No B.S Friday: Excellence demands these two things from you.
Excellence has a price.
I don’t think you’re ever going to get far in life with a short-cut mindset. If you’re always looking to cut corners and do the most half-arsed job you can, you’ll pay for it eventually.
It will be in the things you create. It will be in the life you create.
It’s like one of my favourite stories about Steve Jobs. He was taking his biographer Walter Isaacson around his childhood home in a place called Mountain View. It was a house Jobs’ father had built by hand.
Jobs showed Isaacson a fence he had helped his father build 50 years earlier.
“He loved doing things right,” Jobs said as he directed Isaacson’s attention to the back of the fence. “He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see.”
Jobs learnt the lesson early – a great carpenter wouldn’t use an ugly piece of wood, even on the back of a drawer.
Excellence is a lifestyle choice. It’s a way of being.
It’s not an attitude you can flip on and off. It’s not a strategy you deploy to achieve particular aims.
It’s something you either live your life by, or you don’t.
And this philosophy – this commitment to excellence – is what Apple became famous for. Apparently even the insides of Apple computers (not that I’ve ever opened one up) have their own aesthetic. They’re beautiful in their own way.
Because it matters. Beauty and excellence become an organising principle. It defines the whole.
It’s what pull the disparate parts together and creates something greater than the sum of the parts.
And this applies as much to a life as it does to a piece of consumer electronics.
It’s just worth taking the time.
And yes, I know time is scarce. I get that.
But there’s two thoughts I have about excellence and time.
The first is that you can let excellence be a shaping influence on you. If you hold a commitment to excellence, and your time limited, then it forces you to seek out efficiencies. It forces you to work smarter and better.
You can welcome that challenge.
The second thought is that maybe we just have to accept doing less. Excellence does mean being a specialist. It means choosing what you focus on and give your energies too.
Pick your line and stick to it.
This is how you build a beautiful life.
And this is ancient wisdom. The famous Stoic and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his ‘Meditations’ – a book that was only ever intended for himself – in beautiful and eloquent Greek.
“Beautiful things of any kind,” he said, “are beautiful in themselves and sufficient to themselves.”
Such is life.