The Pursuit of Perfection

By Kevin Meyer Updated on November 9th, 2016

PerfectionFive months ago I called my painter, who happens to live all of three doors away, to see if he had time to do some touchup on the house.  He was able to fit me into his schedule starting a couple weeks ago.  I knew I was going to have to wait because the same thing happened over 12 years ago when he painted the entire house.  I was actually lucky on this project – he has over a one year wait for larger jobs.

There’s a reason for the wait: he’s in very high demand.  The reason he’s in very high demand is because the quality of his work is very, very good.  Perfection, if I dare say so.  So good that after twelve years only minor touchup is required – and that’s in our coastal environment with ocean storms, salt air, and fog that rolls through corrosive eucalyptus trees.

He’s currently repainting some deck stairs, fence and garage door.  To prepare for the paint, he washed down all surfaces with a small hand sprayer – no pressure washing as that could damage the wood surface – using a small brush to get into the nooks and crannies.  He then applied a dilute bleach solution to remove and kill any mold, and rinsed that off.

Any dry rot was removed and repaired, sanded by hand to match the surrounding area, and primed.  After letting it dry he then sanded each and every screw and nail head, replaced a few, painted them with rust inhibitor, and then later a primer.  Today, after almost two weeks of prep work, he will actually paint, and that will take just a day.  A couple years ago he painted some rooms inside the house, all with a hand brush, never using masking tape to avoid windows or molding.

He charges more than double what anyone else would, and in reality I could probably do it myself if I had the time.  But would I, or anyone else, do as good of a job?  After seeing his work I’d be embarrassed not to, and I don’t think I could.  Is it worth it?  To know that a quality job was done, and will last far longer than usual, yes.

Watching him work outside my home office window is motivating.  How dare I even think about mindlessly surfing the internet when he is using a toothbrush to clear a cobweb from a fence board?  How can I think multitasking on two more more projects is productive when he is so focused on just one task?

How can I even consider doing just an average job, making it through another day, when he has pursued painting perfection for years, perhaps decades?

People, organizations, and companies often talk about benchmarking – comparing themselves against others.  That does not create excellence, just communal mediocrity.  Exemplary people and organizations first determine what perfection looks like, and then work to close the gap… bypassing others in the process.

What is perfection in your world?  What value can it create?  How will you get there?

  1. Jamie Flinchbaugh

    November 29, 2016 - 2:01 pm

    Great observations. I am curious – is his pursuit of perfection in technique / process, skill, or simply a mindset that he does stuff that other people wouldn’t bother to?

  2. Kevin

    November 29, 2016 - 7:03 pm

    I think it’s pride in what he does – and the recognition he gets for doing it. There’s obviously a financial component as he can charge 2x what other painters charge, and have a 6+ month backlog. He’s very laid and almost meditative when painting.

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