Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Who Stole My Excellence?

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

Recruiting Excellence

Eating Excellence

Finding Excellence in Pets

Optimising Your Excellence

What to Do If You Lose Your Excellence

Unleashing 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.


An Eerie Tapestry said...

Excellent! Never realised excellence was so pervasive these days. I blame Wayne's World and Bill and Ted. A lady from Delaware will probably point out that the American version of The Apprentice is now just a celebrity version (clearly normal people weren't excellent enough).

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Mark,

What a shame! I was looking forward to the next American Apprentice.

Yes - I forgot about Wayne's World!

Party on Mark!





Mind Of Mine said...

I wanted to be the first to tell you that was an EXCELLENT post!

But Eerie beat me too it!

Now I am taking the time to be the second and I am EXCELLENT at being second!

River said...

Excellence is over-rated. Mediocrity is the way to go.
If you don't shine your light too brightly, "they" can't expect too much from you. You will be assigned your tasks and left alone to get on with them.
Yes, that's right. I'm lazy(ish) and like my life to be easy. I've no wish to be climbing the corporate ladder. Nor do I wish to be well known for being the most excellent in my field.

River said...

Forgot to comment on this:-
"Furthermore, with everybody striving for and supposedly achieving excellence, I often wonder why the world has problems."

The world has problems because everybody is busy convincing everybody else of their excellence, being the top of their field; no-one wants to be a lower ladder rung, no-one wants to be down in the dust getting the actual work done.
Everyone is after top notch management positions. Instead, we should be taking more notice of the animal kingdom. There are bosses there, to be sure, but there are workers too, busy, busy, busy getting the work done, keeping the system running, achieving the goals. All working together as a team. Although the word "teamwork" has been thrown around a lot too, until it's almost meaningless, as the bosses rant on about it while the workers work and the bludgers in the team take credit for their colleagues (the team's)work.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Mind of Mine,

You are indeed excellent at being second. And I am excellent at responding to excellent second comments.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

In truth I am mediocre too - as are mot people (even the ones who claim to excellent).

I have no desire to climb the corporate ladder - there's only so much bullshit I can dish out before I say "Hang on - what am I DOING?"

Maybe my next post will be about mediocrity - and it will be from the heart




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi again River,

(Didn't realise you had made two comments).

Such wise words from somebody who claims to be merely mediocre ...


If we were truly like animals we would simply take these "manager" types and throw them to the wolves when they claim credit for our hard work.

Sadly, bullshit seems to prevail


But never mind, I have a few tales to tell when I finally escape from the corporate prison - and I can't wait




Dorothy Rimson said...

lol..good one

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Dorothy and thanks



Pandora Behr said...

Love it.
We have the same problem here with awesome. It's just awesome. How awesome can an awesome person be? Awesome - or just so awesome that they are the most excellent awesome being? It's awesome.

I'm truly whelmed at it's use. Not overwhelmed - not underwhelmed - just whelmed.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pandora,

"Whelmed" - I love it!


Awesome is a particularly irritating word (thankfully not used too much in England - if I were to describe something as "awesome" I would get some very strange looks).




Kath Lockett said...

In addition to excellence and Pandora's contribution of 'awesome', may I also add 'outstanding in the field'?

It always reminds me of some numbnuts plonked in the middle of a paddock.