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Thoughts in pursuit of excellence

mvkamath

The following column was published by Business Goa magazine in its April 2016 issue. 

The celebrated Spanish painter and sculptor Pablo Picasso once said this about his ability, with pomp and pride, “My mother said to me, if you become a soldier, you’d be a General; if you become a monk, you’d end up as Pope. Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” No lack of confidence here! Yet I agree more with the celebrate man of freedom Abraham Lincoln who said “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Lincoln demonstrated the wisdom of that advice with his own life. And, in this present age, which often seems to be contented with mediocrity, his words summon a yearning for improvement and growth. Excellence is not a place where we can ever arrive. It’s the very journey. To do and be our best is a habit.

My late mentor Madhav Vittal Kamath (M V Kamath) – former editor of ‘The Illustrated Weekly’ as well as ‘Times of India’, had written a small yet very refreshing book titled ‘In Pursuit of Excellence’. It is barely 100 pages; yet in it, I found inspiring ideas and ideals. His advice is something that has held strong in my mind “Whatever you are, be a good one. If what you do is worth doing, if you believe that who you are is of value, then you can’t afford to be content with mediocrity. When you choose the path of excellence through this life, you will bring to it your best and receive the best it can offer in return. And you will know what it is to be satisfied.”

Until a few days before his death, at the age of 93, in 2014, he shared with me almost all the best of his life’s anecdotes as well as talisman. I shall remain indebted to him for a long time to come.

Most people in this world can be divided into two broad groups. There is that small group of people which, challenged by opportunity, is willing to work hard to achieve something and that majority which really does not care much. Kamath’s believed that one must always have the next goal in the back of your mind

“Every truly worthwhile achievement has a price tag, Mahesh.” he’d say, adding “How much are you willing to pay in hard work, patience, sacrifice and endurance to be a person of excellence? Your answer is important because the cost is great.”

Most people in this world can be divided into two broad groups. There is that small group of people which, challenged by opportunity, is willing to work hard to achieve something and that majority which really does not care much. It was Kamath’s belief that one must always have the next goal at the back of your mind, since the most satisfaction comes from pursuing goal(s), not simply from achieving it.

Excellence is all about living to our fullest potential. It is about going above and beyond the ordinary. The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence regardless of their situation or circumstances. Excellence requires our focused effort and devotion. It comes from our commitment to getting it right.

In our journeys through life, many of us aspire for personal fulfilment either in our personal or professional lives. Deep inside, we all desire to achieve such fulfilment by manifesting our unique gifts and abilities. While life’s greatest achievers undoubtedly possess talent, what really fuels their greatest success is their ability to tap into their tremendous passion and desire in the pursuit of personal excellence.

But, then, what does it actually mean to excel or to have excellence? According to dictionary Excellence means: “To succeed a given standard that is ordinary, average, terrible or unworthy,” or “To be first-rate, first-class, exceptional, peerless, matchless, foremost, exemplary, top grade, top notch…,” or “To be superior in quality, greater in quantity, to transcend your job description, and to outdo yourself each time.” The third aspect of the definition is the one that has truly appealed to me.

Excellence is all about living to our fullest potential. It is about going above and beyond the ordinary. The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence regardless of their situation or circumstances. Excellence requires our focused effort and devotion. It comes from our commitment to getting it right

It was Will Foster who noted, “Quality never happens by chance, it’s always the result of high intention,” In other words, you intentionally go for quality! You pay great attention to detail. When you excel, you go beyond just doing a job – you finish a job well. When you excel you reach beyond just selling a product – you meet your customer’s needs. When you excel you desire more than just clinching on a sale – you add value to your client’s objectives.

Excellence is, verily, striving for quality and merit in all that we do. A focus on excellence stands for taking time, working hard and thinking carefully about our work, vision and objectives. Excellence lets us take pride in our accomplishments. We are guided by a vision, an idea, and we do our best to make it a reality.

To conclude: excellence must be tempered by balance, because when we seek excellence in one domain, we risk neglecting other values and priorities. It doesn’t mean being perfect; it means using our abilities and opportunities to their fullest. Whatever our mission in life, a commitment to excellence brings us closer to living it well and to attain our dreams

U.Mahesh Prabhu - April 2016

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