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Living with best practice

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jnr

Most important leaps forward in quality of life come from a mental realignment (i.e. a change or improvement in your frame) rather than an objective change to your circumstances. For example, when a man learns Game and internalises the principle of not supplicating to women he doesn’t only become more successful with women (an observable change in circumstances) but the internal realignment of his values towards natural masculinity lead him to simply feel considerably better about himself.

Dale Carnegie devoted much of his books How To Make Friends and Infuence People, and How To Stop Worrying and Start Living to such changes in frame. For example he advised following best practice in your daily tasks:

“…the best possible way to prepare for tomorrow is to concentrate with all your intelligence, all your enthusiasm, on doing today’s work superbly today. That is the only possible way you can prepare for the future.”

The results of employing best practice were brought into stark relief when I first arrived in Japan and noticed everything worked. This was after boarding from Heathrow Airport where escalators were broken, floors dirty, and workers surly. Narita airport positively sparkled in contrast and this impression is continued throughout the country. Japan still has social capital so even the “dodgy” areas are nice and safe.

The Japanese pride themselves on performing their tasks to the best of their abilities whether CEO of a zaibatsu or FamilyMart sales assistant. This gives the worker purpose and pride for themselves while the air of competence and effort spreads a virtuous cycle among others. Compare this to its polar opposite – a unionised UK public sector worker such as those found in immigration, council offices, or perhaps worst of all the sprawling civil service complex in Longbenton, Tyneside. Here you find slothful, incompetent, indifference, petty jobsworths who care only about getting through the day with the minimum energy output until time arrives when a pension can be claimed.

Spotless and tidy

I’ve given thought to where I can operationalise best practice in my own life. My boxing training is an example.

I’m a high self-regulator in general and in boxing training this shows itself in my methods. I refuse to just amble into my gym and flop into a few rounds hitting the bags. I follow the method drilled into me as a teenager in my first classes – warmup, shadowbox, stretch – and each movement is performed with my attention to detail. When shadowboxing I spend the first round exaggerating the movements to free up my shoulders and hips for correct twist/extension, then in the second I’m using the mirror to constantly check posture and hand positioning while working myself into the boxing flow. I work the heavy bag like am opponent – feinting, moving in and around, mixing up shots – without letting my muscle memory fix in shoddy motions. The end result of this best practice is that I am drilling at a high level of competence (e.g. punch selection, distance, timing, guile) so when I’m tired in sparring / fighting these are the default states in my body. Had I trained with mental sloth then the moment I get tired my hands would drop, my chin raise, and my feet turn to stone.

Your life is full of opportunites to excel. Look at how you accomplish all those little daily tasks and figure out how you can do them better. Very quickly your life will become more ordered and your pride in yourself shoots up.

“Don’t be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones will tend to take care of themselves.” Dale Carnegie

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5 responses

  1. Good stuff man. That is one of my favorite books, a professor recommended it to me a while ago and it was a game changer. Despite the somewhat cheesy-sounding title, the book is filled with gold. I often recommend it to people.

    The idea of best practice is a useful one. I believe the motto, “If you’re going to do something, do it well.” is a useful one.

    March 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  2. Raj

    The best book I ever read. I made more and better friends after reading it. Great article.

    March 28, 2012 at 1:08 am

  3. bhodisatta

    I’m suprised you didn’t mention Hugh Atkins’ hamburgers. Great article. (totally forgot, but yes a great example. CC.)

    March 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  4. Dr Caveman

    Interesting article. The old Greeks called this practice Arete, meaning excellence. Too bad the modern day Greeks seem to have forgotten the practice and turned into the sloths they currently are

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arete

    April 1, 2012 at 2:12 am

  5. Hate to be the cynic here. But it’s easy for martin luther king Jr to make that statement about the street sweeper. After all, it is not he that is/was the street sweeper. Anybody can make elevating statements when they are not stuck sweeping the streets. That being said, The day I meet a street sweeper like that, I hope to learn at his feet. I’m not holding my breath waiting to meet him though. Just sayin’

    April 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

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