Eight uncommon tips that will help you to achieve the 'gold standard' of excellence
By pa360, Feb 18 2015 05:50AM
Being consistent is one of the hardest things to do. But when your standard of consistency is defined by striving to out-do yourself, then that’s a whole different matter. Amongst all standards, the pursuit of excellence is the gold standard of consistency. Why? Because excellence is a constantly moving target. Take touch screen mobile devices as a case in point; a few years ago these gadgets were considered ground-breaking, but no longer. Today, the market is saturated with them and that which was once considered cutting edge is now considered common-place.
The same case can be made for motor vehicles. I was watching a programme recently which looked at driverless cars and driverless parking. At a point in time these innovations may well become the benchmark motor vehicle accessory and when they do, manufacturers will once again have to raise their game to meet consumer expectations. In such a constantly changing environment, opportunity will always be heavily weighted in favour of those in the relentless pursuit of the next ‘big idea’. So what is the key to achieving the ‘gold standard’ of excellence? More importantly, when you get there how do remain there? Well, set out below are eight uncommon tips.
1. Spend as much time with your head in the dustbin, as you do with your feet under the desk
There is a serious point here about your approach to learning, which is a critical component of the ‘gold standard’ of excellence. The ‘dustbin’ is a metaphor for the numerous occasions when the ideas that you have developed or perhaps trialled, for would-be investors, have been aborted or found wanting. However, if you know what to look for, you will find that your ‘dustbin’ is a treasure trove, within which can be found a wealth of experience and insight. So often, we believe that path to improvement is the thing we have not learnt yet, rather than the thing we did not try. Remember, an excellent idea that is developed before its time, is still an excellent idea.
2. Assure yourself that your ‘appetites’ are consistent with excellence
Have you ever tried losing weight, breaking a habit like smoking or cutting down your alcohol consumption? The point here is that you cannot achieve any of the above objectives or any other objective for that matter, if your ‘appetites’ are not aligned to your goals. Achieving ‘excellence’ (however you choose to define it) is subject to exactly the same principles. In the same way that someone looking to lose weight is unlikely to do so, if they gorge on foodstuffs high in carbohydrates; you are equally unlikely to be able to achieve excellence, if you have an appetite for mediocrity. Be clear about the ‘diet of behaviours’ that will help you to achieve your goal, then develop an ‘appetite’ for those things and indulge it.
3. Make time to celebrate ‘proximal excellence’
One of the biggest traps that people fall into is that they see ‘excellence’ as the ultimate and all-encompassing end goal — the cumulative result of all of their efforts. Well that may be so, in some circumstances, however that mindset could also be a serious impediment to the achievement of your goal. A healthy approach to excellence is one which seeks out and celebrates ‘proximal excellence’. These are achievements, within the proximity of your end goal, that will ultimately help you to achieve it. As an example, if your end goal is to meet a particular sales target, then a proximal goal would be to reduce the numbers of working days lost due to staff sickness and absence. If your end goal becomes the only measure of excellence then, if you fall short, the tendency will be to see the entire effort as a failure.
4. Remember that excellence is a state of mind as much as a measure of accomplishment
It is a truly sobering thought that in all likelihood, the next great transformational innovation is probably no more than an outline sketch in someone’s fertile imagination. The thing that is amazing about the ‘gold standard’ of excellence is that conceptual excellence, is still excellence. To that extent, the individual or individuals who are currently ruminating over the next great innovation, are already excelling because they are setting a standard of ‘excellence’ now for what might be validated as excellent in the future. Another way of looking at it is to say that when it comes; the realisation, affirmation and acclamation of your idea, will be no more than confirmation of what you already knew.
5. By itself, consistency does not produce excellence
This may seem like a slightly obvious observation, but you can be consistently good, but others may be consistently better. In the context of excellence, the reason why 'relativism' matters is because, even if you are out-performing yourself, this is unlikely to be good enough if the competitive bar is being raised by others whose level of consistency far exceeds your own. The rationale is simple; of course habits and routines are important, but the bigger challenge is whether or not you can achieve ‘contextual consistency’. A champion angler who consistently goes to the same river to catch fish, long after the fish have migrated elsewhere, is unlikely to retain their status as a champion angler for very long. Excellence does not belong to you, it belongs to anyone. As such, whatever is excellent today, may not be excellent tomorrow.
6. A passion for excellence requires a penchant for ‘vandalism’
The word ‘vandalism’ has been chosen on purpose, due to the fact that is random (ie: because you choose) and gratuitous (ie: because you can). But what possible role could ‘vandalism’ play in the pursuit of the ‘gold standard’ of excellence? Simple; to be excellent you must possess a relentless passion for improvement. Such a passion must be borne out of ‘dissatisfaction’ with wherever you find yourself and that ‘dissatisfaction’, if it drives your pursuit of excellence, should lead you to question and critique everything. Never lose sight of the fact that: the foundations of excellence are built with hammers, not with bricks.
7. Be mindful that even if you are the best in class, you may still not be good enough
Sometimes it is the recipient of your product, who determines what is or is not ‘excellent’. This is because the ‘gold’ standard’ of excellence is both objective as well as subjective. An objective measure can be made by using agreed upon parameters, to compare your performance or product with those of others, recognised to be the best in class. However, the subjective measure is a judgement delivered by the recipient themselves and is based entirely on individual preference and taste. A case in point is artwork, where the ultimate arbiter of quality and value is the consumer, not the producer.
8. Understand and be at ease with the ‘absurdity’ of excellence
Let’s be honest, by its very nature, excellence is absurd. It is not a definite object or thing; it is largely subjective and it is ultimately temporary. The pursuit of excellence therefore requires a mindset that is able to get to grips with this conceptual ridiculousness whilst, at the same time, being at ease with the idea of putting all of ones’ time, energy and effort into something that may ultimately never be found. In many respects, the pursuit of excellence is the very definition of capturing lightning in a bottle. This is not to discourage anyone from seeking it, but rather to help you develop a deeper appreciation of what you are looking for, so that you are better prepared for what you might find.
So how should we conclude this? In simple terms, the ‘gold standard’ of excellence is worth it, but you must be prepared to work for it. You also need to understand that excellence is not a perpetual state. It frames its own construct, defines its own terms and like any other nebulous concept, is not within your gift to decide what it should or should not look like.