No middle ground for Excellence

 

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Most people will remember Steve Jobs for his creativity and for giving the
world things like The iPod, The iPhone, The iPad and of course The Apple
Macintosh. For many, Jobs has already gone into the history books as one of
the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the 20th & 21st century.

Less known is the fact that among those who worked for him the opinion was
more more polarized. Many people did not like working for him, some have
even claimed that they hated working for him. At one point he was so
disliked by his own company that he was fired in in early 30’s as the
leader of the organization that he founded. Why?

In the war of excellence vs. mediocrity, there is no middle ground…..you
are either on one side or the other and ‘good’ truly is the enemy of
‘great’. It was very clear what side of the fence Steve Jobs was on and for
those on the side of mediocrity, it was probably not pretty. By definition,
mediocrity means someone wants to stay in the safe, quiet, middle area and
not be pushed to do more than they thought themselves capable of doing.
Mediocrity means that good is good enough…but good would have not changed
the world for ever with products that Apple is now known for producing.

 Where do you stand?

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Mandela – Being part of the solution

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Nelson Mandela spent 27 years incarcerated as a political prisoner. He
could have very easily come out of prison bitter, jaded or angry at the
world and his captors. Instead, he chose to live by a doctrine of focusing
on solutions of problems, of being part of the solution himself.

He rallied an entire nation around the idea that the past is over, there is
nothing to be gained by dwelling on it, that the future is unwritten and
what you do in the “here and now” is what will shape your future. This
philosophy allowed a nation full of frustration to let go and rally together.

It allowed a national rugby team, hated and in last place worldwide, to
overcome adversity and go on to win the 1995 World Cup.

One person focused on solutions can and does make a difference.

Drucker, Musashi & The 21st Century

“In a few hundred years when the history of our time is written from a long term perspective, it is likely that the most important event those historians will see is not technology, not the internet, not e-commerce, it is an unprecedented change in the human condition. For the first time, literally substantial and rapid growing numbers of people have choices. For the first time they will have to manage themselves and society is totally unprepared for it.”

-Peter Drucker

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In 1645 legendary Japanese swordsman, Miyamoto Musashi, wrote that everything you need to manage yourself and excel in business as well as life lies within you. What’s critical is that you have an exacting strategy, a map that includes where you are, where you want to go and what to do once you get there. Then execute on that strategy every day.

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Mark Twain on Mastery

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  • His father died at age 11 and he took a job, thus ending his formal education
  • He would educate himself through public libraries
  • He would be awarded a Master’s Degree from Yale in 1888 and subsequently a Doctorate
  • He would be awarded a second Doctorate from Oxford in 1907

The life of Mark Twain serves as a reminder that there is more than one path to both mastery of skills and significance. The challenges and pitfalls of his life serve as reminder that significance, mastery and perfection are far from the same thing. Heroes, leaders and people of significant contribution are in the end human, not saints.

 

Leadership often imitates Football

Someone recently reminded me of this old saying that in the right context can be very true

“Leadership can be like coaching football; some people will periodically require a pat on the back, others you’ll need to grab by the face mask. The true test of a leader is in knowing when, how and with whom to do which.”

Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, grabs the face mask of quarterback Jameis Winston, behind receiver Rashad Greene, and the two exchange words about clock management in the fourth quarter. WILL VRAGOVIC | Times
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, grabs the face mask of quarterback Jameis Winston, behind receiver Rashad Greene, and the two exchange words about clock management in the fourth quarter. WILL VRAGOVIC | Times