Monday, February 16, 2009

You Are What You Do

In recent years, pop psych wisdom has counseled us to remember that we are not "human doings" but human beings. I have subscribed to this notion myself. The idea being that one's self-worth is about more than achievement.

But two sages from different worlds -- Aristotle and Seth Godin -- advised me this week that, actually, what I do is who I am.

Sunday, as I pondered whether to work on a creative project near and dear to me or to tick off my to-do list, I was reminded of Aristotle's quote: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." That's all I needed to hear, I immediately chose to work on the project because that is who I want to be.

I was struck by this idea again this morning when I read Godin's post on authenticity. He concludes, "You could spend your time wondering if what you say you are is really you. Or you could just act like that all the time. That's good enough, thanks. Save the angst for later." Again, I chose to do what I want to be.

The same can be said for organizations. As a school branding consultant, I spend a lot of time working with institutions who want to be known for being excellent. I say, prove it. Tell me what makes your claim true. Tell me how you do excellence.

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