Workmanship, Sweating the Small Stuff, and Making Good Art


This is the 55th in a collection of newspaper ads written by Harry Gray, then CEO of United Technologies, that appeared in the Wall Street Journal from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. Here is the text from that ad.


Your true value to society comes when someone says,
“Let me see your work.”
Your glib tongue may open a door or two and your artful use of the right fork may win an approving nod.
But the real test of your worth can be measured by the care you give to the job in front of you:
A budget to plan;
A solo to play;
A report to draft;
A leaky sink that needs fixing.
Next time you write a memo, make sure you get all the facts straight.
Pay attention to those details.
Sweat the small stuff.

Harry Gray has written a few ads about the importance of taking pride in your work (Something to Cheer About and Would You Hang This Message in Your Work Area?), and the ad above reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s great graduation speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.

I’ve previously written a post about Gaiman’s “Make Good Art” speech, and I’d like to share once again  some of the highlights of that post:

After showing the speech in class, I tell my students to think of their work as art, a chance to express their capabilities.

  • If they go into marketing, and one day are working on an ad campaign for a client, make it the best ad that client has ever had.
  • If they go into accounting, and one day are helping to put together the company’s Annual Report, make it the best Annual Report that investors have ever seen.
  • If they become a manager, and one day are evaluating an employee’s performance, make the evaluation the most useful one that employee has ever had.

In other words, treat whatever you do with the love and care that an artist brings to his or her work. Whether it’s an ad campaign, an Annual Report, or an employee evaluation, Make Good Art.

But at the same time, to quote Gaiman,

Make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something.

So taking pride in your work shouldn’t mean that you live in fear of making a mistake. But when you make a mistake, take responsibility for it, learn from it, and get back to doing your best work.

If you’ve never seen Neil Gaiman’s speech, I highly recommend it. Enjoy.

*Sweat the small stuff image from Jolles Associates


2 thoughts on “Workmanship, Sweating the Small Stuff, and Making Good Art

  1. I was gratified to see this series on Harry Gray’s ads from that time period. United Technologies also put them into the San Jose Mercury-News on the back of the Business section. I kept a copy of “Workmanship” on my wall until the newsprint threatened to disintegrate and I did a reduced copy to 8 1/2 x 11 – which is now yellowed. I still keep it on my office wall.


    1. Hi Mark,

      Thanks for sharing your story; I never knew that his ads appeared in other papers as well. They were all good, but some are classics. I only have a few more to write about, and then I will have covered the entire collection.


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