Albert Einstein said:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We work hard for the envelope that makes our lives happy ones, but how often do we push the envelope to achieve results that make us happy about our performance?

Pushing The Envelope - Jim Camp

The envelope in the phrase “push the envelope” has nothing to do with a container used to carry notes or letters; it’s a term used in Aeronautics to describe the limits of safe flight for an airborne object, for a given set of parameters. So by pushing the envelope pilots are trying to ascertain how much more performance they can squeeze out of the aircraft without making it unsafe.

And that’s how the term becomes relevant to us.

–         Do we push ourselves to higher levels of excellence?

–         Why should we tolerate second best from ourselves and others?

–         Can’t we challenge ourselves and people around us to do better?

–         Is your present output the best possible one?

A private conversation took place on Facebook, on this subject, between a few of my friends regarding the overwhelming grip of mediocrity in every sphere of activity:

–         Employees not pushing themselves to do quality work

–         Movie Directors secretly copying work done by others or openly remaking them.

–         Music Directors who get so “inspired” by a tune that their song sounds like the original

–         Authors stealing storylines and subplots to speed up completion of “their” book

Here are a few comments by the participants, to give you a sense of what was discussed:


My definition of mediocrity is simple.

– Anything that I can do without too much of an effort is mediocre or average.

– Anything that sounds like anyone could have done it.

– Anything that doesn’t take me to a new area, a new level, or a fresh perspective, and

– Anything that doesn’t give me a high or a shock or fear.

– If it truly looks like something I haven’t done/thought/written before, then I’m pleased with myself.


Be discerning when hiring, then be inspiring, have appropriate rewards directly linked to productivity. Not everyone is equally ambitious, even those equal at the starting block may not be equals throughout the marathon due to different levels of stamina. And if differences in contribution are not recognised in the form of accolades, promotions, cold hard cash raises, people will find it difficult to try to excel. (Unquote)

The less spoken about the Public Sector and Government the better – but even the Private Sector is falling prey to mediocrity – Service Standards, Product Quality and Practices in every department are uninspiring. As mentioned earlier even in Cinema, Music and Sports we have seen standards slipping.

In Hindi it’s called the “Chaltha Hai” (Anything goes!) attitude. How do we stop ourselves from getting afflicted by this dangerous disease?

Some cures prescribed are:

–         Challenge yourself everyday

–         “Dart outside the circle”, said Prathap.

–         Stretch the limit of possibilities

–         Second best is not good enough


We had a vegetable vendor in Muscat a long time back…in a bustling market full of stalls. People flocked to his stall despite the choice of about 30 more. Why? He would remember every customer by name, be scrupulous in stocking the best quality fruit and veggies and he had a unique gift. He didn’t need his weighing scale to gauge the weight of the produce! He would impress us all by just holding the bag, telling us how much it weighed and then slapping it on the scale. His calculations were always correct to the decimals! He brought a sense of fun to this mundane job and made it a pleasurable experience for the customer and himself.

Look around, there are so many beacons of excellence:

–         Actors: Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks,  Smita Patil, Aamir Khan

–         Sportsperson: Sergei Bubka, Roger Federer, Viswanathan Anand

–          Business: Steve Jobs, Dhirubhai Ambani, N R Narayanmurthy

People who refused to tolerate below par performance even from themselves – they constantly strove to exceed their previous best!

Our world is brighter, safer and more comfortable thanks to hundreds of Scientists and Inventors who were not happy with the status quo.

I am sure you have seen and experienced excellence – it is inspiring and uplifting!

Challenge yourself everyday to extract a little more than you did yesterday:

– Dare to think differently,

– Boldly seek new ways to work,

– Don’t accept below par work from team-members,

– Don’t accept shoddy work by your suppliers.

Are we set for the race to Excellence?   ……………. Push that Envelope!

Categories: Ideas Tags:
  1. unni
    February 10, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Dear Jayan,

    Good one.
    while going through your post, i recollected a statement from someone who defined people that excels in life, personal and professional.
    According to him everyone got 24 hours, where 8 hours you need to sleep and you need to work.a minimum of 8 hours.
    What you do with your remaining 8 hours ? where do you spend this 8 hours?
    Journey to excellence lies in those 8 hours.


    • JayadevM
      February 10, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      Hello Unni, appreciate your support.

      That’s a useful message for everyone. The Power of 8!! Awareness brings focus and helps reduce misuse. Thank you.

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