Habits of Excellence – Part 3

Consumer or Craftsman?

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Aristotle

 

Those who practice habits of excellence give themselves a chance at greatness. Greatness in basketball is never achieved by choosing the best drills or most clever training regiment. Rather, you give yourself a chance at greatness by the habits you choose to cultivate. There is an endless obsession – particularly in the world of sports – with using the most innovative training equipment or learning the flashiest drills hoping these things will make you a great basketball player. Of course there is amazing potential for creativity in basketball training, but excellence is always a product of creating the right habits not320px-StateLibQld_1_212440_Blind_carpenter_working_with_a_sander,_Indooroopilly,_October_1942 a product of picking the right drills.

 

If we strive to be excellent, we must shift our focus from a consumer mentality to a craftsman mentality. Consumers believe that external products will give them an advantage over their competition, and initially this may be true. The problem with consumers is that as soon as a training technique, product, or service goes out of style, they immediately look to switch to the newest trend. In this process of jumping from one fad to another, habits characterized by superfluous inconsistency are cultivated. This does not train our bodies in excellence but ingrains habits that teach us inconsistency and a lack of discipline.

 

A craftsman understands that his/her habits are of the highest priority in the pursuit of becoming excellent. A craftsman’s greatest achievement lays in their ability to form virtuous habits that shape their entire person. In athletic terms, a virtuous athlete must train their bodies to repeatedly practice their skills and hone their talents. The primary ways to do this is through cultivating virtuous practice, training, and study habits. An athlete becomes a master craftsman in their sport when they repeatedly train their mind, body, and soul to exhibit excellence in every area of their sport. Craftsmen hold themselves to a higher standard because their craft has immense meaning in their life. They discipline their bodies in order to achieve their ultimate goal.

 

You have a choice to make to become a craftsman or a consumer, to accept mediocrity or pursue greatness, to slip into bad habits or to train yourself in the habits of excellence. What will it be?

 

 

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AH7

Habits of Excellence – Part 2

The Order of Excellence

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Aristotle

Do we act rightly because we are excellent or does excellence come as a result of acting rightly? This central question is important to consider as we tease out the implications on our lives while pursuing excellence. Athletes, coaches, and teachers (both in basketball and other walks of life) must wrestle with this question as they attempt to develop a theology of motivation within the realm of sport. This question takes on a special significance as coaches decide how to relate to their players as they try to get the most out of their teams. The question becomes, do players have excellence inside of them that must be summoned on a regular basis, or, does this idea – that everyone has intrinsic excellence – miss the mark? Does this line of thinking place an overemphasis on the attainment of virtue without regard for its processes?Stone_sculptor_at_work

 

Following the order of excellence is crucial if we want to improve our consistency as basketball players. Ultimately, the
more consistent we are, the higher our level of performance. Let’s first consider what excellence is NOT before we explore the notion of how to achieve it. Excellence is not a buried treasure waiting to be discovered; it is not a magic potion or secret mechanism. Although excellence is available to those who act rightly, the attainment of it is not a treasure hunt with a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. We are inclined to find shortcuts to excellence, but reality is that there are no formulas, 5-step DIY manuals, or treasure maps that show us the road we must take.

 

Excellence is a laborious process; it is the summation of thousands of individual decisions that comprise a greater work of art. It is like a sculptor who starts chipping away at a piece of rock. The sculptor does not expect to see the piece of art take shape after only a few swings of the chisel, but understands that each cut into the rock brings him closer to a beautiful finished product. The daily decisions we make every day are the ONLY things that matter if we desire to become excellent. Begin with the end in mind so that your day-to-day activities are guided by your ultimate goals. The order of excellence begins with acting rightly which slowly leads to virtuous habits. Ultimately, virtuous repetition is the path that leads to excellence; the decision is yours, the choice is up to you.

AH7

The Habits of Excellence – Part 1

We all long to grasp a deeper understanding of one of the great questions in the human experiment, which is; how does a person/group of people become excellent in what they do?

Excellence as Art

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Aristotle

Aristotle’s comments speak to a specific question of the human experiment that asks, how does a person/group of people become excellent in what they do? A mountainous pile of literature exists that is devoted to answering the question of how to become “excellent “. Most material on the subject of excellence is comprised of 10-step manuals and “how-to” treatises that promise an improvement in your performance OR YOUR MONEY BACK!

In an effort to simplify the equation I want to carve out a leaner, more condensed version of what it could look like to inhabit excellence. In an attempt to avoid the formulaic rigidity of our 21st century obsession with efficient solutions let’s see if we can attack this important question of excellence using Aristotle as our guide.

 

Excellence as Art

I find it intriguing that Aristotle tells us “excellence is an art (to be) won”. The ideas of discipline, training, and habituation303px-Van_Gogh_-_Starry_Night_-_Google_Art_Project generally evoke sentiments of boredom, dullness, and monotony. However if we take Aristotle at his word and believe that excellence is an “art (to be) won” we must recognize that a pursuit of excellence requires an incredible amount of imagination and creativity.

Sports provide a valuable platform that requires ‘excellent’ athletes to use creativity and imagination in how they design training regiments that shape their bodies and hone their skills. If done well, these artistic expressions of discipline will cultivate virtuous habits. In somewhat paradoxical terms, the un-virtuous athlete is the uncreative athlete, because the journey of excellence necessitates uncommon amounts of inventiveness, originality, and ingenuity.

Put simply, creativity is born out of virtuous habits. The person (or athlete) that allows themselves to be influenced by the lottery of shifting emotions becomes enslaved to whatever feeling they have at a particular time. It is only when we dedicate ourselves to the beautiful ritual of habituation that we are free to become innovators.

Put another way, Art is a commitment to craftsmanship that must be wisely cultivated in the crucible of virtuous habit. It is only after you pledge yourself to developing virtuous habits that your creativity within you craft can be unleashed! According to Aristotle the attainment of excellence is most certainly a battle that can be WON or LOST. Which side will you choose to be on?

AH7