The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour.” Vince Lombardi
Unfortunately, excellence is often in the eye of the beholder.
That caveat doesn’t undermine Lombardi’s tenet. He spoke of commitment to excellence, to trying at all times to do the best one can, whatever one is doing in the moment. It means overcoming the temptation to go, “That’ll do” as a matter of routine (while acknowledging that time and other external influences occasionally means that what is done is all that can be done – quality sometimes has to wait).
Stephen Covey often paraphrased Goethe, who stated, “Commonplaceness, the surrender to the average, that good which is not bad but still the enemy of the best – That is our besetting danger.” Covey’s slightly more prosaic, simple version was “The enemy of the best is the good.”
For his own part, in his book, The Success Principles, Jack Canfield quotes some statistics to show how what might be considered ‘good’ was not so. One might be forgiven for thinking that 99% ‘perfection’ is a desirable achievement. He wrote of what would happen if we achieved that lofty goal in certain sectors. We would get:
- 32,000 missing heart beats a year
- 500 surgical mistakes a week
- An hour of unsafe drinking water each month
- 2 unsafe landings at major airports a day
Still, 99% is ‘good enough’, eh?
However, as I suggested, striving for 100% excellence IS enough. In acknowledging that perfection is elusive, we also recognise that what ‘I’ think is perfect may not be judged as highly by someone with greater knowledge, skill, experience or insight than me. (Or from someone who shows a propensity for criticism that is inversely proportional to his/her possession of any of those traits……) Those who criticise us objectively, based on their possession of those characteristics, are people we can learn from if we are prepared to listen.
All of the above provides us with two important lessons.
One: we should try for excellence but acknowledge that we still have much to learn.
Two: the same rules apply to those around us.
Which means that criticism of others’ actions, standards, behaviours and so on should be objectively assessed only by those who know better – not by those who just think they do (including me).
We should recognise that when someone in authority makes a decision, it is based on their knowledge, experience, skills and the data they possess. Which we may not. And we should also acknowledge that as the making of a decision implies the result of consideration of more than one option, the mere fact that they took a different option than we would does not make them stupid, or not good enough. It just means they made a different decision.
Provided what they are seeking is excellence, we should live and work with what has been decided. And then focus on our own commitment to excellence in doing so.
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