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Monday, October 1, 2007

Perseverance, or The Merits of Hard Work

The biggest difference I've found between owning a business and working for someone else is this: you cannot afford to slack off. There have been days, in my pre-business life, when I know I wasn't bringing my full ability to the stainless steel table. Most often, those days came the Sunday after a particularly hard Saturday night.

Saturday was the worst day at the Inn. The maximum number of guests were booked in the hotel, and dinner was always heavy. My least favorite part of the whole day was one hour - the hour between 4 and 5 pm. Afternoon tea began at four and ended at five. If tea was busy, which it almost always was on a Saturday, all other essential work would stop while we loaded up trays with scones, cakes and little pots of clotted cream and lemon curd. I imagine the most frustrating part of it was not the loading up, or even tediously filling those pots with uncooperative condiments. The most frustrating part was walking into the dishwashing area and seeing the very same tea trays, still full, perhaps with a brownie missing, maybe a bite or two out of the scone, and those damned pots, still full.

It's not that the tea treats weren't tasty, quite the contrary, everything we made was really good, and it was hard not to eat it all ourselves. No, the problem was that in addition to 1 scone, 1 brownie, 1 cookie, 1 tartlet, and 1 piece of fruitcake, each guest also received a tray of sandwiches, each about 4 inches long and an inch wide. So add 1 egg salad, 1 roast beef, 1 salmon and dill, 1 cucumber, and 1 tomato and cheese sandwich to that list of food. Now serve it 1-2 hours before a big, expensive dinner that most of the guests had already paid for, and I probably wouldn't be too hungry either!

Picture a busy Saturday, a rushed tea service - mostly an exercise in futility as you now see, followed by a rush to complete all the production needs before service - most importantly bread, another story for another day - and you begin to understand why a Sunday was a great day for slacking off. More importantly, I think it may be a little more clear why it felt ok to slack off every now and again.

I've never been averse to hard work. And I think I've always tried to give the most I could to my employers. When you begin to realize that the work you're doing is mostly going directly into the trash, that's when it's hard to put your back into it so heartily. But just as I did then, the only thing to do (in my mind, at least) is to keep going, one foot in front of the other until the work is done.

The difference now is that I know everything I do has a reason, and isn't superfluous or wasteful. And that is indeed a big difference.

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