Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Excellence, Newly

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 29, 2014

This essay, Excellence, Newly, is the twelfth entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary: The Laurence Platt Dictionary is the companion piece to A Certain Quality Of Communication.

This essay, Excellence, Newly, is also the sequel to We The Excellent Ones.

I am indebted to Archana Parikh and to Paul Roth who inspired this conversation.

Excellence, newly. This conversation isn't intended to challenge best sellers like Tom Peters' brilliant In Search Of Excellence. Neither is it going to re-create business and personal seminars which have already covered the topic of excellence fully and provocatively. Rather it's a new inquiry, my personal inquiry, a discovery for myself  if you will (a re-discovery, actually) of what excellence is - to be more specific, a discovery of what (or who)  I'm being and what's present  when I'm being excellent. This discovery started with a friend wondering out loud with me, what excellence is ie what it is to be excellent, and what it is to do things excellently.

Everyone's familiar with excellence. Everyone's able to recognize excellence, being excellent, and doing things excellently. We all know it when we see it. But if I asked you to tell me what it is, we're not necessarily able to say  exactly what it is. This particular conversation is an attempt to say what excellence is ie to articulate  excellence, newly.

The first thing I did, the first thing I always do in any study of a word, was look up the word "excellence" in the dictionary. This is what I found:

From the Cambridge International Dictionary:


from the adjective excellent
extremely good

"Extremely good"? Extremely  ... good? That's it? That's all?  I scrolled the page, expecting more, wanting more substance. There was none. Nothing else. Only when language is deployed as whitewash, can a definition like this one of excellence as the spare, spindly "extremely good", pass. And here's the thing: without transformation, without accountability, language is almost always  deployed as whitewash.

I didn't look in another dictionary. I only looked in that one. The issue isn't specific to that dictionary. It's endemic to all  dictionaries. When transformation is absent, creators of definitions of words can't be expected to fit them to a transformed context. Listen: that's not something to be critical of. Being critical of it would be akin to being critical of someone who speaks fluent French on the Champs-Élysées  in Paris, because they can't converse fluently in Greek at the Acropolis in Athens. There's nothing wrong with anyone fluent in French not speaking Greek. They're two different language domains. The one doesn't guarantee, imply, or promise the other.

Nonetheless, I'd like to inquire into ie I'd like to discover a definition of excellence for myself which speaks to a transformed context. If I define excellence as "extremely good", the whitewash version, it'll probably elicit a pale "I know what you mean ..." from you. That's OK (no kidding!). If I say excellent means "extremely good", you do  know what I mean - but saying it that way just doesn't go far enough. Can discovering a new definition of excellence be useful, without unnecessarily challenging the best sellers or without re-creating the seminars? Can it succeed purely in the realm of personal discovery? ... which is to say can it be useful purely as a personal discovery?

If it succeeds as a personal discovery ie if it succeeds as my  discovery, then won't it create the possibility of you discovering what excellence is for yourself also? Indeed, won't it create the possibility of discovery itself?  And if so, then don't we have the possibility of rewriting the dictionary entirely so that it and all language, speaks to a transformed context? Now that  would be something, wouldn't it?

Let's get started. When I'm being excellent, I'm being extremely good ("... at what I'm doing"  and "... the way I'm being"  are both implied). Setting aside being "good" as being "well-behaved", what else  is present? It is, I assert, only when you start distinguishing what else is present  when excellence is present, that what excellence really is, has a chance to come forth, to be known, and to be re-creatable.

So here's my question: what's else is present when excellence is present? ... which is to say what's also present when I'm being excellent? I propose three qualities are present (there may be others, there may be more, but without at least these three qualities being present, I assert there's simply no chance  of excellence showing up). The first two qualities are being impeccable  and being immaculate. There's no excellence without being impeccable and without being immaculate. And there's no being impeccable and no being immaculate when I'm simply going through the motions. There's no being impeccable and no being immaculate when it's business as usual. Being impeccable and being immaculate are the un-"going through the motions". They're the un-"business as usual".

Being impeccable and being immaculate can be applied to (which is to say can be brought to)  any activity: making my bed, washing the dishes, cleaning windows and surfaces ie any menial task. Look: if you can't be impeccable and immaculate with menial tasks ie if you can't bring excellence to the small stuff ie if you can't be excellent in the minor leagues, then you can simply forget about being excellent with the big stuff ie in the majors. I can bring excellence (being impeccable and being immaculate) to swimming. I can bring excellence to any and all conversations and communications. I can bring excellence to my writing. I can bring excellence to all my financial dealings (yes, my check book does  balance to the penny).

And then there's the third quality which must be present, without which there's simply no chance of excellence - indeed, without which there's no chance of the possibility of being impeccable or of the possibility of being immaculate either in the first place - and this quality is presence of Self.

When we bring forth who we are  and put it into the space (into the work space, into the relationship and communication space, into the business and financial space - to name but a few), that's the quality which makes excellence possible ie it's the quality which makes being impeccable and being immaculate possible. Simply put, the possibility of being excellent, without presence of Self, without putting who we are into the space, isn't going to happen  (you can try, but it'll die very quickly on the vine).

Here then, is the new entry in The Laurence Platt Dictionary:

from the adjective excellent
the quality of presence of Self, being impeccable, and being immaculate, applied to any and all endeavors

That's my inquiry ie that's my discovery so far. That's excellence, newly. If it feels slightly rough and unfinished, it's intentional. It should be. It should be left incomplete. I'm not going to wrap it up in a pretty box with a nice bow and ribbons for you. It's still a work in progress, so I'm leaving it exactly like this, exactly the way it is: untied, and just a tad ragged. If this discovery, if my inquiry into what excellence is for me, ends here for you, then take it: it's all yours. But if you continue delving into what excellence is for yourself, if you continue to wrestle with it, if you continue coming up with what distinguishes excellence for you, that's what will make this inquiry truly worthwhile.

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