Rising to Excellence

I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse that I think of abstract concepts as pictures and videos.

Today, while discussing the differences between seeking excellence and preventing failure, a picture filled with hot air balloons sprung to mind and then my imagination pushed play. 

A "few" balloons

Our scene opens to a beautiful balloon leaping into the sky.  When an individual or an organization is seeking excellence, they are like a person in a hot air balloon, tugging at the burner with their personal motivation, fueling their balloon up to new heights of performance.  If you watch them rise into the air, you’ll sometimes notice them assessing their climb, hunting about for a way to increase their rate of climb, and tossing over the side weights that are holding them down.  I equate this to an individual or an organization conducting a critical self-assessment and then, most importantly, acting on what they learned from that self-assessment and casting aside processes, people, or ideas that are holding them back.  All around this balloon are his friends in their balloons, rising into the air at differing rates. The best are watching and learning from their friend above.  They toss aside what he tosses.  They shout questions about technique or when best to light off the burner to rise, then they act on his advice.  It’s exhilarating to watch!

Contrast this with another balloon in our scene.  The operator of this balloon doesn’t want to fail, yet he can’t seem to get his balloon off the ground.  He’s filled the basket with process manuals on the appropriate methods of pulling the burner handle, countless course books on “How to not have the wrong attitude or altitude,” and has added three observers to his basket to make sure he never makes an error in following the processes.  Meanwhile, he’s decided to give all his buddies in their balloons three observers, the course books, and process manuals too.  After all, when you’re trying to prevent failure, you can never be too careful, right?

Both groups of balloons are governed by the same laws of physics and limitations of man, yet one chose to seek excellence and the behaviors that allow you to rise.  The other sought to prevent failure, and in the process prevented excellence too.

If you’re seeking excellence, let your motivation fuel you to climb and your willingness to self-assess free you from the habits that are weighing you down.  Imagine how high you can go and how far you can travel!

If you’re trapped in a group with someone preventing failure, fight back against the one-size-fits-all systems.  It’s more effective (and cheaper) to give oversight only to the person who’s proven they need it (like a teenager with a driving permit), rather than forcing the requirement on everyone.  You’ll lose if you argue no one should have the oversight, but you can win if you find a way to target it.  Perhaps the standard process or the oversight is just the help one guy needs to get off the ground the first time.

I’ll hit stop on the video now.  Thanks for “watching” with me.  Now, let’s drive some change! Why not try?

Note: I tried to draw a cartoon to share this picture, but my artistic skills failed me. So, I figured I would borrow your imaginations and this photo to get it just right.  Thanks for playing along with me.

photo credit: Pierre Andrews via Compfight

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