Aim For Excellence And I Guarantee I’ll Come Back

I have a friend, an office friend who’s really into mojitos. Like super duper into them – the sun rises and sets on this damn drink for her. I get that. I have my own faves this just isn’t one of them. I’d drink it all the same. Now, with that in mind we formed a mojito drinking club. Officially we are the Mojito Summer Club. The goal being to go out once a week in search of the bar making a perfect mo. We got a small pile of co-workers together for our initial outing and we started with the few places near the office…

I don’t have a problem with an average drink but I do have a problem with one that flat sucks, independent of price. But I do get more pissed off when it’s pricey. In the one case we were at an actual Cuban place and the mojito was… ok… just ok. Maybe toothpasty and too seltzery. Indifferent. At a Cuban place that even had a cigar bar on its top floor. Really, isn’t this a Cuban drink? Shouldn’t it have been outstanding? I’m not going back there for any reason if they can’t make a staple like that great. The next location was called something or the other Grande and they didn’t have mint I think so we ended up drinking other stuff. Someone in our group recommended we do shots of Patron tequila coffee liqueur so I tried it. To each his own but it was coffee flavored cough syrup so if you like drinking cough syrup somebody’s got a product you can overpay for. A bit too medicinal for me though. I might’ve liked it more if I also had a bad cough AND wanted some booze. At one point I gave the bartender a recipe for a cocktail I make at home (truth be told, my gf can crank this out in high volume faster than I can write this post). Then I watched her proceed to try to make it. Now, this ain’t a rocket science kinda drink, there’s no egg white in it or other foaming ingredients, it’s just three kinds of liquor and you top it with beer. There, see, I even wrote out their measures figuring she would use a shot glass or some other convenient form of bar measure because, why give her room to mess up making a requested drink that she can get a decent tip for? Anyway, she winged the measures by eye and it came out like crap. And it was more like she was humoring me than actually trying to do something right. Or maybe she had no talent for it and she wanted to go back to opening beer bottles and using branded mixers. Surprise. In the multi-billion dollar earning Jersey City Financial District. I guess it’s just a good place to get a beer and move on.

Unfortunately these two bars cater to different crowds so don’t compete directly.

People and businesses have some similarities. Without competition both can get pretty slack in the quality department. The real tough part is figuring out how to drive yourself in the absence of pressure. As a business that may not make sense from a day to day cost perspective but the last thing you want to have happen is have another place open up nearby that offers exactly what you do but it’s better. Or the same but cheaper. I think when you’re excellent at doing something you only have to worry a bit about the value proposition but if your product is also weak…

In the case above I was asking waaaay too much – luckily, I frequent and get served by some really excellent mixologist type bartenders (Manhattan, Brooklyn, San Francisco) and it really sets an expectation that can’t be met when I drink anywhere else. At any cost point. They are individuals operating at a high level of quality and they are part of the tone that the establishment is putting forward. I don’t always find them affordable but I’m always looking to get back there as quickly as I can. That’s some excellence right there.

Newsflash: Excellence Requires Work

I do a bunch of things fairly well, some just so-so, and what I can’t do well I can usually figure out.  Or at least I’ll TRY.  Because there’s a lot of reward and enjoyment in conquering a new challenge, picking up a new skill.  On the other hand there’s some stuff that I just can’t seem to grok so I phone a friend before I start banging my head against a wall.  I call that KNOWING WHEN TO GET HELP.  Of all the skills I have this is probably the most valuable on a day-to-day basis.  Why figure out how to build a rocket to jump the Grand Canyon when you can just call up Evel Knievel and ask? 

Case in point:  As much as I’d like to think I can easily create music from scratch I really can’t, at least not now.  Sure, I can create a riff  but a fully integrated piece of music seems beyond me.  Like there’s something I’m not understanding or seeing – a blind spot.  Some might call that the talent gap.  I don’t even want to get into writing lyrics…

Don’t know if you’ve heard Lippy Kids by Elbow, which, to me, seems like it’s pretty much about  living through those golden summer times of our youth where anything and everything was possible – at least that’s how I read it… anyway, here’s an excerpt:

Lippy kids on the corner again

Lippy kids on the corner again

Settling like crows

Though I never perfected the simian stroll

The cigarette senate was everything then

Do the know those days are golden

Build a rocket boys

Build a rocket boys!

One long June

I came down from the trees

and kerbstone cool

You were a freshly painted angel

Walking on walls

Stealing booze and hour-long kisses

And nobody knew me at home

Admittedly I’m nutty for this band but point is, HOW DOES ANYONE EVEN THINK THAT KIND OF STUFF UP!?!??! 
I find this on an order of excellence that I’ve never come close at in anything I can recollect.  Now, I’m not being down on myself or anyone else – there’s a huge value, to yourself and society, in being very good in several things without being excellent in any one.  For one I actually think it’s key to being a good project manager.  And there are certainly some folks who are naturally better at some tasks than other folks.  Factoring in innate ability I think it really comes down to a level of focus – an ability to run down to a point of exhaustion and put every ounce of what you have in.  Sort of like being, um…anti-lazy?  The word for that escapes me at the moment.  Dedicated is maybe the right one.  Maybe invested?  Anyway, I tend to bail before that point because usually that final mile seems harder than the twenty four you just ran to get there and 96% percent is good enough, right? Funny that I should use a running analogy because that’s the most recent experience I have where there can be as many hurdles in your head as there are in the real world but once you’ve already done something once half the head game goes poof!

In any case I’ve been living through a pretty golden time of late – experiencing new things, being in new places both geographically and relationship wise – and I think I’m ready to “buckle down”, as my mom would put it, and really put in some… work?  But not in the way prior where I had creative itches that absolutely needed scratching, that’s compulsion, more like a picking my own creative course because waiting for unmanaged urges to drive you forward is like waiting for the wind to lift your sails when you’re at sea.  You can be waiting an awfully long time… or you can break out the oars and start rowing.  So I’m going to pick one project from the multitude in my head and run it down to completion.  Be… anti-lazy. We’ll see how that goes.  🙂