in Career Development

Understanding Quality: Duty Towards Self

Core of a Kiwi Fruit : Photograph By Tanmay Vora

Gross definition of quality is externally oriented – meeting and exceeding customer expectations, satisfying their implicit and explicit requirements, the degree of excellence, and conformance to specifications. They all refer to something outside of us.

At a subtle level, quality stems from what is inside of us. More than deliverance to others, it is deliverance to our own selves. If what we do makes us happy, it will make them happy too.

In his timeless classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, Robert M. Pirzig captures the cultural correlation between ancient Greek and Hindu mythologies and quality.

Consider this snippet:

“What moves the Greek warriors to deeds of heroism is not the sense of duty as we understand it – duty towards others; it is rather duty towards himself. He strives after that which we translate ‘virtue’ but is in Greek arête, excellence. …. Phaedrus was fascinated too by the description of the motive of “duty towards self” which is an almost exact translation of the Sanskrit word dharma.”

A lot of self-help material talk about “living up to one’s full potential” – in Greek mythology, that is exactly what arête or excellence means. And it starts from an intense desire to do whatever you do in the best possible manner – not for someone else, but for the self.

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.” – Robert M. Pirzig

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My other attempts to understand Quality from a different lens:

1) Quality is Human. Quality is Love.
2) Quality? Excellence? What?
3) Quality is Happiness
4) Quality and Quantity – Compliance and Excellence

  1. ‘Cleansing of the Soul’ – आत्मशुध्धि – was considered the act of attaining freedom from all the worldly attractions so as to reach the state of The Exalted One.
    In the ancient times, it was deemed necessary to shun all the mundane connections and practice penance in absolutely isolated place to search the inner soul.
    In most of the cases, the person who chose to take up such an onerous task did not have any reference for defining what the Exalted State would mean.
    So, search was to be conducted unaided and ultimate results were to be established to the ‘satisfaction’ of the inner soul. This called for simple lack of complacence for what ‘is’ and a very high expectation of what ‘ought-to-be’.
    It is not the desire to succeed while achieving the minimum of compliance, but the eager willingness to fail while achieving the ‘highest ever’ goal that brings out the quality that satisfies the self.

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