In Pursuit of Excellence



Excellence is not a synonym for perfection. Standing in awe of a masterpiece can make an  artist feel like perfection is the goal, when in reality the best we will ever do is excellence. I think the same can be said for building a business from the ground up. It is the aspiration for perfection that drives excellence.

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

-Vince Lombardi

While learning to draw, I studied with several modern day masters, including Jim Ostlund and Michelle Mitchell Ostlund at the Art Atelier and Ben Long at the Fine Arts League. Studying with the masters is an age old path to understanding and excellence. These teachers would not allow mediocrity in their students. They required excellence even in the details, because realism, when first learning to draw, is the ultimate goal. What I learned was that for every detail I adjusted, the drawing became stronger, and all of the details I noted while searching for a perfect drawing improved my knowledge of the work I was doing.

In Steven Schussler’s book Its a Jungle In There, he alludes to entrepreneurship as an art form. As an entrepreneur, he ponders that maybe the term starving artist is about “‘being willing to forego normal creature comforts in search of perfection in one’s work (30).” As an artist and an entrepreneur, one must never be satisfied to rest on prior accomplishments. A look back at older work will quickly show you your shortcomings in excellence. This is not because you previously failed, but because you grew more adept at seeing excellence.

“Today’s excellence, tomorrow’s mediocrity.” 


Schussler talks about missing the whisp of smoke from a model train in his Winter Wonderland restaurant concept. This detail, while ephemeral at most, was exceedingly important to executing his concept, and a hallmark of his attention to detail in pursuit of excellence. He felt this oversight on his part, was “a step backward from excellence; it compromised the quality of what we were trying to create (61).”

“Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer.”

-Rick Pitino

When endeavoring to create a product, an entrepreneur can look at the masters of entrepreneurship as role models for quality. Steve Jobs, so often considered a master in business, says, “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” Just like drawing, attention to detail is a learned habit. The more you look, the more you see. In drawing, learning to see is of the utmost importance beacuse you cannot draw what you don’t see. In entrepreneurship, one must learn to see the whole picture, the dream of the business, and then work back from there searching for the details that will make your vision successful.

“Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere.Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.”

Warren Bennis

2 thoughts on “In Pursuit of Excellence

  1. In the pursuit of excellence, a factor in that is practice. We practice and work at what we imagine in our heads and try to get it out through words, art, carving, and designs. The more that we work at it the better it becomes. I do not consider my self as a great writer but with practice and working to improve my grammar has helped me become a better writer.


  2. Joy,
    My son is nearing his 16th birthday. He is energetic and his mind works much faster than his hands. He inherited that from me =). Needless to say, we both have very bad handwriting. I have to encourage him to write better, and give him these words of advice, “your work is a reflection of you.” Whether or not it is fair, it is true that a person is judged by his or her actions. Taking time to strive above normal and reach excellence demonstrates that a person is willing to work hard and cares about the effect that he or she or his or her actions or work has on others. Often, the tiniest of details is what makes or breaks deals, affects opinions of others, and the level of success that is achieved. One factor that I believe contributes to excellence is preparedness. Being prepared through practice or mentally visualizing situations and how to react is important. Even having a formal or informal set of guidelines and procedures is helpful. However, it is excellence that distinguishes and has an hierarchical property. Respectfully, Clarence Wooten


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