Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence. I am not remotely interested in just being good – Vince Lombardi, legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Vince Lombardi is heralded as a great coach and motivator who has strong views on winning and achieving success. True it is he took the Packers to a Super Bowl win but has he got it right with this quote? And would it work for everyone?
I stumbled upon this quote a couple of days ago and it really resonated. Then I began mulling it over and I have to respectfully disagree with Mr Lombardi.
In our formative years we are taught that to strive for something less than perfection is somehow substandard. We grow up with the notion that the aim of everything we do, from our deportment, manners, fashion, education and relationships is perfection. Unless we have reconciled our position in relation to perfection in our teenage years, we end up taking this concept into adulthood and into the workforce. And we tie ourselves in knots in our attempts to reach that goal.
If Mr Lombardi were still with us today, I would ask him why is he coaching others to strive for something which he himself acknowledges is impossible? Why is it not enough to aim for and reach excellence? This seems to be a tacit acknowledgement that humans can never reach a target. Instead of making the target realistic and hitting it, the target is over inflated so that some perceived lesser standard is reached.
This is not only bunkum, it is dangerous as many a parent has subsequently found out.
Michal J Fox got it right when he said:
And yet, we so often confuse excellence with perfection. Business and academia often subscribes to the notion that if something is less than perfect then you haven’t done your best. A lot of businesses and consultants proudly proclaim that their product or service is better because it is the product of perfection. And how could we be disappointed with perfection?
We need to be careful not only of the marketing hyperbole but also our own self talk. Often what we are really striving for is to be extremely good or outstanding, rather than to be flawless. But like Mr Lombardi, we tend to raise our own bar artificially high, thinking that’s what we need to do our best. To further demonstrate the incongruity that this creates, take the grading system for universities in this country. Universities generally grade students on a scale from Fail to High Distinction. The grades that you can achieve are:
- Fail – less than 50%
- Pass – 50-64%
- Credit – 65-74%
- Distinction – 75-84%
- High Distinction – 85%-100%
There is no grade called Perfect for 100%. You reach 100%, you will get the same grade just like all the students who achieved excellence. The difference may be in the percentage, but I have yet to see an academic who has awarded a perfect score on any assessment based on subjective criteria.
Aiming to do our best and for excellence keeps it real. Anything more and we sacrifice our humanness. And we need to remember that it is more than acceptable to be human. Indeed, my very best friends are.
PS. To my fellow A to Zers, I am running really behind on responding to your comments and commenting on your blogs due to a crushing work and academic load. I am hoping to catch up in the next couple of days. I beg your indulgence until then.