I AM not sure if it is the hyper-inflationary period we once went through as a country that polluted our thinking, but short-termism has engulfed communities, at home and in the diaspora, believers and non believers, traditionalists and modernists. It eventually slaughters what would have been successful ventures.
I have to ask what is happening to us, for we used to be people of excellence. I see a lot of young people with excellent business ideas pursuing quick returns as wheelers and dealers instead of long term value building. In my mind I almost want to scream stop, stop!
Tryon Edwards said “thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.”
Instead of looking for money “nemaziso matsvuku”, let us seek relevance, value, pursue and be addicted to excellence and invariably money will also come. Many of us are starting with the wrong question. We tend to ask ‘how can I make lots of money in the shortest possible time’. The question really should be ‘how can I make a difference or what can I do with lasting impact?’
If you become obsessed with money at all costs, very soon you might start to lie and cheat to get it. Success and good financial returns are often just by-products of the pursuit of excellence. A biblical analogy in seeking excellence is found in Matthew 6:33 which says “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you”, which indicates that if you seek God first success will ultimately follow.
Many of us have turned this upside down by seeking all the other things so as to demonstrate that we are indeed blessed. Jim Rohn notes that, “Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying the basic fundamentals”. It is seldom a quick fix, despite our obsession with those who build a quick financial fortune.
It does not matter what vocational pursuit you are in, it is possible to pursue excellence in it. If you are a soccer player or an athlete, excellence comes out of training, discipline, diligence and dedication. If you are a contractor your workmanship and time of delivery is your signature of excellence.
The world's best performers whether it be Usain Bolt, Messi, or in our own environment Kirsty Coventry and Oliver Mtukudzi, carry an extremely high level of commitment or passion for their pursuit which is required to attain the highest levels of excellence. Maintaining focus is a critical part of performing to your capacity on a consistent basis, whether distractions occur before, during, between or after events.
Back home, we have always had many centres of academic excellence, including universities, vocational centres, government and mission schools which produced an avalanche of highly decorated students. Some were under-resourced but with dedicated teachers who gave more than 100%. They were the medium which converted poor barefooted children into doctors.
Many of us are products of such centres but we have become roadblocks to excellence because of pursuit of greed and instant gratification. If we had been as half diligent and kept our eyes on the ball as our forebearers, we would be talking of a slew of centres of excellence from agro-processing through manufacturing and medical research.
They say if your hobby becomes your profession, it will result in passion becoming your profession. Whatever your vocation is, if you cannot put your heart in it then in the shortest time take yourself out of it butif you follow your heart and develop excellence in your passion, success will eventually follow you.
Financial success should not be your ultimate goal but just the result of you fulfilling your mandate, your passion.Howard Thurman summed it aptly when he said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
If you are a manufacturer, excellence is required in assembling the right people to design the product, applying the right management practices to manage the process and company and delivering to the market. Striving for excellence is an important part of professionalism in any vocation and involves putting quality into everything you do, separating the achievers from the also ran by enhancing both process and operational excellence whilst delivering real business value. Quality systems like ISO 9000 and Six Sigma are an attempt to guarantee that excellence is continually delivered.
Harriet Braiker says that “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing”. Excellence is always evolving and changing, valuing ourselves by measuring us against our own potential. Once you attain one level of excellence you strive for the next as each activity offers new opportunities for excellence.
One of these large financial institutions that have achieved a measure of success, Goldman Sachs, has as one of its business principles that, “We have an uncompromising determination to achieve excellence in everything we undertake. Though we may be involved in a wide variety and heavy volume of activity, we would, if it came to a choice, rather be best than biggest.”
Excellence requires commitment to persist through the ups and downs associated with becoming best and maintaining your best performance.
When the world was in the depths of recession, companies cut costs, conserved cash, and paid off debt while maintaining service excellence. Excellence also involves business reinvestment and positive growth along with continued cost optimisation. Financial excellence means striking the right balance between good stewardship and value creation, entrepreneurship, and focusing on the long term goal.
Tom Peters, who wrote the seminal book In Search of Excellence, once said, “The greatest danger is not that we aim too high and miss, but that we aim too low and reach it,” and that, “When you get older, you never regret your mistakes. You regret the things you didn’t try.” Let us purse excellence in whatever endeavour we find ourselves in then financial rewards will surely follow.
Tafirenyika L. Makunike is the chairman and founder of Nepachem cc (www.nepachem.co.za), an enterprise development and consulting company. He writes in his personal capacity