• The title of this post says it all. Does Excellence Matter? The knee-jerk reaction to this seemingly innocent question is to spout trite platitudes proclaiming the timelessness and nobility of the pursuit of excellence in all things. The reason I pose this question, however, comes from a deliberate observation of our world and our culture. We live in an interesting time. It is an age where human nature is challenged by an unprecedented and exponential evolution of technology around us.

    All of our paths through this life are different, excellence can come in many forms. Many of us are in the arts. In one form or another, our pursuit of excellence might lead us toward a more perfect composition, a wonderfully functional and aesthetic architectural design, or an effectively lighted photograph. On a broader scope, an elegantly written piece of programming code, a wicked sinking curve ball, or a mother's ability to quickly calm and reassure an anxious child, all could be considered demonstrations of excellence. We are all provided with our own abilities and gifts. The struggle to develop those gifts to their highest level pays honor and respect to those gifts, and to me, is the most elemental definition of excellence.

    Where a conflict arises is in the influences of the environment within which we function. Excellence seems to have taken its lumps recently. Convenience and "value engineering" seem to have pushed excellence aside as the order of the day. One needs only look as far as the great icon of pop culture, the television, to see this phenomenon in stark relief. Recent years have spawned a host of "reality" programming which is passed off as entertainment. My prime example of this is the "Survivor" series, where the worst aspects of human nature, deceit, treachery, and self-centered scheming was venerated and rewarded, all for the sake of entertainment. Shows such as these have proliferated for two factors, they're inexpensive to produce (no writers to pay!), and because people watch them. When did casting a vote for your favorite self-styled Machiavelli replace intelligently crafted, thoughtful storytelling as quality entertainment?

    The recent economic conditions have done nothing but exacerbate the "good enough" mentality which seems to be pervasive throughout our culture. My concern is that even as the economic floodwaters recede, the support structure which upholds the ideal of excellence within our culture and our professions will have been badly eroded. No one rises out of bed in the morning and proclaims "Today I'm going to strive for mediocrity." But few seem to make the commitment to shun the expedient and embrace the ideal of the pursuit of excellence. We as professionals, and as human beings, have a tremendous opportunity to rise above complacency. But will we?

    We begin this blog with an earnest hope that with input from many thoughtful and creative individuals, we can begin to analyze the framework within which we're functioning today, and how we might be enablers, encouraging one another to transcend the mundane. So please, sharpen up your typing skills and your cognitive abilities, let us know what you think. How do the impediments to excellence challenge you? How does your quest for excellence, both personally and professionally, shape who you are and what you do? Indeed, does excellence matter?