We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit – Aristotle

I am writing about this quote from Aristotle, as a followup to the idea i was sharing a couple days ago:
Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary feats, once they’ve routinized the right habits.

Habits are powerful, and are with no doubt the key to success.

Jumping to the quote itself:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit


I will split the quote in two. Let’s start with the first statement:

We are what we repeatedly do.

It is not complex psychology, it is basic sociology. People who do a specific task repeatedly, have this task become like an identity, or a badge of identification in other people’s judgmental mindset. For better or worse, baker, artist, scammer, alcoholic, gym goer ….

But also doing something repeatedly imprints the act on our character. Becoming more patient, more attentive to details, etc …

Jumping to the second statement:

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Excellence or laziness for that matter are attitudes or defining characteristics of a specific personality. But it is true that lazy people tend to be lazy in everything they do, and those who seek excellence do that in most things they do.

But, is it an attitude or a habit? I would disagree with Aristotle, in the sense, i see it as an attitude rather than a habit.

But it is also true, that people who seek excellence find it difficult to deliver less, due to the habit of always delivering the best they can. But maybe it is also related to self image, an image that could have been defined by how people look at them.

This quote is often used as a motivational pitch. You might think i am foolish to disagree with Aristotle. But this quote has only the purpose of “show off”, it has no real substance.
To start, no one can claim excellence in everything, thus this quote is already rendered invalid because it can not be a habit if not generalized.
Then, being a perfectionist in a specific task, can be the love of what you do. It can also have a reputation element to it.
Rich billionaires, have no right sharing such a quote, because this facade of being a seeker of excellence does not translate much when the work is done by the employees.

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Abdallah Alaili

I'm a serial entrepreneur (mostly tech) and micro-investor (tiny), this is a blog to learn from other entrepreneurs and spread the wisdom to many more. You can find me on: Instagram - Twitter - Linkedin - more about me