Wednesday, December 02, 2009


"Excellence, like mediocrity and poor performance, is a habit. Quality breeds quality. Do one thing well, and you will want the rest to come up to the same standard. Make habit of cutting corners, and you may begin to doubt whether you are capable of doing quality work. This is one reason why it is vital that you do your best, even if you do not view the work you are currently doing as important or meaningful. Once made, habits are difficult to break." - Laurence G. Boldt, How to Find the Work You Love

Excellence - a concept that transcends what you do, or where you do it, or with whom you do it.

And yet how seldom practiced in my own life. How often do I do something "with excellence"?

Excellence: The quality of being excellent

Excellent: Superior (archaic use); very good of its kind: eminently good.

(Both definitions from

Part of the problem for myself personally is that perhaps I think that excellence should be recognized and rewarded by others. The sad fact is that in fact excellence is seldom rewarded.

But that's not a reason to do it - as David Eddings' character Silk says "Sloppiness makes bad habits". If I allow myself to be guided only by what others will recognize, mine would be a pathetic life indeed.

The one place that it may impact my life immediately is the excellence of those around me i.e. do I work in a place (or have I ever done so) where excellence was the goal? More often than not, I'm forced to respond that the answer is usually no; the goal was to do the minimum in order to meet whatever requirements were there. Has there ever been somewhere I worked where excellence was the goal?

Once. Long ago, when I was doing performance music as a part of a musical group. We expected that we would do our best. We aimed towards that and were satisfied with nothing less.

Possibly my first two industry jobs as well, where I was a manufacturing grunt. But that (as I think about it) was largely driven by my managers, who had high expectations. And maybe my first job after The Firm, where again my manager would have been the driver. The companies were perhaps much less driven than I thought.

But those are both long gone, 10-15 years ago. Since then, it seems that it has been a stream of companies (including The Firm) where excellence was proclaimed but acceptability was the accepted standard.

Yes, excellence is something that I need to choose and practice (and write more about, perhaps) - but what does that say about how I choose employment now, even as I start to work my way through my spot in life?

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