“More Better,” Ideals, and To Be or To Do: Guest Post by Scott Shipman

Several years ago I frequented a barber shop owned by a Vietnamese immigrant named, Tom. Tom had been in the United States for over a decade, but hadn’t mastered very much English. However, that didn’t seem to be holding him back as he had/has a thriving business, and does a good job at a good price. The signature conclusion of Tom’s haircuts was rotate the barber chair so the customer could look in the mirror and either approve or disapprove of his work. This conclusion was always accompanied with him saying with hearty enthusiasm, “more better!” (I always liked to think Tom’s use of “more better” was sourced from his naturalization classes and our Constitution’s Preamble, “to form a more perfect Union…”)

“More better” and “more perfect” aren’t ideal grammar, but point towards ideals for which we strive to meet or achieve. Just about everyone has a concept of perfection or excellence, and like many things worth achieving the translation of concept to reality doesn’t come easy. As famed American author, the late-Norman Maclean writes in his classic A River Runs Through It:

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”

For me, to be or to do is guided by a core of ideals, or principles of excellence, that when practiced over a lifetime will result in work(s) of grace and art:

■Honesty: with self and colleagues. In the realm of the science, honesty with physics. Just because something can be written doesn’t mean Mother Nature will comply.
■Courage: to do the right thing, to speak truth to power, to take informed unpopular positions, and to take risks.
■Conviction: know your stuff! Work to learn every facet of your area of responsibility, plus more by being curious.
■Curiosity: as Einstein said, “never stop questioning.” In fact, get accustomed to practicing five iterations of why. This is but one method, there are more, and you can find what works for you with a bit of curiosity and imagination.
■Persistence: never give up, focus, learn, and achieve: do, contribute.
■Optimism: exponentially easier when we “do” our best, because;
■Humility: we all fail, and if we’re not failing we’re not “doing” anything.

This is hard work for most of us because it is easier “to be” fill-in-the-blank than to do and practice these principles. Few would object to these ideals, and most will admire the practitioner some of the time, but not always. Some leaders, colleagues, and systems of organization prefer the party-line to the truth or differences of opinion, and reward honesty with an environment that requires courage to persist and remain. So it is important to know your stuff before you speak or act. You will fail, but fail smart by learning from failure, and don’t give up. All any of us can do is our best, and only you know what your best is…which brings us back to honesty. More often than not, when we examine the gap between what we do and our best, we will find things we can do, questions we can ask, things we can learn to do “more better.”

To be or to do, which way will you go?

Scott is the owner of SHIPMAN Federal Services, Inc., a consulting firm established in 2004 specializing in the application of leadership strategies in the workplace called “To Be or To Do,” a model which he developed. A respected strategist and change agent, Scott provides his customers with unique insight on issues of leadership, organizational culture, and strategic planning, addressing challenges with honesty and making needed changes to drive excellence.

In addition to his interests in organizational excellence and strategy, Scott is a student of strategic naval issues of our day. His other interests, which are reflected at the To Be or To Do blog, include philosophy, history, cognitive psychology, design theory, politics, law, systems theory, complexity theory, maneuver warfare, and the work of the late John Boyd. A passionate speaker and blogger, Scott is also a contributor at zenpundit.com. He has been published in Defense News and has a forthcoming book titled “To Be or To Do.”