Friday, August 27, 2010

My Goal is Excellence, Not Perfection

Accept only the best, and most of the time you’ll get it.

I believe that. But I quickly want to add that I'm not talking about "perfection," whatever that is. You can chase perfection and your book will never get written. You can invest twice as much in resources to get a mere two percent improvement. Your new product will remain in development while your competitors are already out there making money. Your friends will never measure up. Where's the profit in it?

I believe in high quality and doing your best, but perfection is one of the silliest, counterproductive concepts I've ever come across. Perfection is the pursuit of excellence taken too far. Push me and I'll tell you how I really feel about it.

In my company, we have vanquished the pursuit of perfection. What we're interested in is "awfully damned good." Something that looks great and works great but something that we know can be improved upon. We've learned that awfully damned good is a very high standard of excellence. It's enough to make your eyes water. 

We put it out there and let our customers tell us what else they want.

To deliver this level of quality, we have to set high standards. Now there are times when it can be tempting to stop short of "awfully damned good." Why shoot for high quality when you’re not sure if most people care? The rewards aren’t always obvious, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll be better off. So it’s tempting to take the easy way out and just do the minimums.

But we know there are big payoffs for excellence. We take pride in what we do, because we know it shows. People notice. Our customers know what high quality looks like. The work stands out because mediocre performance is much more common. And we appreciate the recognition we get. And you know what else? When we do something well, the work is more meaningful. It's a lot more fun than just getting by.

I'm not saying all this to brag. I'm just talking about an attitude that distinguishes between excellence and perfection and knows where to draw the line.

I believe that's what these folks had in mind...

“A professional is one who does his best work when he feels the least like working.” - Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect (1869-1959)

“My philosophy is that not only are you responsible for your life, but doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment.” - Oprah Winfrey, American actress (1954- )

“Don't be afraid to give up the good for the great.” - Kenny Rogers, American singer (1938- )

“You block and tackle better than the team you’re playing, you win.” - Vince Lombardi, American professional football coach (1913-1970)

“Do not waste a minute -- not a second -- in trying to demonstrate to others the merits of your performance. If your work does not vindicate itself, you cannot vindicate it.” - Thomas Wentworth Higginson, American clergyman (1823-1911)

“Hold yourself responsible to a higher standard than anyone else expects of you. Never excuse yourself." - Henry Ward Beecher, American author (1813-1887)

“When a thing is thoroughly well done it often has the air of being a miracle.” - Arnold Bennett, British author (1867-1931)

“If people knew how hard I have had to work to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem wonderful at all.” - Michelangelo Buonarroti, Italian artist (1475-1564)

“If you do the best you can, you will find, nine times out of ten, that you have done as well as or better than anyone else.” - William Feather, American author (1889-1981)

“Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” - George Halas, American professional football coach (1895-1983)

Do ordinary things in an extraordinary way, and people will wonder how you did it.

Did you like these quotes? The ebook Strong for Leadership has 400 quotes related to 40 different aspects of leadership. You can get a copy free using the request box above.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Monica Sancio said...

Wow, YOU ARE SO RIGHT! I need to implement this as fast as possible, as well as GETTING MY PRODUCTS DONE NOW, even though I can reedit them later. THANK YOU, DENNY! I appreciate your help through your posts.. I will keep reading & sharing!

Max said...

It's true that when you give your best, you cannot regret it. Perhaps you're not the first but still, you gave your best and learned something from it.

"We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent." Barack Obama

Kumar Gauraw said...

Absolutely phenomenal article. I loved your definition of PERFECTION where you said, "Perfection is the pursuit of excellence taken too far."

Many times people get overwhelmed about becoming perfect, creating perfect product, timing perfectly and miss out on the opportunity.
Excellent post with power packed information. Enjoyed being here. Thanks for sharing.