I recently had a wonderful vacation in the Colorado Rockies. The weather was perfect. My wife and I did not over schedule and over commit ourselves. Instead we enjoyed some very welcome down time, hiking and exploring in some beautiful mountains, and one of the highlights was visiting with some old friends and making some new ones.
We had the pleasure one evening of having dinner with a small group of friends, and what a memorable evening that was. Among the group were two men who anyone would have to agree are among the best in the world at climbing mountains. One of them has climbed the highest mountain on each of the seven continents, The Seven Summits. The other has had experiences equally as impressive. Getting to know these men and learning more about the courage, the commitment, the dedication, and the resilience it takes to do what they have done – indeed, what only a handful of people in the entire world have ever done – was truly inspirational for me.
One of these men talks a lot about passion and purpose. The other talks a lot about resilience. These are not complicated concepts, but they are infinitely rich in meaning. They are key ingredients in driving these two men to be among the best in the world at what they love to do.
After spending some time with these two over achievers, I thought a lot over the following days about what it means to be the best at what you do. No matter what the occupation or the task is, being the best at doing it is something to be proud of. I am told that Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better." What a challenging statement!
At our little company, Parthenon Management Group, we have set for ourselves the ambitious goal of being the best at managing scientific associations and scientific meetings. This is not a trivial matter. Scientific associations and meetings have complexities and challenges that are different than other types of groups. Mastering those takes a lot of effort and a lot of time. We tell new employees that your first year working here will be like a boot camp experience and the second year you will begin to feel like you are learning this work. But, if you have the "passion" for this work; if you believe in the "purpose" of what we and our clients do; and if you have the "resilience" to recover when you make mistakes – and you will make mistakes! – then mastering the skills necessary to be one of the best is not only possible; it is the predictable outcome of intense and protracted effort.
My experience with these friends reminded me of the hard work and dedication it takes to be the best, to meet the challenge of Dr. King's statement. But they also reminded me that the view from the top makes it well worth the effort.