The Elements of Excellence
Character and intellect are the two poles of our capacity. One without the other won’t get us across the finish-line.
Knowledge and courage are the elements of greatness. They give immortality, because they are immortal. We are all the sum of what we know. Knowledge is power and the wise can do anything.
A man without knowledge is a world without light. Knowledge without courage is sterile.
In order to attain excellence, you must have the talent and the will to apply yourself.
You cannot reach the heights you desire without both. But where they unite, there is the greatest eminence.
Even if you only have mediocre skills, you will still achieve more with hard work, than with talent alone.
Think of it in terms of nature and art — material and workmanship.
There is no beauty in the unadorned and no excellence that would not become barbaric if not supported by strategy.
This cures what’s crooked and improves the good. Nature never gives us the very best — if we desire to be the best, we must apply ourselves.
Constantly and diligently.
If we don’t, even our best talents go to waste. Whatever your talent, you must practice. In order to become a master craftman you must craft. And you must polish. Again and again.
Hard work is the price you must pay for high esteem.
What costs little is worth little.
Output equals input.
The higher the post you aspire to, the more application is needed.
In order to develop character and intellect, you must cultivate those who can teach you. Let friendly interaction be your school of knowledge, and culture be taught through conversation.
This way you make your friends your teachers and mingle the pleasures of conversation with the advantages of instruction.
Sensible people enjoy alternating pleasures. They reap applause for what they say, and gain instruction from what they hear. Self-interest is always the strongest motivator, but in this case it is so much more. Make yourself worthy of being heard, by hearing what is being taught.
Wise men entertain only great company, in order to aspire to ever greater heights. There are people who have the credit of worldly wisdom, because they are not only themselves oracles of all nobleness by their example and their behavior, but those who surround them form a well-bred academy of worldly wisdom of the best and noblest kind.
Knowledge and good intentions together ensure continuance of success. A fine intellect wedded to a wicked will was always an unnatural monster. A wicked will destroys all excellence. When ill will is wedded to knowledge it only ruins with greater sublety. It’s a miserable kind of superiority that only results in ruin. Knowledge without sense is double folly.
The mind of the excellent is have a mind without passions. This is a privilege of the highest order of mind. Their very eminence redeems them from being affected by transient and low impulses.
There is no higher rule, than that over oneself, over one’s impulses: There is the triumph of free will. While passion rules the character, you can’t aim for high office. The more you are ruled by passion, the less you can aim for.
If you want to become master of anything, you must therefore first master yourself. This is of the highest importance. Before you have mastered this most slippery of opponents, you can not aspire to true greatness.
Make it your number 1 priority.
Once you have conquered this foe, you can continue on your path to excellence.