Excellence is Not Convenient

I had a recent project which demanded some very long hours from myself and a younger colleague. I had to cancel a long-planned holiday weekend to meet the deadline, one that had already been pushed back a few times. The youngster was unhappy when I asked him to cancel his weekend plans too. My immediate response was to tell him told him “Excellence is not convenient”.

I learned that expression from the inimitable Dr. Roger McCarthy, a brilliant and creative engineer at Exponent, Inc, a firm I spent 10 years working with. When I started with the firm it was Failure Analysis Associates, a world renown consultancy specializing in figuring out What Went Wrong. The firm had about 400 people when I joined in 1995, most with Ph.D.s and working in over 40 engineering sand scientific disciplines. Many were brilliant, eccentric, somewhat arrogant, often funny.

Failure folk were invariably hard-working. Lights were on in the offices all hours of the night and weekend. There was a culture of doing the very best you could to get to the right answer. People would also complain about the long hours and disruptions to family life. When one of those people was me, I would mutter to myself Roger McCarthy’s mantra: “Excellence is not convenient”. Or, visualizing the end of the pain, one of my own mantras: “In the fullness of time”…

About Ed Medley

Ed Medley has been on a random walk for over 50 years. Many scribbles and snapshots at this site are from his vagabond transits; others are from his decades of international experience in geological and geotechnical engineering, academia, and mineral exploration prospecting.
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