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Better Than It Needs to Be #BTINTB

As you might have noticed, I've decided to rename my blog from The Volunteer Idea to Better Than It Needs To Be. Why? My blog has evolved. I've changed the name and there is a slightly different direction, but I can still fit in the bits from The Volunteer Idea. I haven't stopped volunteering, in case you were wondering. I've just had to scale the volunteering back a bit, mainly because I went and got myself some paid work which is a bit of a nuisance when you'd be happier not worrying about pesky things like finance. In this case though, economy won out, and I had to take the work which came my way, and it's actually rather enjoyable (but that's another story). That being said, I still want a space where I can talk about my voluntary exploits (albeit less often) and I want to be able to talk about things that I'm seeing around me. The focus is a positive one, on things that are better than they need to be.

The thinking behind #BTINTB

When talking about things that are better than they need to be, I'm essentially reflecting on people going out of their way to be better than they need to be (there's a clue in the title). Behind this concept, there is a lot that links in with volunteering. Generally, volunteers tend to go out of their way to do something nice when they really don't have to. They sacrifice their time to help others and don't get paid for it when they could be at home watching Friends reruns whilst scrolling mindlessly through social feeds. In my mind, that's being better than you need to be, but it's also consciously using your time on this earth in a way which benefits others and might make you a happier human.

I cut my teeth in hospitality from the age of about 11, serving ice creams in my mum and dad’s gift shop on the seafront of Weston-super-Mare. Regrettably, there aren’t many photos from that time of me or my siblings in the shop. Perhaps because we were quite busy, but in all probability because it might have stood up as evidence of child labour. I didn’t enjoy it all that much at the time, but it did instil a sense of work ethic in me and, because of the standards my parents set, I’ve always had a very high threshold as to what I feel stands up as good service. Essentially, my parents were better than they needed to be when it came to customer service - they were really bloody good at what they did. Few shopkeepers on Weston seafront could say that they'd been there for five years, let alone the 25 years that my parents led their novelty rock emporium for. Even fewer could count Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare as a regular patron (yup, that's Jeffrey, the one who went to prison for perjury). Lord Jeff was always really nice and used to buy "I heart W-S-M" postcards from us in bulk so that he could send out notes and invites to his chums in parliament. I asked him once if Margaret Thatcher had been sent one. He said yes.

A lot of being better than you need to be is about how high you set your own standards. Only you know what you are capable of. My parents hammered into us that every sale was putting dinner on the table, or helping us to go on holiday in the winter, so every customer had to leave feeling better than they did when they came in and hopefully walking out with a bag full of seaside novelties.

In a nutshell...

Being Better Than It Needs To Be is about:

  • Minding the details and paying attention

  • You don’t always need to go all out to blow someone’s socks off. Just noticing the little details can exceed expectations more than you think

  • Unapologetically caring about what you do, and giving it your best - and not giving a sh*t about what others think

  • Setting your standards at a level you can be proud of

  • Not standing for a ‘that’ll do’ attitude

A word on under-promising so that you can over-deliver...

I detest it. It doesn’t make sense to me. Why on earth would you go to a potential client, tell them that you can only offer them a fraction of what you can actually do and then expect them to hire you or use your services? If you know that you can deliver a certain amount, then that is what you say you can do. Then, when you do go over and above and ensure that the standard is as high as you promised it would be but delivered with exceptional service and an eye for detail, the client will be bowled over.

What I'm saying is that if you under-promise so you can over-deliver, you're a wanker. Selling yourself short is just a bit dumb, but when you're trying to sell-in to a client and you know you can achieve more than you're telling them, you're being dishonest.

And as for over-promising... that's worse because if you knowingly over-promise, you're telling lies. It's what politicians do on a daily basis, and no one likes really likes a politician (Lord Jeff was okay though). Sometimes, things will get in the way and you will hit speedbumps which mean you can't deliver what you said you would, but don't lie to people by saying that you can achieve something you know to be impossible - see Boris Johnson's government for many examples of this.

So, I guess BTINTB is still an extension of my volunteering pastime that I can also take out into my personal life. With every work project I take on, with every nighttime reading session I do with my son, with every meal that I cook, if I try to make it better than it needs to be, surely life will be more enjoyable?

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