Don’t blame the fence, blame the gardener.
White picket fences don’t just happen.
“That’s heaven on a stick!”
– Mrs. Jane Young, my first boss.
Mrs. Young liked perfection.
One Saturday in 1985, I arrived to work at 8 AM, and Mrs. Young gave me the day’s instructions.
“I’d like you to organize and display all the sterling silver and crystal in the display cases.”
She pointed to the hand-carved, mahogany, floor-to-ceiling shelving behind the waist-high, enclosed glass jewelry sales cabinets. I knew from a prior conversation that Mrs. Young adored the cabinetry since it was a family heirloom and it was the primary design fixture of her family-owned jewelry store.
With no further instructions, she left for the day.
To say I was intimidated, at age 16, handling the fine silver and crystal and placing the valuables in the gargantuan, cherished cabinetry, is an understatement.
I worked a straight 8 hours, right through my lunch hour. I remember being a nervous wreck the entire day –
Am I leaving fingerprints?
Is that too high?
Does that look good next to this or does this look good next to that?
Is this lighting going to help this sell?
Fifteen minutes before the 5 PM close, Mrs. Young entered the store.
Arriving in her blue, crisply-ironed pantsuit with a silk, floral scarf tied at her neckline, she, an ex-NYC runway model, was exquisite looking, and she, herself, downright intimidating.
She gazed at the shelves, inspecting the design, and as I recall, after only 2 minutes or so, she looked me in the eye and gave her appraisal,
“This looks like crap. Now let me show you how it should be done.”
We worked overtime, transforming what I had made look like crap into what Mrs. Young expected and envisioned.
And on that day, I learned a valuable life lesson.
We may think we know what perfection looks like, but it takes more than hard work.
It’s takes listening, learning, accepting criticism, and paying attention to detail, plus a whole lot of practice.
It also takes heart, respect,
and a whole lot of desire,
and if it has true value and worth
we may have to focus for an entire day – maybe even weeks, months and years –
if it’s going to be deemed
“heaven on a stick!”
“That’s heaven on a stick!” (not “that looks like crap,”) has stuck with me since my inaugural design day in Mrs. Young’s jewelry store.
Mrs. Young left her perfect mark on me, and I credit Mrs. Young for teaching me a secret of sales –
how do you make others want what you have?
Invest in good gardeners.