The crippled pursuit of excellence

Bikram Vohra

By: Bikram Vohra

We all want excellence. That goes without saying. Give us the best, we won’t settle for less. We hear it all the time. Every second fellow says it. Give me the best.

Great. Touches the heart. Makes you feel so good that everyone is engaged in this pursuit. Until it comes to payment time. Then the cookie crumbles soggily and everyone has that sudden desire to settle for seconds.

After all, who needs all these fancy schmancy stuff (so much for excellence) the less expensive option will do very nicely, thank you very much.

Expatland seems to have a special fascination for the adequate. We want excellence but we are not prepared to pay for it.

How many of us in the creative field have heard someone say, oh I can get this done cheaper, why should I pay you so much more.

Because I will give you a better result, a far superior end product.

Yes, yes, but who cares, who will even notice, what difference does it make if I can get something worthwhile cheaper, after all you think the people out there can make out which is very good and which is not.

That’s just the point, isn’t it, you would know you settled for less than the best, won’t that upset you?

Not at all, where do you live, I will save money, let me be straight, this excellence thing is subjective, I pay you much more and then somebody may not find it excellent, so why should I bother.

You miss the point again, the aim is to pursue excellence, don’t you see, it is your own capacity to up the stakes and not settle for merely the adequate.

Who’s listening. Whether it is writing, advertising, fashion, theater, art, science, decor, cuisine, furniture making, the potter’s wheel, the finish doesn’t count any more. There are few takers to honor that extra bit, that little leading edge that makes the excellent stand apart from the sufficient.

Why pay more for a perfectly made sofa when you can get an average one for half price. Why take an original when a copy will do? Why ask for an ad campaign that costs the earth when a cobbled effort could deliver ‘enough’ response. Why seek wordsmiths when hacks abound, why pay the trendsetter when the copycat is cheap and easily available.

So what happens? We sanctify mediocrity, finding virtue where no virtue exists, settling for less than the best only because we don’t want to pay for it.

What happens with this dilution at gunpoint is that excellence is not only crippled as an entity but the sights are lowered across the board and the world we live in accepts the second rate as currency. Often enough those who aspire to being excellent find themselves out of step with the beat and are, perforce, compelled to compromise. That is literally a criminal option but one exercised every minute of the day in every walk of life. People letting themselves down, letting their talent down so they can join the survivor’s club rather than be defeated by their own talent.

One begins to wonder sometimes if everything has to be built and created by the lowest bidder.

It was Donald Trump who said that people who encourage cerebral pygmies create armies of pygmies and those who choose giants create armies of such proportions.

Which makes me wonder why the downsizing in expatland is so tolerated. Are we downgrading ourselves without realizing that there will be a payback time. I have always believed that those in positions of authority are the ones that must protect and preserve the first rate because it is a duty, a fiat bestowed upon them by their very stature. If they do not maintain the standards and encourage the exceptional who will. Look at those around us in such positions and ask how many of them find delight in having got it ‘cheap’.

True, but did you get it good?

That’s a question which deserves an answer.

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Email: bikram@asianlite.com

 
 
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