Learn to Appreciate Excellence

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

The University of Connecticut women’s basketball team has done the unthinkable this past season. They have just won four collegiate basketball national championships in a row. The seniors on this team have never lost in a national championship game with this team. Their best players are continually decorated as the best in all of college basketball. On top of that, UConn’s top 3 went as the top 3 in the WNBA draft – the first time ever that the top 3 picks have all come from the same school. Their dominance is unprecedented in the sport.

As with everything, there are haters who believe that UConn’s dominance is bad for the sport. Somehow winning and blowing teams out creates an unfair balance of power. Whether you agree or not is irrelevant and not really the point of this post. The point is that, whether we like UConn or not, we should take the time to appreciate the quality of work that they produce.

The same can be said for any sport and any of the reigning national champions: The Alabama Crimson Tide (football national championship), Villanova (men’s college basketball national champion), etc. It’s important to learn to recognize and appreciate excellence and quality work at any level – whether you like the person (team) accomplishing it or not. This skill is invaluable when choosing the right person for a job, making hard decisions, and it should inspire you to put the same care and dedication into your own work.

If sports isn’t your thing, think about music – all styles. I love jazz music, and one of my favorite activities in college was going to hear our school jazz band play. I appreciated the sound but also the quality of work that they produced. Keep in mind that, the point is not whether you like the style or not. The point is to learn to appreciate the excellence that accompanies it. Rap music is a great example here.

When he first started, Lil Wayne freestyle-ed all of his raps. That is, with any song he was working on or was a featured artist in, he started the music and just went to work rapping. Though I personally find some of his content questionable and some of his lyrics better than others, I can’t knock the fact that he has put a huge amount of work into performing and his craft. That’s noteworthy and worth appreciating.

Excellence in style is another great area to think about…

“People respond to how we’re dressed so, like it or not, this is what you have to do.”                             – Harvey Specter, Suits

Since I work in sales and marketing, I put some work into how I’m dressed every day and perceived by others. It also doesn’t help that I look about 15 years old, anyway, but even more so when I walk out of the house not caring what I look like. Because I take extra steps in my appearance, I notice those things when other men do them as well. Pro tip: It’s much easier to respect someone who you can tell has put in the work to get where they are.

These examples of quality are really easy for me because they’re the ones that I find interesting and enjoy. If you’re having trouble coming up with examples of your own, here are a few things you can do to help:

Why to appreciate quality for the sake of quality:

1) Stop and smell the roses

This is cliche but really taking the time to slow down is a great way to see the handiwork that others have put forth. Stop and take the time to enjoy street art when you’re on vacation. Again, the point is not to like everything you see, the point is to slow down to the point that you recognize the work that went into the product.

2) Inspiration

What work inspires you to work harder? When learning to appreciate quality, this is an important question to answer. Stretch outside of your personal preferences and get a little uncomfortable with the material you’re observing. Love art? Find a tattoo artist to observe at work. Like country music? Check out some blues greats and hear them perform. Love reading blogs and self-help stuff? Pick up a huge biography.

“Quality only counts when you care enough to do your best.” – Dad

3) Credit to those who deserve it.

Practice giving credit where credit is due. There will always be arrogant jerks who make this hard to do. Trust me, it’s good for you in your pursuit of learning to recognize excellence for what it is. Besides, there’s nothing like receiving a standing ovation as an artist. Next time you notice something you like, be that guy or gal who starts the standing and clapping. It doesn’t matter if people stare or even if you end up being the only one standing – this is for the performer and the work they’ve put into the performance.

4) Learn what goes into a craft

Again, whether you take an interest or liking doesn’t matter. Take the time to see how much work goes into creating the finished product. Pencil sketches, pottery, and successful people, in general, are great places to start observing.

Learn to appreciate quality for the sake of the quality. The content and your preference are important, sure. But if you can’t appreciate the work, you’re severely limiting yourself. When someone performs exceptionally in their chosen field, it’s important that they’re both recognized and applauded for it.

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