With apologies to Robert Fulgham, here's what the finishing industry has taught me about life…
Change is good. When it comes right down to it, finishing is all about change—taking an object, and altering or enhancing the properties of its surface to make it stronger, more durable and more attractive. Life is much the same way. We should always look for ways to improve ourselves and embrace change, especially if it allows us to become stronger as individuals.
Pretreatment is really good. According to the old adage, if you ask any finisher to define the three most important aspects of coating, he will respond "pretreatment, pretreatment and pretreatment." Coating a part without first performing the necessary cleaning and pretreatment can be disastrous. The same can be said for making major life changes without doing the necessary planning and preparation. If something is worth doing, plan for it and take the time and effort to do it right.
Don't eat paint. The cruel irony of paint is that something which looks so darn tasty can be incredibly bad for you if ingested. Take it from somebody who's been there… paint is not for eating.
Smooth out your sharp, rough edges. We deburr machined parts prior to painting so that they will function properly and so that people can handle them safely. Like metal parts, people have jagged and rough edges. A lot of our burrs will be worn down with time but some take longer to wear down than others. Do all that you can to deburr your edges and remember that parts with jagged edges often end up in the scrap heap.
Image really is everything. One of the reasons we paint and plate things is to make them look aesthetically appealing. And the way that something—or someone looks—often goes a long way in making a first impression. In life, make sure that your first impression is your best impression.
Have fun. Without exception, the best job shops I've been in are the ones with a culture of fun. They are the ones where the employees look forward to going to work every day and where laughter is encouraged. Whatever you do with your life, have fun doing it.
Clean up your mess. Virtually every finishing operation out there yields some kind of waste, be it dust, wastewater or overspray. The men and women of the finishing industry go to great strides to reduce and manage waste so that others aren't negatively affected. The same applies to life. Remember that there are consequences to everything you do, and—be they good or bad—you should be responsible enough to deal with them.
Strive for perfection. I've never been in a job shop that didn't aim for perfection. Make sure that with every task you undertake in life—no matter how large or small—you strive to be flawless. At the end of the day, we're all subjected to quality control inspection.
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