You Need To Know What Good Looks Like

You Need To Know What Good Looks Like


Before we dive into why so many of us are stuck with mediocrity, here are 3 random fun things I would like to share with you:

  1. Jacob Collier managed to turn a crowd into an impromptu choir. What's most amazing was he was able to make them sing chromatically.  
  2. Women now outnumber men in the New York Philharmonic, for the first time ever in its 180-year history. Jeez. What took so long.
  3. Somehow the most nightmarish things (1) (2) always happened to violinists who performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto.

Leadership Idea

My daughter changed her violin teacher last June. The teacher, Miss Kitty, is a professionally active violinist. She plays in orchestras and runs a string ensemble.  She performs frequently. She loves tackling new and alternative music. And boy, she makes tremendous sound with her violin.

Prior to Miss Kitty, my daughter was only exposed to mediocre violin playing. Her previous teacher was a good teacher but wasn’t actively playing. He knew how to teach, but his playing was very typical of most violin teachers- rusty. Similarly, at home, my daughter had to endure my playing, which was amateur and careless. To her, the sounds professional virtuosi made on YouTube/Apple Music were unrealistic and distant. To her, what’s possible was the sounds surrounded her in her real life. To her, what’s good wasn’t really that good.

Miss Kitty changed that. While Miss Kitty’s impeccable technique impressed us, it was the sound she could make and her passion for music that fundamentally changed us. Her playing was enthralling. Her relentless striving for better music was inspirational.  She has opened the door to a new world of possibilities. She has reset the reference point for what good looks and sounds like.

My daughter now discerns differently. She stands more upright. She moves her bow more courageously.

You need to know what good looks like. But for many of us, we are stuck in environments where we are surrounded by mediocrity. Sadly, this is especially common in the workplace.

Most coworkers are there for the job and not for excellence. Their output merely meets expectation because most companies don’t reward striving and excellence. Most teams are littered with folks who do just enough to get by. That’s why so many people end up stagnating. It’s not their fault. It’s the “meh” environment they are stuck with. It’s very hard to swim against the tides. We accept what we have become use to and no longer strive for more.

a view of an office building and the activities inside it

Worse, our ability to work alongside high performers is a muscle. It atrophies and becomes weak when we don’t use it. That’s why for many it’s scary when someone good shows up in our teams, because it’s exhausting to keep up with high standards, and because we know we are exposed.

You need to know what good looks like. If you have never tasted Kobe steaks in your life, you will never be able to make great steaks. You need to sort after good. Once you have seen good, then you have a chance to be great, because now you know what you need to achieve and exceed.

And to change the environment, you need to take control of the situation and be the one to reset the reference points. You can’t wait for your boss to surround you with “A” players. You ought to find them. Reach out and find people/teachers/role models/mentors/peers who can show you what good looks like. It’s like turning on a light bulb. It illuminates your path and energises your potential. It gives us a target to aim for, and a meaning to the things we do. Benchmark yourself against them, strive, become the “A” player, and set the bar for yourself and those around you.

So go look for it. Be brave to find a Miss Kitty in your life. Invest in the relationships and open yourself to new experiences. Reset the reference point. You need to know what good looks like. It’s the only way to get better and fulfil your potential. Everything else is a waste of your time.


  1. Reply and chat with me! Tell me what you think of this. Or whatever is on your mind. I will always reply, I guarantee it.
  2. Share this with someone whom you think wants to sound smarter, and or anyone who deserves something light and fun.  (Plus, they trust your recommendations more than my LinkedIn ads.)

Thank you for reading this. I think about leadership & psychology in the showers. I know it's odd, but these topics are important and fun. I hope you find them useful too.

Work diligently. You are bound to be successful.