Wednesday, 31 March 2010
This was going to be an excellent post – but I’ve mislaid my excellence.
I might have left it at work to be fair; I usually take it with me and leave my “will to live” and “joie de vivre” at home.
I certainly miss my excellence, so this, unfortunately, is going to be useless post.
What do you mean “tell us something we don’t know”?
Every day I am told that I need to be excellent; I need to excel at absolutely everything in my life from the moment my crusty eyes open in the morning until they close again at night. I probably have to be excellent while I’m asleep too.
Job adverts are absolutely full of demands to be excellent:
You will be an excellent leader, excelling at everything you attempt. You will be an excellent people person with excellent motivation skills that will make everybody in the whole wide world love you (even those who have not had the good fortune to meet you).
You excellence will be so tangible that people will want to have sex with you as soon as they lay eyes on you. They want to give you all of their money.
Your excellence will be excellent too.
Bookshops are full of self help guides that promote excellence:
In Search of Excellence
Racing Towards Excellence
In Pursuit of Excellence
The Excellence of Sweeping the Street
The Essence of Excellence
Excellence II: The Joy of Excellence
Finding Excellence in Pets
Optimising Your Excellence
What to Do If You Lose Your Excellence
The Excellence System
The Excellence of Excellence
How to be Excellent Even When You Are Not Being Excellent
Excellence for Idiots
Take Your Excellence Out For a Meal, Wine It, Dine It, Marry it and Have Baby Excellence.
Actually, I made some of those up but hopefully you get my drift. Business these days seems obsessed with the pursuit of excellence and successful bosses love to talk themselves up. Interviews for some of these lofty positions must be an absolute hoot to watch, with these people stepping into a weird realm where they are the master of all they survey. A game of buzzword bingo is very interesting on such occasions.
If you have seen the Apprentice you will know exactly what I mean.
In the US, Donald Trump sits there in complete silence as the candidates argue amongst themselves, stabbing each other in the back and telling lies about each other and themselves in order to convince him that they are excellent and their competitors are useless – even though their combined effort was a total disaster.
MR TRUMP: Why shouldn’t I fire you?
VICTIM 1: I did an excellent job because I am excellent. I am an excellent salesman and, Mr Trump, I will be an excellent apprentice and I will excel at excellence in every aspect of my job. You need me, Mr Trump, because I am excellent.
MR TRUMP: And why shouldn’t I fire you?
VICTIM 2: Because my so-called colleague is a lying snivelling wreck who did a BAD job. It was entirely his fault that we lost you $10,000. It was his idea to dress the elephant in a tutu. He is not excellent; he is mediocre at best. I am excellence personified; I live and breath excellence; I dream excellence; I think excellence; I even piss excellence. I pray to the God of excellence and he answers me saying “You are so excellent that I will give you an excellent position at my right hand.” Mr Trump, sack this low life mediocre muppet. I am so driven that I break the speed of light with every move. You want 21st century Mr Trump? I will give you 22nd, 23rd and 24th centuries. You want one hundred percent? I will give you one million percent and I will still be cruising. I will hyperdrive YOUR productivity into the next decade using my excellence. You will become EVEN RICHER – so RICH that New York will be renamed NEW TRUMP! And it will ALL be down to my excellence.
MR TRUMP: You both did a BAD job. You’re both fired.
This is one of my favourite ever moments from the Apprentice USA:
See what happens when you lose your excellence?
In the UK, we have Sir Alan Sugar (or should I say Lord Sugar) who is different from Donald Trump but much funnier and much more abrasive in my opinion at least.
Call me cruel but I simply love to watch the faces of these egotistical muppets crumble when they realise that they, too, have lost their excellence at a crucial moment. Not that I could do any better myself of course.
One woman on the show claimed to be "the best salesperson in Europe". She was fired - for not selling anything.
Here is Sir Alan Sugar in action:
Anyway, my point is that in business, the word “excellence” has become one of the most prodigious business buzzwords in the history of business bullshit. The word “excellence” and its derivatives crop up fairly regularly in newspapers and on the TV and are usually surrounded by other similar buzzwords that are properties of a super human being but hardly the kind of thing that every single person can call upon to assist themselves in their everyday life and career.
Job adverts are full of this kind of horseshit whether you are after the top job as chairman of a multimillion dollar company or the manager of a small retail outlet. We are expected to strive for excellence even if we work as a petrol pump attendant.
You are expected to take your excellence to the interview and allow it to answer difficult questions on your behalf; take your buzzword bingo card, your bullshit generator and your excellence to a job interview and you should prevail.
INTERVIEWER: Tell me about yourself.
CANDIDATE: I am the best of the best of the best. I have my excellence with me on a leash at all times and it casts aside all doubts and makes me the perfect person for this job. My mind is a centre of excellence. I am the greatest. You will never, ever employ a better car park attendant in your life.
Personally I seek excellence in everything I do; it is my constant companion in life.
In the morning I wake up, leap out of bed and throw myself into the shower washing my aging, bloated body and mad hair with pure brilliance.
My crazy hair is tamed with excellence and I actually look slightly human as I eat my excellent breakfast.
At work, colleagues tell me how wonderful I am and how I am the best at my job – that’s excellence for you.
I arrive home after work and eat an excellent evening meal, while watching excellent TV programmes before going to bed to read an excellent book.
I even have excellent dreams full of monsters, interstellar battles, tales of love and adventure with beguiling women falling at my excellent feet.
Of course I am lying through my keyboard. I struggle through the day fighting fires and struggling to extricate myself from the bureaucratic red tape that throttles business and technology today. It is the same everywhere.
Even with all the technology we have in the world it is sometimes difficult to find your excellence in paperwork.
Furthermore, with everybody striving for and supposedly achieving excellence, I often wonder why the world seems to have problems.
You only have to read the news to see that excellence appears to have taken a leaf out of Superman’s book and gone for a sabbatical to Krypton. Perhaps my excellence has gone there too.
Anyway, if I find my excellence I will let you know. Perhaps I will make an excellent choice when I visit the newsagent to buy my lottery ticket this weekend.
That would be excellent.