Friday, February 24, 2012

Sign Your Work

Several years ago I found myself lying in a hospital bed recovering from heart bypass surgery.  There were bandages on my legs that needed changing regularly.  The bandages were necessary because during bypass surgery the doctor takes veins from another part of your body, in this case my legs, and uses them to make a detour around the blocked area in the arteries.  My particular situation involved five blocked arteries, and I think there are only a total of six in a human heart, so I pretty much managed to ruin almost all of mine with thirty years of bad habits.  But - that’s another story.  This story is about why I believe everyone should “sign” their work.  How I came to believe this has to do with the nurse that came in every evening to change those bandages on my legs.  He was fairly young, but had a steady manner and confidence about him that assured me I was in good hands.  After unwrapping and then wrapping my legs again in a firm, neat covering of sterile bandages he would take out a small black marker pen and sign his name right on the front of my leg just below the knee.  It piqued my curiosity, and after the second or third time I asked him why he did that.  He answered without hesitation. “It keeps me from getting lazy and careless.”  He went on to say that by signing his name to the dressings he was taking responsibility for his work, and holding himself accountable for his actions. 
Now, honestly, how often do you hear THAT these days?  It seems like all too often we just hear excuses…”I can’t…I don’t…  I won’t…it’s too hard…too early…too late…the sun got in my eyes.”  You get the idea.  If everyone would assume responsibility for their own actions and words the world would probably be a much better place, for several reasons.  Not the least of them being maybe everybody would try a little harder, or measure their words more carefully. 
I am not saying that everybody’s “work” must be flawless.  Some have abilities and talents that others don’t.  But everyone has the ability to try their best.  I was walking in Art Alley recently (in downtown Rapid City between 6th and 7th Streets) and amidst all of the graffiti I was able to find a little bit of art – including this:

OK, so it’s not a masterpiece.  But I like it.  And it’s a lot better than anything I could do.  Notice it is signed.  I think that took a certain amount of courage.  Any time we identify ourselves with something we do or create, we open ourselves up to scrutiny and possible criticism.  But it should be worth the risk.  People will respect and appreciate the fact that you’re not someone who is quick to place blame or make excuses. 

By the way, this whole “sign your work” idea should not be only about physical things.  You can’t sign something you say or some action you take, but you can be open, honest and sincere about it.  Just do the best you can, and be prepared to take responsibility for the results. That’s all anyone can ask.  Regardless of the outcome, you can take pride in the result as long as you put forth your best effort.  And if things don’t work out the way you planned or hoped they would, don’t try to make it the fault of someone or something else.  Wayne Dyer said,  "All blame is a waste of time. No matter how much fault you find with another, and regardless of how much you blame him, it will not change you."  So, try to be good at what you do.  And sign your work.

Roger O'Dea  02/24/2012