Every now and again I feel it is important to step back and assess what is important to you. Call it self-reflection. Call it introspection. Call it whatever you want, but it needs to be done to keep yourself oriented towards your goals. I recently went through that process regarding what was most important to me in the work I do. What is it that I was trying to achieve in my work? What makes work worthwhile?
After quite a bit of thought, I decided what was most important to me in my work is creating quality. In designing things, I want to produce quality work. In writing, I want the quality of my words and thoughts to come through for those exposed to it. I want to create a quality experience for myself, those I work with, and those I work for.
When I was a teenager I read a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. The book is essentially the story of a man’s journey trying to define what he refers to as “Quality” in the human experience. The world is often divided into objective and subjective experiences, but neither, singularly, can define “Quality”. Pirsig writes:
Care and Quality are internal and external aspects of the same thing. A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who’s bound to have some characteristic of quality.
The point being, in my estimation, is that quality isn’t quantitative or qualitative. It is a combination of both subjective and objective. It is, as Pirsig writes, undefinable. I cannot say I have a full understanding of what I mean when saying I strive for quality. I don’t always know it when I see it, but I definitely recognize its absence. The most important thing to me in my work is to try and be a person who cares, who intentionally, through my actions, produces work that has the characteristic of quality.
As a daily reminder – an affirmation, I suppose – I created the above desktop background using Illustrator and Photoshop for my work computer. Whenever I begin to feel lost, whenever I start to rush to just complete something, whenever I lose sight of what my goals are, it helps reorient me on the path: achieving quality.