I'm editing a book manuscript on what a successful life is, in our time. In the book I'm interacting extensively with six great thinkers throughout the centuries, including Lao Tsu, Confucius, Cicero, and Emerson. In a passage on Confucius, while explicating some of ideas, I made a point that I'd like to pass along today. We enter amid the passage. So here goes.
<<When there’s action to be taken, give your best. This is great, basic advice for any endeavor. Early in my career as a public speaker, someone occasionally would tell me in advance of a talk, “This is a really important group”—as if I should take care to be on my game for this one. My response was always, “Every group is a really important group.” And I meant it. Whether I’m earning the equivalent of a year’s academic salary from speaking to an international group of powerful leaders for an hour, or I’m giving a free talk to a local school or charity, I can’t even conceive of not doing my very best.
Each group I speak to is, in my estimation and for the duration of that presentation, the single most important gathering of people on earth—regardless of their worldly status as measured by any other standards. I have my own standards. That group is of unrivalled importance to me. The same goes for sitting at home alone with a book, or typing away at the computer. My level of commitment is always the same. Why? First, it’s a matter of personal identity and professional honor. I am who I am. And my work is what it is. No external circumstance can change that. I bring to any situation the utmost of respect for all the people involved, or even potentially involved.
But there’s a second reason as well. A consistent effort in all things on a daily basis can make a huge difference to the ultimate outcomes we experience. Consistency is akin to what military thinkers call “a force multiplier.” It’s a source of leverageand power. And yet, it’s oddly and surprisingly rare to come across this quality in people’s lives – which truly astonishes me. Whether we think of consistency as harmony, fidelity, or constancy, this characteristic is as vital as it is widely ignored in our day.>>