The Back vs. The Bottom

This is one of the great debates in life (I say somewhat sarcastically). But let me explain…

I was recently building a couple light boxes for work (3’ x 4’ tables with interior lights shining up through layers of frosted glass). I’ve finished constructing the box and wiring it up and I decide to finish them with a dark wood stain.

So I had this “great debate” before me. It’s 2am. They’re due tomorrow. Do I spend an extra 30 min staining the back that will be up against a wall? What about the bottom?

The core question is this: How much effort do you put into things that no one will see?

For many of you, your gut reaction is to say, “Why would I spend any time on things that don’t matter?” And you may well be right.

IKEA, for instance, has made its business on not staining the back. They make products that look great from the front and cost a whole lot less.

And for others, you naturally lean the other way. For you, staining the back is a matter of excellence, even integrity. The opposite of IKEA is an artisan craftsman, and that’s admirable.

Though we all naturally lean one way or the other, the right decision depends more on the situation than we’d like to admit.

For those that lean toward the craftsman, try asking: Where can I safely cut corners to save time to do other things that matter?

For those that lean toward IKEA, ask: “What details about this really matter? Where should I put in more time to make my work shine.”

When you’re stuck, ask yourself, “Is this project something that’s worth staining the back? What about the bottom?”


Extra Credit.


PS. If you’re curious, I knew we’d all see the back when I unloaded the boxes from my car and first impressions matter so I did end up staining the back. The bottom, however, is a different story.