Julie Andrews in The sound of music was singing that “a very good place to start / when you read you begin with ABC…” In our jobs, we begin with basics. Or, at least, we should. Many of us (of course, NOT (!!!) you and me. The Others) get distracted and attracted by smart sounding words, strategically filling gaps with meaningless sentences, Important Projects, executive slides populating, you-name-it-things. All supercalifragilisticexpialidocious things. Because simple is no longer in fashion. Because simple is not executive enough. Because simple does not make you look “high society”.
Needless to say, it is all wrong to me. Most important part is to get the basics right. My only sin, I have to admit, that sometimes I want it done fast. Really fast. Almost to skip it and jump to those other – “important” – things. The other day, I was reminded the lesson, that it takes time to get things done right. And if you rush through, you have very high chances of getting things wrong. Really wrong.
It was 7.56 pm. I was running to catch the train in Euston to go home. Did not have pre-booked tickets. The day started just before 4 am, the last meal I had was 9 hours ago and I was exhausted. On the way up from the tube I quickly opened train ticket app, found a train at 8 pm. I picked my eyes onto the screens in the station – 8 pm train is on platform 15! You can imagine there was some running involved. There were no ticket inspectors – everyone was already on-board. I get onto the train, put the earphones in and dive into the virtual world on the screen of my phone. Train starts moving and I send a text to my family with estimated time of arrival.
10 minutes in, conductor comes over and asks to show the ticket. He takes the phone. Silence begins. Then I realise, that something is not right. Pick up my eyes and see the conductor. His face does not promise anything good. That’s right, I am on the wrong train. I started laughing. Because “it never happens to me” myth is shattered into pieces so quickly and harshly, that I do not even bother picking up the pieces. Strike #1.
I got out of the train 100 miles away from my home, on completely other side. 21.35. Only to hear the announcement, that there has been a fatality and there will be no more trains coming in or out of that station that day anymore. Strike #2.
Little chaos in the station, bigger chaos in the head, trying to figure out what to do next. “Get a snack!” – my brain screamed – “you are not you, when you are hungry!”. Easier said than done: everything is closed by this time. I find a snack machine. With my luck that day, it steals two pounds before giving me the so much needed piece of chocolate. Strike #3.
I like Virgin. Their customer service is great – they got a taxi for me to take me home. I get into the car, tell the driver where to go. We start moving when he informs me, that he desperately needs fuel and he will stop at the first station. Which he does. Except that the station is not serving any fuel. Closed. At this point I burst into laughter. Somehow the driver did not think it was funny. I told him about my luck that day and he then decided it was even less funny. Strike #4.
There was enough fuel to reach the next station. What else could go wrong? Well, just when we were to join back the highway, we saw nice yellow signs “ROAD WORKS”… By now the driver was looking suspiciously at me. He said “if something more happens, you can take the car and go”… We did 15 miles de-tour. Strike #5.
5 hours late, after midnight, I was home. Having revised the lesson of getting the basics right the hard way. The lessons I had to repeat that day:
- Exhaustion and overworking only lead to mistakes.
- If you get the basics wrong, the chance of further failures only increases. Never ever underestimate the importance not to only properly do basic things, but also the quality level of it.
- Do not give up. Never give up. Things can and will go wrong. As long as you have more persistence than Mr. Murphy and his laws, you will win.
Happy Friday Everyone! Let’s finish the work week properly as basics, so that next Monday does not turn into chaos!