Many books have been devoted to excellence, usually by people who have made a lot of money – the modern “gold” standard for excellence. Excellence can be a frightening thing, it seems like it requires countless hours dedicated with unerring focus on a single pursuit. Think elite sportsmen, concert pianists, billionaires. Now think… it can wait. Or can it? Time to debunk the myths of excellence. Now I didn’t know it at the time but my father taught me excellence from a young age. So what did he do, send me to a private school, get me all the best teachers? No, he left me to my own devices, forced me to solve my own problems and beyond a quick tutorial never really gave me much guidance or help. There was a method here, he had grown up as the main provider for his family from a young age. He hunted and fished to supplement what his mother grew in the garden during the long months his father was away logging in the forest. As a father, he never missed an opportunity to let me learn things for myself – often by trial and error, sometimes with disastrous results. At the time it didn’t seem like much fun but those hard won lessons became the foundation for the skills I have now.
The problem with excellence as I see it is people believe it’s an outcome, something you “become”. Yet anyone who has achieved excellence spends a lot more time focused on the process rather than the outcome. Perhaps there is something in this. What my misspent youth taught me was never to be afraid of a challenge or failure. Oddly fishing taught me this. From the age of two my father took me fishing but in his way never really taught me much. That is to say I got a rod, tackle-box, basic lessons in tying knots and off you go. You can imagine the challenges that come doing that at five or six. Fishing is a task that lends itself to failure. Lot’s of failure. I am still yet to catch an Australian Bass, something my pint sized (and impossibly lucky) daughter has managed though she has been fishing for bass only once. I spent the best part of four years regularly fishing for them.
Despite being the son of a fisherman, I can say fishing isn’t something that comes naturally, much of it goes against what you would imagine and requires that you be open to trying things that don’t make sense, be patient and repetitive. I never have been as good as my father but some of my childhood records still stand and are unlikely to ever be broken. I still try and learn something every time I go fishing despite the fact that in reality, I have nothing to prove and catch fish more often than not.
That is the essence of excellence. Excellence I have learned is not an outcome but a state of mind. It’s the point where you are open to learning anything, willing to repeat it often enough to get good at it and remain open to try out something new, even when the old seems sufficient. The simple fact is do it often enough and you will learn whatever you need to in order to achieve results. Anyone can be excellent at fishing, provided they are open to learning, trying, repeating and adapting. The same goes for any task. It’s a choice.
Recently I sent off a manuscript for assessment. The feedback I had from a wide reading group was that it was pretty close to done less some solid editing. The assessors (politely) differed. Now I am faced with reworking two thirds of the manuscript and worse having to tackle it in a way I have never had to before. It would be easy to ignore their advice and try and sneak it by. That however would be cheating. Like my father the assessors helpfully pointed out the problems but offered little concrete solutions. That’s how life is, you have to work it out for yourself.
So here I go again, heading off into the unknown seeking excellence. What I hope I will get out of it is a better manuscript. Couldn’t you do something better? Are you willing to do something new to do it better? If the answer is yes to both you are 50% of the way there. The remaining 50% is actually doing it. Go on, treat yourself to a little excellence. You might just like it.
Karate By Jesse examines excellence: Practical Karate Psychology: Uncovering the Secret of Elite Achievers & Adopting the ‘Hell Yes’ Attitude
This Weeks Podcast – Legacies
With the recent death of Science Fiction Author Anne McCaffrey, I am taking the opportunity to talk about the changes in the world that some of the great science fiction writers have made. I also will have some comments from a few of the guests that have appeared on the podcast on the legacies they would like to leave behind.
Yesterday something awful and in a way funny happened. Rick Moyer the musician and genius behind the audio on TMAH fell over while performing his daily domestic duties and broke both his elbows. Now I say funny (well it isn’t very but I talked to him not long after and his “funny bone” seemed intact) because the cause was an over eager Blue Healer called Jade who decided she wanted to play ball and put it in under Ricks feet in an inopportune moment. We are praying for Ricks speedy healing and more immediately – a good nights sleep.
Just before he had his mishap he finished his latest single from his forthcoming album (Stargazer II) Too Many Moons. It’s a great track, well worth a quick listen.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 7th, 2011 at 1:42 pm
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