February 5, 2012

Reaching for excellence

I'm sure many of you remember your teachers drilling perfection into you. In my day, we had to practice printing and then cursive writing until it was perfect.

Apparently I have forgotten how to either print or write perfectly, but I have not forgotten the underlying lesson that we should always strive for perfection.

There is a lot to that life philosophy. As a child growing up in Canada, we used to marvel at how sophisticated or bigger than life things were south of the border. When we would travel to Blaine or Bellingham from Vancouver, the pop bottles seemed bigger and the chocolate bars seemed larger.

As I got older, it seemed U.S. politicians were more sophisticated and seasoned, the football players were bigger and faster, the buildings taller, cars bigger and universities better.

Some of that was a product of the size of the two countries. Then, the United States had 10 times the population of Canada. Of course, this means that there was much more that was bigger and better, and perhaps more that was smaller, too.

However, there was more to this phenomenon than a larger population and a greater diversity.

If one strives for perfection, to reach that pinnacle of excellence, then there are many more people to beat out in a large population. To be the best, you have to be more competitive and strive even more in a large country.

Consequently, the United States won more Olympic gold medals than Canada. The United States had 10 times the talent, but 100 times the competitive spirit.

This competitiveness was, I believe, the primary motivator that allowed the United States to emerge as the undisputed global economic superpower.

Since that era, though, globalization has acted as a leveler. Now, talent can move across borders and is often recruited across borders.

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