03 April 2006


[Brief aside: A few hours after Fools and Frauds was posted, the inauguration of a new roadway culminated in a strike by the Power Authority. Yee. Haw. Always Fools Days in sunny Puerto Rico.]

So the aide hands Henry Kissinger the requested report. Kissinger glances at it and asks the aide “Is this the best you can do?” The aide looks chagrined, takes the report and leaves. A few days later, he hands in his report, and again Kissinger asks him “Are you sure this is the best you can do?” The aide grabs the report and leaves. A couple of days later, the same scene, but when Dr. Kissinger asked the same question, the aide drew himself up and said confidently, “Yes, this is the best report I can write.” Kissinger nodded with a small smile and said “Now I’ll read it.”

If you expect—and demand—the best from people, you’d be amazed at how often you receive it. In a connection that may have no other direct path, Walt Disney handled his animators with the same “Is this your best?” attitude. He even had a word for it: plussing.

Your best plus a little more. In any field of work, whether it's creative or mechanical, seeking to make one’s best better is the strongest method to achieve breakthrough performance. Walt’s plussing, dating from the time when animation was painstakingly drawn one cel at a time, has been carried on as a tradition into the digital age, forming the cornerstone of Pixar’s drive for unmatched depth in their films.

There’s an anecdote about Roberto Clemente, swinging alone one night in Shea Stadium. When a reporter asked why the National League batting champ was taking extra swings after a long game, Clemente replied “Tomorrow Tom Seaver pitches and he won’t give me anything to hit except his best pitch.”

Or take Michael Jordan, who reinvented himself almost every year, adding facets to his game to give him additional ways of beating the same people he’d been beating before. Or Tiger Woods, deciding to reinvent his swing, going through a “slump” and emerging to become an even more dominant golfer. The best get to be the best by never settling for less, by seeking to expand upon the basics and making more happen from them.

Note that Kissinger didn’t ask for a new kind of report, nor did Walt want new technology. By the same token, Clemente, Jordan and Woods weren’t stretching the boundaries of the sport. In all these cases, the stretching happened within. It was—-it always is—-a personal issue…and yes, it is one of choice.

Plussing. Do you know anyone who’s doing it? Are you?

The Jenius Has Spoken.

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