THE PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

I have been reading the biography of Steve Jobs that came out following his recent death. While it is painfully obvious that Steve was a harsh and, at times, a cruel taskmaster, he was also a passionate and rabid fan of excellence. (To say the least.) Some might even say, a perfectionist. He just wouldn’t settle for anything less that the very best of both his products and the people who created them.

Steve Jobs believed that quality was a non-negotiable. Even in the details that nobody would even see, he insisted that Apple computer products were beautiful beyond skin deep. While his company’s service technicians would be the only people who’d see the inside of a computer in the event of needing repairs, Steve Jobs demanded that even the circuit boards housed within each computer be a work of art. (Jobs believed that if he created “incredibly great” products, the fiscal bottom line would take care of itself.)

Why?

Steve Jobs believed that beauty and excellence inspires human beings. And inspiration on that level brings out the best in people. Even his own employees who sat at a work-station repairing a customer’s computer down in the bowels of some service center.

While there is A LOT of Steve Jobs management philosophy that I’d never embrace in a million years, I sure do appreciate his passionate commitment to excellence.

I have taken a bit of grief through the years for my own commitment to excellence. Some people want to make it out to be some obsessive-compulsive (I’ve even heard “anal-retentive”) kind of dysfunction on my part. At the risk of appearing defensive, I just don’t get people who settle for anything less than their very best…regardless of how small the effort. Oh sure, there’s the fastest and easiest way to do a job. But then there’s a sense of nobility and satisfaction that comes with having done your very best with an extra touch of creativity and thoroughness.

Excellence is your signature at the bottom of your work.

Here’s my working definition of Excellence: Excellence is continuous improvement through learning, training and evaluation. Few people achieve excellence the first time. You achieve excellence by the hard work of educating yourself, developing new skills and listening to ruthlessly honest feedback. Personally speaking, in my opinion anything less than that is lazy and shameful. (“I’m just sayin’.”)

Jonathan Ive, Apple’s brilliantly talented Vice-President of Design, spoke at a memorial service honoring Jobs that was held at the computer giant’s Cupertino campus for all the company’s employees. He called Steve’s motivation for excellence about “giving a damn.” For Steve, it was much deeper than some obsessive-compulsive dysfunction. It was an ideal, a vision for the world, a deeply held value that reflected a larger attitude about what you want you life to stand for when all is said and done. It was about caring enough for what you contributed to your world that you’d never settle for anything less than your best.

I mean, the way I see it…what else would you offer God other than you’re absolute best…even in the smallest of details? Go ahead and read your Bible and see if you don’t find that God is more interested in the details…the motives, the attitudes and the “best-effort” – the caring enough to do your best – in what we do. It’s as though God is more pleased with HOW we do the job than He is that the job gets done.

Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

1 Corinthians 10: 31
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I don’t know how to read verses like that in the Bible and then settle for less than my very best in everything I do.

What about you?