A degree of excellence

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

I met with the Athletic Director of the Naval Academy recently at a fundraiser. He addressed the incredible financial pressure on our colleges and universities to raise funds for athletic programs to satisfy alumni. Such a vicious cycle. Alums want winners; winning programs require extensive funding; extensive funding requires the support of the alumni.

What made his presentation memorable was his example about excellence. Now that I’ve searched the Web, this particular one is everywhere, but I marvelled when I heard it last month for the first time. He described the difference between “potential energy” and “useful energy” or the distinction between “almost” and “excellence” by describing the increase in temperature required to convert simmering water to steam.

1 Degree. Water at 211 degrees rumbles or simmers or looks active, but cannot be put to use. Increase the temperature by 1 degree to 212 degrees on the Farenheit scale and water boils, creating steam which has innumerable applications.

1 degree separates potential from execution. As we consider the way forward in our lives, our work, even our country, let’s think about improving our performances by 1 degree.