work and nobody is noticing, you are indeed of the vital few. Even that phrase, the yeoman’s work comes from the wry bitching that likely accompanied ancient battles. The yeomen fought the battle BEFORE the battle with long bows made of yew wood. It would take a grown man’s full body strength to bend this bow, and the springy yew was supple and strong enough to extend the customary range of an arrow, meaning you could strike the enemy long before he reached you. This was a valid battle strategy for the obvious reasons and it required skill and strength, and much practise. The yeomen sent out volleys of arrows that preceded hand to hand combat. It softened up the enemy, and often spelled victory long in advance. I am betting that the guys in the field got the glory and people forgot all about the yeomen after the battle, hence the saying.
A lot of tasks are like this, the obvious part that you see alongside the results, and the preamble which was likely messy and required a bit of back and forth, and some unsung honest hard work. That unseen part can also be kind of interesting, and include a bit of problem solving. Here is one of those things that cropped up behind the scenes with me.
We were putting in a new floor on the main level. The grunt work required for this was of course, tearing up all of the old flooring. Sore knees, aching arms and clouds of dust. Tearing out also meant cutting the old floor free around the existing cabinets, a part of the job that you didn’t really consider up front. Then the debris to dispose of in a truckload to the dump. Next, loading and unloading boxes of hard maple flooring, each weighing about fifty pounds. To whit, actually installing the floor was maybe one quarter of the job. I still had to make and install custom new trim along all the edges, and to repaint as well. There was the messy grunt work of moving heavy appliances in and out of the way, and relocating furniture. All these necessary steps had to be crossed off one by one and few people really factor all that into the timeline.
Me, I was on a truncated schedule. I was working during the day and renovating every evening and weekend. My wife and kids were away so my finish date was determined by their return so that they would not come back to a bomb crater.
But… even if you think this sounds like a lot of work, up comes the things you never thought of. My particular problem was that the old flooring was engineered and the new flooring was solid wood about half an inch thicker. When I tried to roll the fridge back where it had been, it was too tall. The fridge rolled against the existing cabinet up top, and would not fit into place.
The cabinet had to go, or at least the shelf that was in the way had to disappear. Problem was it was all screwed in from the sides and the only thing to do was to come along with a flush cut saw and cut through the cabinet from the side to disengage the shelf. Melamine is hard to cut. It makes nasty smelling dust and it smokes on your tools. You will cough and sneeze a lot. Once the shelf was gone, I had to cut in another piece that would raise up three quarter inches in the space, and fix that shelf into position with hidden pocket screws. The new shelf had to be fitted with a new face frame, and I had to make new doors made that were similar to the old, but not as tall. Then painting and installation. When it all went back together, no one could see it was different from what was there before and that is the point. The unrecognized job is a success. If someone noticed, then I did something wrong. In the case of the reno, this principle proved to be true. My wife came back, ran her finger along a piece of furniture and complained about dust. Weeks of hard effort vanished in one moment.
So here we are. The jobs in life no one will notice. Mothers and housewives are heroes in this department. Ask any mother or wife about work behind the scenes and you will get the look that says… “Do you really want me to tell you?”…. and maybe you don’t. A lot of effort in life goes unthanked. My work in graphics has always been the executional side that takes care of all the many details and problems that crop up to make something work. End of the line, you are under time pressure, and people who seem to not be doing much, are asking you if you are done yet.
It will give you pause. I have thought about it, and decided that I don’t really want to be occupying a chair all day trying to look important with a clipboard and going to meetings. Those who like that world are welcome to it. Perhaps I was born to get my hands dirty. My punishment is also my reward, if it means that what I do in life is vital and necessary. There is no fudging with my kind of work, and perhaps that is better in the end. Real work means you can’t make any excuses.
Still there are days I wonder, and days I would like to be thanked a bit more. I am sure I am not alone in this. If I am of those doing the real work, it means I am in the minority, the twenty percent who prop up the eighty percent. If this is the case I still believe I am in better company. Let’s just say I sleep well at night.
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