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“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
The Essence of Excellence
Aristotle’s profound words remind us that excellence is not a singular achievement but a continuous journey. It’s an art honed through consistent practice and dedication. This quote encapsulates the essence of excellence, emphasizing that it is the result of our habitual actions rather than an inherent trait. It suggests that excellence is accessible to anyone willing to commit to the discipline of repeated right action.
Aristotle: The Philosopher of Excellence
Aristotle, one of the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece, spent his life exploring and teaching the concepts of virtue, ethics, and excellence. His philosophy was not just theoretical; it was practical, aimed at understanding how to live well and achieve a good life. Aristotle believed in the power of habituation in forming character and achieving moral excellence. His teachings continue to influence modern thought, emphasizing the importance of action in shaping our character and destiny.
Further Historical Examples of Excellence as a Habit
Throughout history, there have been numerous examples of individuals who embodied Aristotle’s concept of excellence. One such figure is Leonardo da Vinci, a polymath whose relentless pursuit of knowledge and skill in diverse fields like art, science, and engineering made him a paragon of Renaissance humanism. His life was a testament to the idea that excellence is a habit, not an act. Another example is Marie Curie, whose dedication to science and repeated experiments led to groundbreaking discoveries in radioactivity, earning her two Nobel Prizes.
Aristotle and Philosophy
Aristotle (384-322 BCE) was a Greek philosopher and polymath who made significant contributions to various fields, including philosophy, science, and ethics. Here’s a factual anecdote from his life:
Aristotle was born in Stagira, a small town in ancient Macedonia. His father, Nicomachus, was a physician who served as the personal physician to King Amyntas III of Macedon. When Aristotle was just a young boy, his father died, and he was taken under the care of his guardian, Proxenus of Atarneus.
Proxenus was a prominent Greek statesman and philosopher who had a great influence on Aristotle’s early life. He saw the potential in the young Aristotle and encouraged him to pursue his interest in philosophy. Proxenus also introduced Aristotle to the works of the famous Greek philosopher Plato, who would later become a significant influence on Aristotle’s own philosophical ideas.
Despite his guardian’s efforts to encourage him to pursue a career in philosophy, Aristotle initially showed little interest in the subject. According to legend, Aristotle’s first love was not philosophy, but rather horses. He was known to have been an excellent horseman and had a passion for horse breeding.
However, as he grew older, Aristotle began to develop an interest in philosophy, particularly in the works of Plato. He eventually left Stagira to study under Plato at the Academy in Athens, where he remained for nearly 20 years. During this time, Aristotle became one of Plato’s most devoted students and developed a strong foundation in philosophy, which would later serve as the basis for his own philosophical ideas.
This anecdote highlights the significant influence that Proxenus had on Aristotle’s early life and the unexpected way in which Aristotle’s passion for horses eventually led him to pursue a career in philosophy.
Aristotle and The Lyceum
After leaving Plato’s Academy, Aristotle established his own school in Athens around 335 BC, known as the Lyceum. Unlike Plato, who focused more on theoretical philosophy, Aristotle emphasized empirical observation and practical inquiry. He believed that knowledge was gained from experience and that excellence in understanding the world around us came from systematic observation and analysis.
At the Lyceum, Aristotle conducted courses and extensive research. He and his students collected specimens from the natural world, categorized them, and studied their behaviors and properties. This methodical approach was revolutionary at the time and laid the groundwork for modern scientific methods.
One of the most significant contributions of Aristotle at the Lyceum was his development of the concept of logic and critical thinking. He believed that excellence in thought was achieved not through innate wisdom but through the disciplined practice of logical reasoning. His works on logic, known as the Organon, became the foundational texts for logical analysis and were used for centuries as the standard for philosophical and scientific inquiry.
This anecdote from Aristotle’s life illustrates his belief that excellence is a result of habitual practice and disciplined effort. His establishment of the Lyceum and his methodical approach to teaching and research exemplify his commitment to the idea that excellence is cultivated through consistent and deliberate action. It wasn’t just his innate intelligence that made Aristotle a great philosopher; it was his dedication to the habit of rigorous thinking and observation.
More Quotes on Excellence and Habit
“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine.” – Mike Murdock
“Small disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” – John C. Maxwell
“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.” – Robert Collier
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” – Vince Lombardi
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” – Michelangelo