My wife, Stephanie, is a big fan of the television show, Dancing With the Stars, although after last night’s results show, that may soon change. For those who may live in a vacuum (or just don’t care), Brandy, an obviously talented performer and dancer was voted off while Bristol Palin, the pleasant enough but completely untalented daughter of the ex-governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for Vice President, advanced to the semi-finals. Stephanie, now dreading the real possibility that Bristol may actually win, has vowed to stop watching the show if that occurs.
I have nothing against Bristol Palin and I personally could not care less about who wins next week as the result will have no impact whatsoever on my life except for the fallout from my wife from which she will recover. But for the next seven days I know that I will be an unwilling participant in several more rehashed discussions as to how it is possible that Bristol could receive these millions of votes. I have tried to explain to my wife that there are several possible reasons why this could have occurred:
1. The entire population of Alaska, now that summer has passed, has nothing to do and therefore they all voted several times for their favorite daughter (or granddaughter), not dissimilar to the inconceivable success of Sanjaya on American Idol Season Six where the only possible explanation is that the call centers of India flooded the voting;
2. There is a conspiracy among competing networks to dismantle ABC’s top show;
3. The rejuvenation of the Republican Party and the strength the Tea Party movement as manifested in the mid-term elections has been extended to a campaign to move beyond politics to American culture and, in a foreshadowing of the presidential nomination for 2012 and a show of strength, the members have made their power and feelings known.
The more likely reason and the one that I believe is true is that the American public has decided to once again reward mediocrity. As Bristol herself has proclaimed, an unwed mother, an apparently nice enough daughter of a celebrity but with no discernible talent or marketable skills, has tried very hard and admittedly improved (it would have been very hard to have done otherwise) and therefore has earned the win.
This is very similar to what has happened in the school systems in recent years. First we saw bumper stickers on cars advertising the fact that the drivers’ children had been named “student of the year”. The next year the stickers said that their child had made the honor roll. But as that did not properly promote self esteem among the non-achievers, the next year the bumper stickers said “my child achieved perfect attendance” or “my child is a good citizen at…” and, finally, as that apparently still did not include everyone, that has now degraded to “I am the parent of a wonderful child”. I am waiting for the next generation of bumper sticker which more honestly states “Isn’t it wonderful, my child was not expelled this week?”
By the way, here is the only “my child” bumper sticker that I believe is worthy of display:
With an expressed goal of enhancing self esteem we promote and reward mediocrity in the schools and in life. We lower expectations to the absolute minimum, and then proclaim that someone meeting those standards is somehow worthy of recognition. We reward behavior that is not exceptional but merely meeting the expected minimum standards of performance. And our children and our society fall further behind the rest of the world in almost every possible way, believing that merely showing up and trying is good enough, and finding fault with others when they are not rewarded for those actions.
In the homebuilding business or any other for-profit endeavor, would we be reasonable in giving someone a plaque or certificate of merit, a raise or promotion merely because they regularly showed up for work. Should we reward a minimal level of performance or hand out bonuses to team members for not fighting with their fellow workers or their boss? Will we sell more new homes if our team does nothing more than design houses that merely meet the absolute minimum codes and standards of functionality? Can we successfully compete with other builders if our homes provide no price or value superiority as we merely met the minimum level of performance?
The reality is that unless we are better homebuilders, providing homes and experiences that are better than the competition in some visible and concrete fashion, we will not sell enough homes, not make enough profit (or any profit at all) and our homebuilding company will be forced to cease operation. We need to provide better communities, better homes, better perceived value, better marketing and a better sales experience to succeed and prosper. And that starts and ends with better people. People that are willing, eager and driven to go above and beyond, Each team member constantly self-motivated and striving to become the “employee of the year” and failing that, learning from that failure and working even harder and smarter the next year toward achieving that goal.
Let’s let the chips fall where they may for Dancing With The Stars. But we need to work toward a long-term societal goal of not accepting mediocrity and instead always striving for improvement. And in homebuilding we need to be working harder and smarter every day toward achieving excellence in every possible way. Nothing less will do. But that’s just my opinion.
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