November 24, 2005

The essence of excellence

What is the meaning of the term excellence? Does it mean that you are better than others are in doing something? Does it mean that your performance is better than the rest in the group? Well it could mean anything depending on the circumstances. The question that arises is how is the quality of that excellence determined? More and more we have come to determine excellence by the competition that one faced. The more severe the adversity the better is ones performance. That is the idea that has been passed on down to us, and that is what we come to accept. Then the performance against weak opposition is not excellent by the above definition. However, does the same not require effort? I shall try to give some illustrations. It is the finals of any series in any game be it cricket that is a way of life in India or the renowned conference finals of the NBA in the US. For the sake of argument, I shall take a series that consists of seven matches. One team has won the first four to win the series even before playing the fifth match. The fans of the winning team are ecstatic. They have won and have drubbed the other team. They could not have asked for more. The other team as well as their fans is down. Now that the series is lost, there is nothing to play for. Or is there? There is the small matter of pride. Now the score that reads 4-0 could read a respectable 4-3 in case they win the remaining three games. That is motivation enough. Therefore, in most cases they shall give all that they have may be more, because this time they are playing for pride and the name. Fair enough. However, let us take the case of the winning team. For what are they playing? What is the use of flogging a dead horse as the saying goes? In most cases, the performance shall drop, players will stop offering the best that they can, and they will lose the next three matches. They are after all mortals. The final score line reads 4-3, no one shall remember the beating handed out in a few years time. To stamp the authority over the opponent, the score line should have read 7-0 not a mere 4-3. To maintain that level of performance when one knows that the rubber is dead goes above the mortal. It goes with willing oneself to give the best when it is not necessary, with motivating oneself even when the outcome is not affected. To keep that killer instinct that got them the series victory in the first place is where one rises above the mortal and takes on the mantle of immortal. That is the true essence of excellence, to want to win even when assured of victory.


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