On a recent trip to tobacco country, Danli, Honduras, I had the opportunity to see hundreds of people work in an environment that many of us here in the states would cringe at. While I was there primarily to learn more about and enjoy cigars, the business side of me couldn’t help but to see the parallels between loving what you do and the quality that it produces.
You Get Out What You Put In
Fine cigars are made of tobaccos grown in very specific locations of the earth and grown by some of the most brilliant farmers on earth. The climate, soil conditions, and the care to which they are handled are of utmost importance in growing quality and flavorful plants.
Visiting a large and reputable farm during my visit, I saw first-hand the care that each plant was treated with from seeding, to harvest, to curing (heat), to aging. That spoke to me because I realized that the life cycle of each individual plant ultimately affected the other leaves that it would eventually be paired or bunched with and how they would have to work in concert to deliver a desired outcome…enjoyment by the consumer.
We want to grow in everything we’re involved in, whether it be relationships, our communities or work. When these things don’t turn out the way we desire, it’s important that we reflect on
- where we’ve planted ourselves
- to what and to whom we have exposed ourselves to
- how we are being groomed
While these elements can be manipulated and environments can be changed, we gain an advantage when we are deliberate in how we allow ourselves to grow and who we choose to keep around us.
Quality Is In the Controls
Walking through the cigar factory and observing production (leaf selection, cigar rolling, testing, color selection, labeling, etc.) it’s impossible not to notice the craftsmanship and skill that goes into every element of production. The pride that everyone took in their work beamed throughout the building. I couldn’t remember the last time I had seen so many smiles on employee’s faces and how everyone wanted to perform at their absolute best.
There were managers in every section of the factory, overseeing, teaching and jumping in with their employees to make sure that quotas and standards were met. Even though the employees were professionals, there were always opportunities to learn and to get better.
At the end of one of the days when the lights were being dimmed, there were groups of supervisors gathering around and checking what was produced for the day. So even while they were confident that great work was done, they wanted to ensure that before work was passed on to another team, that their groups had done their absolute best.
Taking responsibility for our work and actions, then understanding how it affects others is how we create and maintain quality and teamwork. I believe that realizing the part we play in the larger picture of greatness and taking pride in what we create will help us to truly understand the lessons that life tries to teach us.
I know it’s weird to compare cigars to life and to work. But just like everything that we enjoy, there are things that are done behind the scenes to ensure that we continue to enjoy them…just like life. Even the smallest details, the things that we don’t even consider most of the time are key to getting what we need and want. And just like with enjoying cigars, getting the most out of life requires us to take our time, take in the subtle nuances and to appreciate the time and sacrifices that it takes to produce them.
And in our cycle of becoming what we want to be, we will all be picked, cured and thrown into the heat, selected, labeled and molded. All of these factors have a major impact in how well we work with others, how we respond to the elements and how we leave our mark on society. And if we invest in ourselves early on and respect the process, we’ll see that we’ve built a solid foundation on which anything can be built or made.