Personal Excellence and Quality


By Richard Kieninger


The mature, emotionally adjusted person spends his life in pursuit of self-fulfillment. A desire for personal quality is realized by the men and women who discover that satisfaction does not arise merely from being good at something, but also from being a certain kind of person. Such a person is not content to dedicate his life to small purposes. There is quality to his ambition. He does not strive to amass material things or power over others to feed his vanity; rather he does his best to find personal greatness and to become somebody worthy of esteem. He desires to actually be, not merely appear to be, the best—for this is the mark of quality.


The person of quality knows there is something beyond success—it is excellence. He realizes that his pursuit of excellence is essential to growing closer to the ideals of perfection. One may achieve fame and success in the eyes of the world without having acquired excellence. Excellence is IN the person and is not conferred by the importance of the office he holds. Excellence is a thing unto itself which embraces all the activities of mankind. A man can enjoy real happiness only by being the optimum quality of which he is capable at a given stage in his life. Joy lies in the active exercise of his powers to be at all times excellent at whatever he is doing. He must first, of course, be competent; but excellence stand above that. Excellence is integral with and a manifestation of personal character.


Character is a matter of Egoic identity. It is enhanced in those men and women who have found the part they are to play, who are doing the work for which they are best endowed, who are satisfied that they are filling a vital need, who are meeting their obligations and standing up to challenging tasks. Character is positively oriented. It does not grow from fear of falling into vice, but from one’s love of excellence. Character takes no account of what you are thought to be by others, but what you are. You have your own laws and court to judge you, and these persuade you to actually be what you would like to seem. Character is having an inner light and following its dictates when others tempt you to be less than you can be.


Principles of behavior give the world stability. To have a set of principles is not at all to become a starry-eyed dreamer, but to grow in strength of character and in conviction of what one is here for. There are certain permanent truths one has to believe in and to live or civilization will die. In order for civilization to do more than just continue, and rather be uplifted, it must have a number of men and women who are great-minded. Greatmindedness is the ornament of the Virtues. It makes the Virtues better even though it would not have arisen without them. A person who has once perceived what it is that makes greatness of spirit cannot be content to ever again let himself be petty or self-centered or fall short of the best that is in him to be.


There are sound standards of craftsmanship in every calling. Artists have to meet them as do carpenters, lawyers, stenographers, doctors, and businessmen. Every honest calling, every walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy, based upon excellence of performance. The person of quality takes delight in craftsmanship. He is impelled by his principles to do well habitually what it is his job to do. That means patient thoroughness, attention to details, fundamental integrity in the work, and evidence that the workman knew what he was doing and carefully brought his skill to bear upon the task. To seek quality in his work and life, a person must have substantial motives. One cannot sympathize with the man or woman whose dream is not improvement toward excellence but escape from actualities and responsibilities. Such people feel unwanted, unused and purposeless. It is the anguish of their empty lives, far more than any economic condition or political injustice, which drives people to demonstrate and demand instead of studying and earning.


The great and famous persons in history sought and found problems to be solved. They were positively oriented. Instead of denouncing or denying what others bring forth as the truth, great men offer their own, higher truth. It isn’t enough for them to be against error and ignorance; for that leaves the impression that these are the active forces of the world. The man of quality lifts his head above the crowd to see a horizon fitting his abilities. He teaches his imagination to visualize future possibilities, and he bends his back to the immediate tasks which will contribute toward their coming true. There is nothing paltry about the man who is struggling to be greater than he is. To push up from colorless mediocrity toward excellence is the way by which all satisfying human activity proceeds. In choosing an aim, one should make sure that the ultimate value of it will offset the inevitable discomfort and trouble which go along with the accomplishment of anything worthwhile. Success has terms which must be met. It demands that one sacrifice secondary things, however delightful they may appear.


Among the things needed by the person in search of excellence are these: a wide view, curiosity, courage, self-discipline, enthusiasm and energy. The key positions in all walks of life go to those who are educated broadly in a balanced way. Only they have the depth of judgment, the sense of proportion and the large-minded comprehension to handle big affairs. There never has been a good life without self-control. Those who long for excellence and those who attain it are separated by enthusiasm. This means having interest, zeal and a strong conviction of the desirability of success. All intelligent work of every sort is based on directed diligence, getting an idea into physical motion and then launching another idea.


The real wealth of a nation lies most significantly in the number of superior men and women it harbors. It behooves the Nation of God to also thoroughly understand that a society produces great men only in those fields in which it can comprehend greatness. Quality and excellence must be inspired by people who expect high performance of themselves as well as others. It will be encouraged by example and understanding. Excellence is not cheaply won, and it takes time and perseverance. One must be patient with himself lest he be downcast at not attaining the super-best at once. In the process of becoming the person we dream of, there are satisfactions along the way even if we do not succeed perfectly.