In 1644, a child was born. He lived to be 93 at a time in history when the average life span was but 35 to 40. He taught himself his trade and began his career. He often worked alone with primitive tools, but his focus every day was to put the best he had into his work. The man made violins. He labored over each and every process and step to ensure that he had “autographed” them with excellence and the best that was in him. He created his own personal standard of excellence for his craft, and he actually signed his name on each instrument that passed the test.
Today, some three hundred years later, the name of this craftsman who was committed to excellence is the benchmark for the best in musical instruments. His name? Antonio Stradivari! His Stradivarius violins sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars because they are the best. When Stradivari labored, he did not know of the legacy he was creating. He was doing his best, day in and day out, to reach his standard of excellence. He didn’t spend the extra time and care to get the accolades of upper management or to be the top producer in the company. He did it because excellence was part of his focus, mission, and obsession.
It is easy to do world-class work when a boss is looking or a supervisor is around. But the test is in what you do when no one is looking. High achievers have developed the ability to stay focused when no one else is around. Does your quality or performance fluctuate based on who is in the office or which customer you are serving? Excellence is not something that you can just turn on and off whenever you feel you need it. It is a habit rooted in your attitude about your life and career.