Sep 06, 2021
One of the most difficult habits to acquire in life is a habit of excellence in all things. And when I say “all things”, I actually mean, “all things”.
It doesn’t matter how big or important the task. Every single thing that you choose to do, you should attempt to do every repetition to the best of your ability, every time.
Whether you’re competing in the olympics, or coloring a picture – approach all things with the intention of doing your very best.
Now – I want to be perfectly clear. Circumstances will affect what your best is, in any given moment.
If you are working out, your 100th rep will likely not be as strong or controlled as your 1st rep.
If you have an hour to complete a task, the result may not be as good as if you had four hours to complete the task.
Never-the-less, a habit of excellence means doing your very best, within the circumstances that you find yourself in.
The opposite of this of course, is permitting a “good enough” mentality to exist in your life.
“Good enough” is a poison, that will eventually corrode every aspect of your life when left unchecked.
The crazy thing is… “good enough” probably IS good enough for most people.
As a designer, I could probably submit a design without fine-tuning the typography or being obsessive about the spacing, and 99% of people would probably never notice or care.
But, this isn’t about other people. You don’t strive for excellence in all things for the benefit of other people. You do it for your own benefit.
You do it, because constant improvement is what helps us to feel alive. It helps to keep life interesting. And it gives us something to live for.
You do it, because when you produce truly excellent work – people notice.
You do it because true excellence is rare, and it impacts the world in a positive way.
As the saying goes, “if you aren’t growing, you’re dying”.
And as with most things in life – excellence is a choice. If you choose it often enough, it becomes a habit.
That is why you should seek excellence in all things. Because everything you do is an opportunity to practice excellence.
If you are familiar with the classic strategy book “The Art of War”, then you may be familiar with a similar book called "The Book of Five Rings", by Miyamoto Musashi.
In that book, Musashi writes “From one thing, know ten thousand things.”
There is immense, deep wisdom in that phrase.
When we can do something in a masterful way – we learn certain skills that will inevitably translate into other areas of our life.
Have you ever met someone who seems to be good at everything they do? Who are just disgustingly talented and make everything look easy?
I promise, those individuals are not superhuman. They have just cultivated an awareness of the fact that skills they develop in one thing, can be used to develop skills in other things.
For example – I went to college for Web & Graphic Design. Art school, basically. And while there, I learned things like symmetry, balance, color theory, spacial awareness, composition, etc. And those are all concepts that I became accustomed to using in my work.
I also happen to have a love for woodworking. And because I understand things like shape, balance, and symmetry, I can make better looking things in my wood shop than if I had no knowledge of those visual concepts.
Similarly – I have been involved in the Martial Arts from the time I was 10 years old. In the almost 30 years that I have been practicing, I have learned things like discipline, self-control, patience, goal-setting, timing, and when to use force versus when to be passive.
ALL of those skills can be applied to nearly everything else in my life.
Drawing a picture? Patience and a steady-hand serve me greatly.
Growing a business? Discipline and goal-setting are obvious assets.
The reality is, you can’t become a genuine expert at anything, without being highly proficient at multiple things.
You can’t be a truly fantastic painter if you don’t also understand things like color theory, composition, lighting, shading, psychology, and even human physiology.
And similarly, the better you understand all of those other things, the better painter you will become.
And this applies to just about everything in life.
The truth is that all things are connected. All things are related. And there are similarities and cross-overs between all things.
When you can start to apply skills in one area of your life to something seemingly unrelated – it’s called innovation.
And that is the heart of what it means to cultivate a habit of excellence in all things. When you do that, it is inevitable that you will develop greater skills, become more creative, and more valuable to the world.