Wednesday, April 8, 2009

quote of the day

"Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn how to do it well."- Zig Ziglar

Wow! How counterintuitive in a pursuit of excellence world. But really, it begs the question, is your focus on the excellence or the pursuit?

If you are a learner rather than a knower, you are focused on the pursuit; you are willing to endure the steep part of the learning curve becuase you know that it comes with the territory, it comes with learning something challenging. And you're probably going to do it poorly until you learn how to do it well. Does that threaten your ego?

If you are a knower, it may. Being a knower may keep you off of the steep part of the learning curve because you don't want to embarrass yourself, or worry about being seen as incompetent. Since you are a knower, how could you not know?

So you don't try. Or you oppose change. Know anyone like that?

Now, here's the real question: what are the implications for school? In focusing on grades and class ranking, do we contribute to learning or do we contribute to fear? If you are aware that your work is going to be graded, are you willing to risk doing something creative and out of the box? Or would you do something that you already know how to do, something safe?

If we are not failing enough, we are not trying hard enough.


  1. This reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 Hour Rule"--the idea that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to really master a subject area or skill. It also reminds me of an article about Houston I read a few years ago, which argued that in this city, there is relatively little stigma associated with failure--which encourages entrepreneurs to persevere until they succeed.

  2. Stephan,
    I love it. Helps me to understand why I felt some deep connection to Houston on my first visit.

    And the 10,000 hour rule is great: with its emphasis on WORK. Talent can only get you so far, then it is being dedicated and disciplined to do the work it takes to succeed.

  3. One of the things I've always loved most about Houston is everyone you meet is from somewhere else, and this has led to a very cosmopolitan attitude, and a very individualist and merit-oriented one--it's not as important here, where you are from, what your pedigree is, whether you can trace your ancestors to the Mayflower. The city is very open to newcomers, and not exclusionist. At least, that's been my experience and impression, compared to living in London and Philadelphia.

  4. John- thanks for keeping this perspective fresh and in front of us!


  5. Mark,
    Glad you are following my posts!