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How to cultivate quality

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

How to cultivate quality

Scott Miker

Do you typically represent doing things right?  When you do some basic task, do you do it just to get through it or do you do it to do it right?

Having worked with some great people over the years I have witnessed first hand how our attitude transfers between tasks throughout the day.  Those who work hard to do things right and focus on the small elements tend to be able to transfer that to big projects and other aspects of their work. 

But in our daily lives, too often we are just going through the motions to get it done.  When we clean our bathrooms, cut our grass, run errands, etc. we are more focused on crossing something off our to do list than doing it right. 

But quality isn’t something that we can simply turn on when it is important.  If we are sloppy through our day then that sloppiness becomes our way forward, through everything. 

In Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss, he interviews Josh Waitzkin who is known for being a great chess champion (the basis for the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer), but someone that has expanded that excellence to other areas such as Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tai Chi push hands, and even writing best selling books.  It seems that he has discovered how to excel, and not just in one field but in several completely separate fields. 

There is a quote in that book by Waitzkin, “I believe that when you’re not cultivating quality, you’re essentially cultivating sloppiness.”  What a great quote.

What are you cultivating in your life?  Are you cultivating quality or cultivating sloppiness.  Plenty of people cultivate sloppiness and expect to be able to jump to quality when they feel it is beneficial. 

So how do you cultivate quality? 

Years ago I was involved in the startup of a fitness franchise.  I was working with the owner and doing everything with him from painting the walls, walking door-to-door to pass out flyers, selling memberships, to cleaning the bathrooms. 

I remember at the time feeling strange about cleaning the toilets.  We determined that we needed to do everything possible in the early stages to not overextend our finances so I took on the task. 

When I looked at it as some awful task, I hated it and did a terrible job.  But over time I started to actually enjoy it.  I would stop when I was done and look back at the spotless bathroom.  I started to take pride it in.  I might be in a position in life where I needed to clean toilets but I was determined to be the best toilet cleaner possible.

I started to take that approach to everything.  Instead of just cutting the grass as quickly as possible, I started to take my time and do it right.  I wanted to make sure I made the best of it and didn’t waste time by doing it sloppily just to get done. 

This mindset started to translate to other areas of my life.  I started to realize that if we can focus on doing it right, it becomes more enjoyable.  The quality would increase, I would be happier doing it, and I would get more done. 

So what are you cultivating?  Are you cultivating sloppiness in all that you do?  Or are you constantly looking for ways to do things better and put forth your best effort?