I was mentoring a buddy of mine a few years back on software programming and engineering. I was working in this text based editor called VIM. VIM is a pretty tough editor to learn, especially to master, if mastery is even possible. But I am pretty decent working with it. As I was working through the code, my buddy says, “Dude you are like a wizard in VIM.” He was honestly impressed. Of course, I could have been proud for a moment, letting my ego suck in his praise, but I didn’t. My first response was, “Is it really impressive? Anyone who has spent as many hours in VIM as I have could do the same thing.” He paused for a second and said, “But still…you’re pretty awesome.” I thanked him and got back to work.
I was reading the other day and came across this quote from Aristotle,
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
It got me to thinking about excellence. Is it really true that we can become excellent at something simply by repeating it every day? How is excellence achieved?
Let’s Look At VIM
I have been working in software development for over 20 years now. Ever since I started, I used the VIM editor. And when I say I used the VIM editor, I mean I actively worked in VIM for at least 8-10 hours a day each day I worked. Think about all the years I have spent in this editor. All the hours that my fingers were on the keyboard using this tool to do my job. Like I said, VIM is a pretty tough editor to learn and use, but I do make it look easy. I assure you I wasn’t born to work in VIM. Maybe it was the repeated hours, at least five days a week, that has brought me close to excellence???
Let’s Look At Productivity
For the last three years, I have been studying and working on being the most productive I can be. I have read books, experimented with focus techniques, meditated, and devoted an hour each work day to building and planning each day. Since doing this, my productivity has skyrocketed. I get more done now than I have ever gotten done. I write for this blog each week, I wrote a book, I run a business, and I am active in the Knights of Columbus at our church. Each day I work, I check off and complete so many tasks. All by simply planning each day, EVERY DAY, and sticking to the plan. Maybe this has brought me close to excellence when it comes to productivity???
Let’s Look At Happiness
For the last three years, I have worked hard each day to be a happier person. And trust me, this can be tough. Life will try to beat you down at times and things will NOT always go your way. But I focus each day on happiness. I write in a gratitude journal, I read books about happiness, I pray for people and wish them peace, I volunteer my time, and I try to understand people rather than have them understand me. I work at it every day. I repeat the same things every day that contribute to my happiness. Am I happy all the time? No…but I am happy most of the time and much more of the time than I was before I started studying happiness three years ago. Perhaps I could reach excellence some day???
I write this post, not to brag about the things I do. I don’t do these things to brag. I do these things to build a better me, a more excellent me. The quote from Aristotle just rang so true. I agree that we can reach excellence at something by simply repeating it every day. You don’t have to be the best, or naturally gifted to reach excellence. All you have to do it pick something you want to improve upon and work at it every day. It takes hours, weeks, months, and years to become excellent at something, but it is achievable if you make pursuing it a habit. This gives me hope for things that I am not naturally good at doing and with things that I know I need to learn to be more successful. I can simply figure out what I need to be good at and work at it every day with a persistence that builds a positive habit. And you can too!!!
I leave you with these words from Ralph Waldo Emerson,
“That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved.”