It Doesn’t Take Much These Days

“If you can do a half-assed job of anything, you’re a one-eyed man in a kingdom of the blind.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

A less than inspiring quote today, but inspiration also needs clarity of vision. One thing I admire about Vonnegut is his clarity of vision and his ability to write about it in a way to make us first laugh and then think.

Vonnegut wrote these words in his 1952 novel Player Piano. Like the best science fiction writers, he was prescient. What he saw as a possible problem has turned out to be one. What I really wanted to talk about today was competence. How many times do we go somewhere, a shop, a theater, a restaurant, and come home ranting about the incompetence we’ve encountered?

Sometimes it seems as if too few people take pride in a job well done.  Personal standards seem to have fallen so much that being barely adequate in a job is enough to look good.  And this, as we’re learning as a country, is a recipe for disaster.

In my field, I see a lot more “half-assed” work than I want to admit, both from the students I teach and some of the colleagues I work with. Students get to my class unprepared because the professors they had in 101 didn’t do their job.  I often take student claims with a grain of salt, but I’ve heard colleagues say, “Oh, I don’t do that. That’s too hard. I just. , ,,” I bite my tongue and avoid that person in the future. I’ve lost respect for them as professionals.

I am far from perfect, but I strive daily for nothing less than competence. Sometimes I don’t hit the mark, but not for lack of trying. While I encourage excellence (no, I pretty much demand excellence) from my students, I’m secretly happy when I get competence. And I can tell you, anyone who does more than a half-assed job really is king or queen in the classrooms I’ve taught in. And this is just not good enough.

So a challenge: strive to competence as the minimum result every day. It will take you further than you’d expect.


About maggiec

Educator, writer, world traveler, bibliophile, theater devotee, cat lover, mother of an actor, adopted auntie to hundreds. Spreading love (and literacy), one day at a time.
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