A gentleman once visited a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor making an idol of God. Suddenly he noticed a similar idol lying nearby. Surprised he asked the sculptor, "Do you need two statues of the same idol?" "No," said the sculptor without looking up, "We need only one, but the first one got damaged at the last stage."
The gentleman examined the idol and found no apparent damage. "Where is the damage?" asked the gentleman. "There is a scratch on the nose of the idol." said the sculptor, still busy with his work.
"Where are you going to install the idol?"
The sculptor replied that it would be installed on a pillar twenty feet high.
"If the idol is that far, who is going to know that there is a scratch on the nose?" the gentleman asked.
The sculptor stopped his work, looked up at the gentleman, smiled and said, "I know it and God knows it!"
The desire to excel should be exclusive of the fact whether someone appreciates it or not. Excellence is a drive from inside, not outside. Excel at a task today—not necessarily for someone else to notice but for your own satisfaction.
(Thanks to Kiran Kudtarkar for sharing this.)
We know this is a useful bit of advice but it is not easy to follow. It is easier to moan that the world does not appreciate the value of excellence.
One thing to watch out for is perfectionism. In the name of excellence I cannot ignore deadlines or cost considerations. If my level of attention to fixing every detail is seen as nitpicking by most people around me who are otherwise sensible people, I need to re-evaluate my thinking.
Many seem to be wondering when to make practical choices and when not to give up. One method I suggest is to look for perfection at a higher level, or a larger goal. An example could help understand what I mean by higher level. I have fixed all the bugs and screen layout defects in my software module and tested it. If my getting stuck on one strange font color setting problem delays the entire project schedule, it is case of bad perfectionism. I need to focus my mind on the perfection of timely delivery and my contribution to the team as a whole as against my mastery in unravelling a non-critical problem.
Finally, I believe we must aspire and strive for perfection but tolerantly accept less than ideal results, especially where other people are involved.