Posts Tagged ‘excellence’

In defence of non-excellence

December 21, 2016

I read something, nearly every day, on the desirable quality of excellence. In whatever I do, I am told, I must strive to excel. I must hone my skills at that particular activity until I am excellent at it.

I want to present a heretical point of view. I don’t propound this point of view as applicable to everyone, or indeed, to anyone but myself. But it’s saved me a lot of tears, so sharing it.

I am interested in quite a lot of things, and have been lucky enough, in my life, to pursue many activities. Let me list them…academics, languages, music, art, writing, quizzing, theatre, photography, nature/wildlife, heritage and history, travel, getting groups of people together, teaching…and so the list goes.

Yes, indeed most of my interests are pursuits to which I’ve devoted a long time. I’ve tried to attain a reasonable proficiency in what I do.

But…I don’t feel the need to excel. And here’s why.

The margin between proficiency and excellence may often not be wide…but it can be very time-consuming indeed. And I have found that when I strive for excellence in one particular activity, I have to neglect several others.

So over the years, I’ve decided that I would rather have enough time to pursue these interests instead of setting some aside for excellence…in any case, I will not be able to achieve excellence in more than one or two fields.

Striving for excellence can also often be frustrating, with the sobering realization, after much time and effort has been spent, that my level is that of proficiency,and excellence will be beyond.

So..what is wrong in my being reasonably proficient at many activities, instead of always wanting to be the world’s best in anything? I will never, indeed, top the world in any field, because there are always going to be others who will be far better than I in that field.

More and more, as I age, I see the comfortable joy of being good at several things and enjoying doing all of them, rather than frustrate myself in trying to excel and still find that I am not much further up the ladder.

And I notice this in many people I see around me…that they are good, very good sometimes, in several things that they do…but they need not be earth-shakingly good at it!

I therefore adhere to my happy state of reasonable proficiency (and fairly high ignorance sometimes!) in my several interests, giving thanks for being able to enjoy all of them. Excellence in one field does not give me as much happiness as being good in several.

What are your thoughts on this?

NCF: Excellent work in Valparai on resolution of elephant-human conflict

July 29, 2014

When we went to Valparai in April 2014, I was able to meet Ananda Kumar, and of course, I know Ganesh Raghunathan quite well (though I’ve never been able to meet him at his “workplace”!)

Many organizations that I belong to are addressing this knotty problem of elephant-human conflict; the problem is particularly bad in the Ragihalli/Shivanahalli area of the Bannerghatta National Park, and yes, there have been fatalities there, too.

So, when I saw this documentary on the work being done by Ganesh and Anand, under the aegis of Nature Conservation Foundation (NCF), I was very heartened.


is one of my FB albums from our last visit. I suppose that in the limited time Anand had, he could hardly touch the tip of the subject, but he certainly held us spellbound in that time!

I’d gone with the others to document something of the behaviour of the Lion-tailed Macaques, as I did in

this post

But the ecology of an area is a holistic picture, and certainly all the mammals, birds, plant life and human beings form part of the whole; the co-existence and the conflict are two parts of the same coin.

Thank you, Evanescence Studios, for producing this wonderful feature. It’s 16 minutes long, but well worth the time.

Two beautiful images from Danny Brown

November 22, 2011

I’ve mentioned

Danny Brown

before; he’s a scientist in Missouri, and is also an excellent wildlife photographer. Every week, he sends out some of his images, titled “Nature Frames”…and this week, I particularly liked two:

This is a male


on a Sycamore tree.

wd dk on sycamore dny brwn stl 201111

About this image, Danny has this to say:

“During the hike, I passed a big sycamore tree near a lake and I remembered photographing a male wood duck as it kept an eye on its lady, who was inspecting the tree for a nest site. I never shared the image in Nature Frames, as it appeared a bit too cluttered in post-processing, but I took a second look this weekend and decided you might like it. The wood duck is in spring plumage and the sycamore bark in morning light is just beautiful.”

And then, there is this delightful photo of two baby Wood Ducks:

wd dcklings danny brown 201111 stl

About this, he says, “Later that summer, I photographed a pair of baby woodies on a huge, flat rock under the same tree. I had to wonder if the drake was their papa but I’ll never know for sure.”

Every week, Danny sends me (and anyone else who’d like them) images to brighten up the day, bring back memories of Missouri, and provide visual delights from Nature. Thank you, Danny, for the weekly treats!

Danny’s photos also often appear in

The Missouri Conservationist

the magazine of the Missouri Department of Conservation…and other magazines too.

I’m glad, on that distant day in Forest Park, I saw someone with a Canon 40D, also looking at the Great Horned Owls, and on an impulse, went up to him and started talking!

It *must* be lonely at the top….

November 29, 2006

Just musing about excellence…and I must say, I am comfortable with being on the way there than being there (not likely in any field either!)…it’s so comfortable being among the million duffs all shambling along in amiable company at the bottom, comparing mistakes and making fresh ones each time, and being ecstatic during the times, by fluke, when one gets something right…how lonely it must be to be at the pinnacle of perfection, the object of envy (or worse, jealousy), not knowing if, having reached a peak, one can keep that up, or trying to deny the fact that the most likely way now is downwards….separated from one’s peers by the vast expanse of one’s achievement, bereft of any but the company (often competitive) of other stars whose egos are likely to make them tsars….I think this is one of the reasons why I like to learn new things all the time. There is such happiness in being a beginner, one has NO facade, no standards, to keep up or live up to, one can make the most ghastly mistakes and cheerfully own up to them!

No, this is NOT a sour grapes post, either, oh you uncharitable people out there! I really do enjoy repeated duff-dom….learning and being a beginner keeps me…to use that awfully over-used phrase….young at heart.