One of our core values at Suntech is “demand quality always”. That might be worded a little funny, but we mean to word it that way. The reason is this: we must demand that we deliver quality to our clients not every once in a while, but at every opportunity.
Do we always succeed at delivering quality? In other words, do we adhere perfectly to our core value of “demand quality always”?
I must admit that we don’t.
What our core value does not say is “demand perfection always”. As far as I’m concerned, the only man who was perfect walked this earth a couple thousand years ago. The rest of us fall somewhere along the spectrum of perfection between train wreck and pretty darn good.
I guess what our core value is getting at could be summed up in one word: excellence. Excellence is the process of striving, not the glory for having done something perfectly. When Lebron puts up a skrillion points on the board, he could still have made a skrillion and one. But his skrillion point performance is still excellent, isn’t it?
The Four Attributes of Excellence
Let’s explore the four attributes of excellence.
- Excellence is the shedding of blood, sweat, and tears.
In 1910, President Theodore Roosevelt gave a speech in Paris where he said the following (often referred to as “The Man in the Arena”):
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
If that doesn’t ignite a fire in your bones, you need to get your heart checked. Excellence is leaving it all out in the arena. It is a spending of oneself in an endeavor worth pursuing wholeheartedly.
- Sometimes excellence is anonymous. When I was a kid, my Dad told me “anything worth doing is worth doing well”. I cannot count how many times in my life I have worked on something and returned to it because it wasn’t quite right, Dad’s words ringing in my ears. No one knew but me.
That phrase haunts me. I am too often lazy or distracted, but this standard helps keep me on track. It doesn’t matter if anyone sees the final tweaks of excellence. Doing something right because it’s the right thing to do is borne out of a personal code, not an obsession with pleasing other people. We hold ourselves to our own standards, and we have to live with the results – good or bad.
- Excellence is for others. We do not get good at what we do so we can get rich, famous, or popular. No, the reason we do our best is to be useful to others. We are work trucks, not Bentleys. When we are excellent, we benefit our team. We benefit our families. We benefit society. And yes, of course, it benefits us too – but we the selfish pursuit of excellence is empty. Excellence – that is, holy excellence – contains a desire to bless others with the fruits of victory.
- Excellence takes time. Years ago I talked to a young guy who said that wisdom didn’t take many years to acquire – we just needed to learn from smart people. How unwise of him to say that.
Excellence, like wisdom, takes time. It is not microwaved, it is dry aged and then smoked for years and years. We try out our wisdom – a little bite here and there – and we find it could probably use more seasoning. Time is the secret sauce.
Author Malcolm Gladwell once wrote that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I’m sure there’s leeway in that rule, but it’s probably true. Anything worth doing is worth sticking with over a long period of time.
Start With Yourself
We all do it. We all look around and find everything wrong with other people. So we criticize our coworkers, pastors, parents, and world leaders. If only those idiots did it the way we would do it, right?
Jesus once said we need to get the log out of our own eyes before we point out the speck in the eyes of others. In the same way, I cannot make you excellent. But I can focus on being the best me I can be.
I train Brazilian jiu jitsu, which is a grappling martial art focusing on using leverage and body position to put an opponent in a submission (a choke, arm lock, etc.). It’s humbling to say the least, because upper belts (you know, those 10,000 hour people) destroy anyone with less time invested. If I compared myself to a black belt, I’d probably just quit. But if I compare myself to my own skills two years ago, I see progression.
We aren’t all going to be world class at what we do. But if we demand quality always of ourselves, we might someday find that the world has changed a little for the better.