It’s not unusual for people to stick affirmation statements on their bathroom mirror or fridge door, to encourage excellence in everyday living. One of the most common is: “Aim for the stars and even if you fail, you’ll land on the moon”. There are variations, such as “...wherever you land, it will be new and exciting”. I have my own saying, which I’m pretty sure you won’t have heard before. I tell myself: “A slice of cucumber on every sandwich”! Let me explain.
Some 30-odd years ago, I was
watching a television show about train travel.
They interviewed a bloke whose job was to put
cucumber slices on pre-prepared sandwiches.
Every few seconds, the conveyor-belt would
deliver an open sandwich to him. He would
use his tongs to add one slice of cucumber,
before the sandwich went on to have the next
This fellow, whose job might seem the most
menial and repetitive, empowered himself with
the knowledge that his input was absolutely
critical. And you know what? He was right. If
he missed just one sandwich, the person who
eventually paid for it would sit down, take a big
bite and be disappointed that their sandwich
didn’t have any cucumber on it!
Whatever it is that you do over and over
again, think of it as a slice of cucumber going on
a sandwich. You can put in a poor performance
once and shrug it off. Or you can consider
the importance of the cucumber to that one
customer who won’t see all the other sandwiches
but will sure-as-heck remember theirs!
For me, this is how I approach radio. I
never know when you’re going to switch on in
the morning. It’s no good me having four great
interviews or segments before you wake up, if
the first one you hear is a dud. Every minute
of that breakfast show is a sandwich and every
minute gets its cucumber!
Of course, you can apply this philosophy
to anything and everything. Just recently, the
Howsons were on the receiving end of some
spectacular cucumber work. Just to confuse
you, it involves actual fruit and veg, but
thankfully not cucumbers. That would be too
We have our greens delivered from the
markets. We order online at night and it
arrives the next afternoon. But the downside
of ordering online is you can’t judge the
quality yourself. You can’t squeeze the
Well, this week, there was a note attached
to our delivery which read: “I wasn’t overly
impressed with the beans so I have given you
a few but I will take the cost of the beans off.
Also the cage eggs I had only had six days left,
so I have replaced with free range at no extra
cost. Cheers, Jen.”
How good’s that? None of her other
customers knows about that note but we do
and I can tell you we were impressed. Jen
could easily have let through those dud beans
and almost-expired eggs, like a sandwich
without its slice of cucumber.
Maybe we can also extend the cucumber
theory to the whole of our lives. Perhaps we
should strive to ensure every day has its slice
Not that I want you to see me as
some sort of spiritual motivator, but...
My last column for 2012 (
was about me settling disagreements with
listeners and readers over coffee rather than
via email or social media. The feedback from
you was universally positive.
was one of the first to
respond: “Excellent column. Really great
advice. Shame there isn’t more of this
described it as “a great
lesson from Spencer Howson”, whilst
tweeted: “You are a gem, Spencer.
Take notes kids!” Donna Weeks
agrees with the benefits of
working things out face-to-face: “At work I’m
making an effort to speak with people rather
than try to thrash it out via email.”
says it’s “very hard to
beat the personal connection on any issue”.
Throughout 2013, I’d love to include your
comments in this column. For instance, what
do you think of the cucumber theory? You
can always email me at the address below
tweet me @SpencerHowson or message me on
Facebook. You never know – we might end up
discussing it over coffee!