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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

ARETE -- TO BE EXCELLENT, PRODUCE EXCELLENCE

Those of those who followed and learned from the teachings of Coach Don Meyer are very familiar with the word "arête" -- it was one that Coach spoke of constantly and challenged is teams to aspire.

Arête is always framed in definition with the word "excellence."  It is also attached to moral virtue though in his incredible book, "Resilience," Eric Greitens offers us some outstanding views on the mindset of arête and it's relationship with results and intentions:

We are ultimately measured by our results, by the way our actions shape the world around us.  Without results, all the kind intentions in the world are just a way of entertaining ourselves.

It may be helpful to think about the difference between intentions and results by looking at how the Greeks through about right action.

The word that shows up again and again in their discussion of ethics is arête. As we've already discussed, arête doesn't really mean "virtue," though that's how it's often translated.  When the Greeks used the word arête, it referred to excellence.  They used the same word to describe a vase, the excellence of a great runner, and the excellence of a person.

To be excellent is to be someone who produces excellence.  There is no such things as an excellent shoemaker who regularly turns out flimsy shoes.  So think a big about what the Greeks must have believed about having an excellent character.  Your character was judged excellent not before you acted, but after.  The judgment was based not on your intentions, but on your results.

When we think of virtue as an excellence, we don't ask, "What did I intend?" We ask, "What did I do?"