A Tap on the Glass - Vol. 25 - What's Your Name Worth?

A friend of mine sent me a portion of text from an old book; The Magic of a Name.

Published in 1938, it's about the beginnings of the Rolls-Royce automobile. It makes for interesting reading and I’ll pursue this book to see if I can find a copy.

But the point that is the crux of the excerpt he sent me is the fact that the originator of the Rolls-Royce automobile, Henry Royce, was an indefatigable perfectionist.  I love that word.  Indefatigable.  Henry didn't invent the automobile; he just wasn't happy with it. He thought it was too noisy for one thing and too heavy and inefficient.

And so, in Manchester, England, on April 1st, 1904, along came a motorcar unlike anything seen or heard about before. As Harold Nichols put it, "Say for a gentle ‘futt, futt, futt, futt"' from its exhaust pipe, it made no noise at all." There was no clatter from the engine, no grinding from the gears and back axle.

And this comparative silence in the days when the noise of a motor car sounded like someone dropped a handful of metal trays on the road surely helped make an apt impression on Joe Q. Public.

At the wheel of this miraculous machine sat a bearded figure of some 40 years of age whose eyes I’m sure were lit with a glint of triumphant concentration. It was Henry Royce, later Sir Henry, the perfectionist.

The trade name, Rolls-Royce, went on to become synonymous with anything excellent or outstanding. The Spitfire Airplane had Rolls-Royce engines, and were a big factor in winning that war. In fact, there's a beautiful stained glass memorial window at the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine plant commemorating the pilots of the Royal Air Force. And it reads, "Who in the Battle of Britain turned the work of our hands into the salvation of our country." Now that would be something to see.

But the point I want to make is that to become successful and outstanding at something, we don't have to come up with something new.

We need only find ways of doing it better. If you'll think about it, it's the key element in virtually all success stories: Hilton Hotels, Holiday Inns, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's Hamburgers. The list is endless. If you want to succeed at something, just do it better.   The Japanese have a word for it – “Kaizen”

The story goes that Henry got  so wrapped up in the business he would forget to eat for days at a time and would sleep on a bench in the foundry. A boy was hired to follow him around with a glass of milk and some bread so he wouldn't get sick from malnutrition.

In my readings, there is the story of  when he once heard a mechanic make the statement, "Okay, that's good enough," and they almost had to tie him down. Nothing was good enough for him. And his name and the name of his salesman/distributor/partner, C.S. Rolls, is a symbol of quality.

The lesson here is that I think it’s the same in every field. Give your endeavor the kind of study and all-out dedication that Royce gave to his cars, and your name will someday stand like some of those I mentioned.

I recall a story about a farmer in Canada who had and sold his Stradivarius violin for, I believe, about $60,000. Well, Stradivarius violins are worth much more than that now. He sold it back to the same New York City dealer he'd bought it from many years before and for the same price. The farmer sold his precious violin by the world's most famous violin craftsman because, as he put it, "I'm getting old, and I have no children to leave it to." By getting it back into the hands of the dealer, he knew that it would get into the hands of someone who would treasure it as he had. 

You may not know this, but Antonio Stradivari, the Italian violin maker, lived from 1644 to 1737, that's 93 years — a remarkable lifespan in a time when the average life expectancy was perhaps about 30. He lived for his work, and his work has lived on after him. He worked alone, although later in life his sons helped him. His tools were rather primitive by our standards, but that was not important. He put himself and his genius into his work. And his instruments  provided sound in the hands of a fine violinist that made everyone smile.

When he was finished with an instrument and was sure that it was up to his personal standards, he signed his name to it.

And still today, his name is famous the world over and his fine instruments are still delighting millions.

Go back through history and there’s a lot of similar individuals that reflected those same standards of excellence.  Shakespeare, da Vinci, Chippendale and even silversmith and decent horse rider Paul Revere. Everything they did was done exceptionally well. Not because there was any pressure, other than their own insistence on excellence beyond the reach of others of their time.  It left their hands with their name on it.  That was enough to make sure it was the best that it could possibly be.

There are many thousands of craftsmen and -women who will not turn out shoddy or even ordinary work and who would be glad to sign their names to their work. That respect for excellence never changes.

It still commands the highest price.

It's still revered wherever we find it.

And the people performing the work have gained for themselves two precious assets.

One, they've gained the kind of security that lasts a lifetime. A dedication for excellence will always be in demand.

And, two, their work is a source of satisfaction and joy to them.

Would you be willing to sign your name to what you do? I think most of us would. Our work, after all, is a kind of mirror of ourselves.

Thanks for reading.