26
Dec

the edge of chasing perfection


There is a series entitled “A Football Life” on the NFL network on cable television.

One of the programs in the series includes a two-part episode about the legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers in the 1960’s, Vice Lombardi.

In part one, in an episode entitled “Lombardi Saves the Franchise” there is an interview with NFL Hall of Fame Packer quarterback Bart Starr.

Mr. Starr indicated that in of the very first meetings after he took over as head coach of the Packers,  Coach Lombardi walked into the meeting and said:

Gentlemen, we are going to relentlessly chase perfection.  Knowing full well we won’t catch it, because nothing is perfect.  But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch, excellence.  I am not remotely interested in being just, good.”  Vince Lombardi as recalled by Bart Starr.

On offense, the Packers ran a single play, called the “power sweep” a majority of the time.

The power sweep was a simple play that included number of levels of decisions to be made each time it run.  The Packers ran it over, over and over again as Coach Lombardi chased perfection for his offensive.  Even know all the other football teams knew the Packers were going to run the power sweep on offensive, these teams had a difficult time stopping it when they played the Packers.

What do you think about Coach Lombardi’s perfection hierarchy from top-to-bottom: (1) Perfect; (2) Excellent; and (3) Good?

It is hard to argue with the success Coach Lombardi achieved with this hierarchy.  He won three championships (pre-Super Bowl) and Super Bowls I and II for a total of five NFL championships. The trophy presented to the winner of the NFL Super Bowl each year includes his name and is called the Lombardi trophy.

However, is this hierarchy and philosophy outdated, a relic of the 1960’s, or is it still relevant today?

What is your edge of chasing perfection?

What do you think of Coach Lombardi’s philosophy about chasing perfection and his hierarchy?  It is realistic for your professional life?  Is it realistic for your personal life?

Is it necessary to try to chase perfection at all?  Should you even try?

If you want to pursue perfection, how would you do it?  Consider these steps.

1.  Define what you think perfection is.

Define the characteristics for the type of perfection you are going to pursue.  What does perfection look like, feel like, taste like, smell like, sound like, etc. for you?  Why does your view of perfection have those characteristics?  Is your type of perfection simple or complex? For Coach Lombardi, perfection was having his offense run the power sweep to beat the opposing team’s defense and score a touchdown every time single it was run without anybody on the offensive team making a single mistake.

2. Define the steps you need to chase perfection.

Define the steps you would need to execute to chase your desired type of perfection. Are your action steps simple or complex?  Can they accomplished by yourself or do you need the assistance of others? Coach Lombardi felt that to chase perfection, it was necessary for his offensive team to execute simple actions. He felt that if the actions were too complex, under a pressure situation, one or more of his players would make a mistake.  That is why his offensive ran the power sweep in practice and games, thousands of times, over and over.

3.  Define the steps you need to recognize your achievement of perfection.

Finally, define the steps you need to recognize achievement of your type perfection. How will you recognize it? How will you know when you achieve it?  For Coach Lombardi, he could recognize perfection with his power sweep by having his offense score a touchdown without being stopped by the defense every single time the power sweep was run.  In addition, none of his offensive players would make even a single mistake like missing a block, running to the left instead of the right, fumbling the football, engaging in an action that caused a penalty, etc.

If you cannot achieve your type of perfection, you may catch excellence.  How will you recognize excellence?  How will you know when you achieve excellence instead of perfection?  For Coach Lombardi, excellence was scoring a touchdown with the power sweep without any mistakes a majority of the time it was run by his offense.

Or you would you be happy being, just good, with your pursuit of perfection?  Is being just good an appropriate final result?

Join the conversation on this topic by leaving me comment below or join me on @SLesavich with the hashtag, #edgeofperfection.

Out There on the Edge of Everything®…

Stephen Lesavich, PhD

Co-author of the award-winning and best-selling book:  The Plastic Effect:  How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards.

Regular columnist: Positive Impact Magazine

Follow Stephen Lesavich, PhD on Twitter @SLesavich

Copyright © 2016, by Stephen Lesavich, PhD.  All rights reserved.

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