Everyone knows when you're mailing it in!
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." - Aristotle
Earlier this year I drove past my kids' school and was startled to see this painted on the street:
Nice work, huh?
Maybe there's a new "Irregular Spacing" font the road crew is using.
I wonder about the thought process of the painting crew in charge of this task. What, exactly, went wrong?
- Were they happy with the C and the H and then panicked by the lack of room for the OOL?
- Do they have a preference for extra-large C's and L's? Or maybe a prejudice against vowels?
- Did they think that there was just one O and had to make room for two O's at the last second?
- Was this done by "the new guy" or under the incompetent leadership of the "Director of Asphalt Penmanship"?
- Did someone forget to bring the tape measure that day?
- Or... was it simply 4:45 pm on a Friday and they were ready to head home?
At the end of the job, did they give each other high-fives and walk away proud of their excellent work?
Or were they just happy to finish this job (painting asphalt probably isn't a ton of fun) and move onto the next?
Clearly this was a classic case of "good enough."
The word was painted. The font was (fairly) readable. People knew the school was nearby. Pack it up. We're outta here.
Unfortunately, their sloppiness is visible for the entire world to see and that registers too. They've left a legacy to their apathy to live in asphalt for the foreseeable future and forever online.
Whenever I drive slowly by this sign ( it's a "School Zone," ya know), it reminds me how much I don't want to be just "good enough."
The work of those asphalt Picassos challenges me.
They nudge me to remember I don't want to just get things done in life; I want my work to be excellent.
As a mom, wife, employee, leader, and friend, I don't want to be known for being "eh, good enough."
Still, on days when I feel over-committed, under-focused, unprofessional, or non-purposeful, the temptation for "good enough" creeps in. There are a thousand reasons why mediocrity happens...but there are a million reasons to fight it.
If Aristotle is right, then we are not going to have excellent work as the result of a single act, but because we practice excellence repeatedly.
That's a high bar, but all good habits seem demanding at first. But they are worth it.
After all, didn't we learn this in ScHooL?