The Romans had a mantra to leave a place a better place than they found it and Mahatma Gandhi said "be the change you want to see in the world". When you hear of someone getting an award in the Queens Honours List or getting an award for bravery in saving someone from a house fire the phrases "beyond duty" and "going the extra mile" are usually rolled out. But to my mind it’s pretty hard to get through life and to have some form of peace of mind and satisfaction without "going the extra mile" and what exactly is "beyond duty" if human nature isn’t to look after ones fellow citizens?
Unless life is about "existing" on a sofa watching TV all day and night, living on benefits or you have been born with a silver spoon in your mouth, then most of us have to go that extra mile. Earning money to be able to enjoy decent food, regular trips to the cinema, buying stuff that makes you happy, for holidays and for that "holy grail" of owning your own home doesn’t come easy and why should it? For many career satisfaction is a combination of fulfilling a vocation and earning enough to enjoy that vocation. For the industry that I am in that isn’t a stroll in the park. Working as a "creative" has to be one of the most fulfilling occupations. Being creative and seeing ideas reach fruition is part of human DNA. The lowest school truancy rates are found in art, design and music classes and some of the lowest absentee rates are found in creative industries employment. But we routinely work long hours and "go that extra mile" to solve the question, and deliver a solution to clients and ultimately the public and it rarely feels like we have "gone beyond the call of duty", but rather that we have "done what’s needed and what’s right and proper".
Never a truer phrase was said by my Mum, Nan and Pop, "If a jobs worth doing, it’s worth doing well". When my Pop, Colin, spent hours in his shed making lead soldiers for the immaculate replica castle that he made for me, when my Mum, Maureen, kept adjusting the dress she was making until it fitted her hips like a glove, when my Nan, Ida, scrubbed that front step of our house in Morecambe until it absolutely gleamed it was about completing a task to the best of their ability. They didn’t expect or deserve a medal but it made for a fulfilled life and daily satisfaction.
Seeing my Maureen, Ida and Colin doing this on a daily basis has certainly had a massively important impact on my life and meeting a wife who was similarly driven in always needing to feel that real satisfaction only came from knowing that you had given it your all, has ensured that I have enjoyed a career and family life full of moments and projects to be proud of. From simple things like sport where being able to run long distances and the benefits that brings in terms of well being and being able to enjoy chocolate, to seeing my youngest lad absorb our work ethic and really push himself and be totally self motivated in his difficult aim to be a professional cricketer. He is 14 and it reminds me of being a young teenager. He has to get up early and most nights of the week and is not home till 10.30pm as he fits in his school work and his intensive training. His weekends are dominated by sport at his behest, I stress to add! It takes me back to my pre and early teens. From the age of 12 I would get home from school, work in the pub that my parents managed. I would collect glasses, clean the beer pumps, and work in the kitchen at least 5 nights a week and at weekends. Sometimes I would nod off in a boring lesson at school, but it gave me the money to be able to afford to go clubbing and to be able to afford to buy the clothes to look good while I was out clubbing and to enjoy the fruits of listening to all that great music by going out and buying records. At 13 I was going to Wigan Casino, wearing the right Oxford Bags, tank top and brogues and building quite a tasty Northern Soul record collection, thank you very much! I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Most importantly it gave me a work ethic. To some short sighted people it would be looked at as child labour BUT I chose to do it myself and I clearly understood the benefits. Don’t get me onto the subject of child labour though as I believe that some work as a child, with the obvious caveat of, as long as its chosen by the child, can be enormously beneficial!
At HemingwayDesign we are in demand and having great success as designers because the clients, brands and retailers that we work with know that we don’t just get projects done but we push them, ourselves, we question, prod and poke and do our utmost to see the end product "fly". Seeing Gerardine agonise over the masterplan of an affordable housing schemes we work on, or work through the night on working out ways to thriftily deliver immersive set dressing for our Vintage Festival, watching our team strive for perfection on their projects with G Plan, Hush Puppies and John Lewis makes it totally apparent why we are successful. But even if this wasn’t in our DNA we wouldn’t have a choice. Its not "beyond the call of duty" it’s this way, its about "going the extra mile" or simply, in the long term, it’s probably, failure.