My workplace gave all employees a copy of The Go-Getter and encouraged us to read the book and to come up with our own "Blue Vase." There was also apparently a short story by P.G. Wodehouse of the same name and so to avoid confusion I found a couple of places that referenced this book by Kyne as Winning the Blue Vase. Other versions add the (original?) subtitle "A Story that Tells You how to Be One."
The book is a very short read (only about 70 pages) and our edition came with an afterword of another ~15 pages of commentary. The story is a parable/fable like tale. It tells the story of war veteran William "Bill" Peck and his efforts to get a job at a Logging & Lumber Company. The company is owned by "Cappy" Ricks but Cappy has delegated out normal management roles to two vice presidents. The book was written and is set in the time immediately following World War One.
The book begins with Cappy berating his acting upper management team for their poor choices and their inability to find worthwhile employees. Shortly after that, Peck arrives on the scene asking Cappy for a job. However, he does more than just "ask" for a job. He comes to Cappy without an appointment and basically tells Cappy that Peck is the man for whatever job Cappy wants to throw at him. There are other details as well (Peck had already talked with the other vice-presidents and been turned down, he had a great working knowledge of Cappy's business, etc.) but the short of it is that Cappy is very intrigued by Peck and gives him a chance. However, at the same time, he makes the job as difficult as possible by giving Peck what is considered (as I understood it) the worst sales assignment in the company.
I don't want to go through the whole plot with you (it's a short book…and it seems to be in the public domain if you want to read it online for free). But I will say what you've already guessed from the title of the book…Peck continues to impress Cappy and goes on to impress the other vice presidents. At which point, Cappy gives him "the test of the blue vase." The test is a simple personal task that Cappy asks Peck to do, namely to go and purchase a blue vase from a shop window and bring it to Cappy. However Cappy throws all sorts of obstacles in the way to test Peck's ingenuity and resolve.
The story is a cute little tale and it does include a number of quippy little comments that can be used as motivational blurbs. The afterward in my edition expounds on the concepts of the book in case you failed to make the leap from the fiction of the story to the moral and practical lesson it's trying to teach. The actual lesson being taught is actually fairly simple and straightforward on paper. It basically involves setting your eye on the prize and doing whatever it takes to get there. In addition it's the idea that you should go above and beyond just the status quo…that you should attempt to exceed expectations, not simply meet them (or worse, fail to meet them). When given an assignment, you should give it your all and do the best you can without excuses. When you see an opportunity, you should leap at the chance to stretch and grow even if it's outside your comfort zone or expertise.
Bottom line (as I take it) you should not "settle", you should not "coast." Life should always consist of your best effort, your best talent, your best energy. There will always be obstacles, sometimes more than others. Bill Peck's motto (as taught him by his general in the war) was "it shall be done." Even if he'd never done it before or if nobody had ever done it before, he always went into a task that he could and would finish the task and no matter the obstacles, he continued trying to find a way to complete the task even when others may have given up. He continued after the blue vase even when everything was against him and his allotted time was up. And eventually, he succeeded.
This is a fun little read and I can see the reason that employers might want their employees to read it. It's definitely a simple read with a simple message, but it's a worthwhile message.
3 out of 5 stars
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As for me, I now have to come up with my own "blue vase" goals. These are somewhat long-term goals but the plan is to have these finished or at least with significant progress by this time next year. Consider this a set of "new year's resolutions" in September. :-)
For work, I already have a few things on my plate and in the back of my head that I've been working on and have slated for this coming year. I won't bore you too much with the details but for work my goals will be: 1) Get a functional & robust test automation framework in place, 2) Outline/Document our internal QA processes and methodologies for training and reference purposes, 3) Formalize the beta testing processes
In my personal life, I've decided on a couple of "blue vase" goals for the coming ~year. Some are very personal so I'll keep them as such. Here are a few I can share: 1) Get to the temple more regularly (at least monthly) with my wife 2) Edit & Revise my novel to get it ready for sharing and submitting, 3) Obtain and maintain a healthier weight through a regular exercise regime