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“What differentiates Excellence from Perfection?” was the inquisitive question posed by our senior one day. As we floundered for words, she remarked jovially, “In excellence, you are perfect! In perfection, you aren’t excellent!”

We chuckled at the witty paradox but as I pondered over later, the remark seemed to carry much worth than meets the eye.

English Oxford’s Dictionary defines Excellence as “the state of being extremely good” and Perfection as “extremely good, exact and accurate with no faults”. In daily usage, both these words are used interchangeably and mean similar. One can say, “You are excellent!” or “You are perfect” to mean the same. But do they really? Well, delving deeper behind the words would dig out the difference and careful contemplation would clearly cut the two in different connotations.

Renowned author Thomas Greenspoon put it so excellently when he quipped: Excellence is openness to being wrong; Perfection is to be right. Excellence is a journey; Perfection is a destination. Metaphorically, perfection is like climbing the mountain’s peak. Excellence is climbing the same peak and looking forward to more peaks!

Let’s exemplify the traits: Mr. P has been recently promoted to an elite position in a company. He adopts perfectionism in his ways and wouldn’t allow even a fleck of fault in any work. Even one innocent error is intolerant and could seriously jeopardize the committer’s position. He perceives his methods as perfect and his arrogance wouldn’t allow anyone to alter them. As days go by, his passion for perfection turns into obsession, and gradually many workers resign on account of such rigidity and red-tapism. Eventually, Mr. P, the perfectionist, too gets relegated to lower ranks.

Replace Mr. P with Mr. E, who, embraces the mantra of excellence and espouses the need for continuous flexibility and improvement. For him, an error enlightens the path of progress and pushes one to excel even more. People around him are at ease and are quite open to discuss novel ideas and new methods. Thus, the company’s principle of excellence paves the way for efficiency and effectiveness.

The above example elucidates how Excellence, if truly and earnestly espoused, can triumph over Perfection! In excellence, there is room for improvement and progress unlike in perfection. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Perfection is arriving at a place and thinking the journey is over; Excellence is arriving at the same place but thinking the journey has just begun!  

Zeroing in on the zone of the professionals like Chartered Accountants, Doctors, Lawyers, et al, challenges are inevitable. For chartered accountants, the oceanic restructuring of laws and regulations – GST, IFRS, IND-AS, Company’s Act, etc – are new challenges. Likewise, for medical fraternity, the mighty challenges might be to triumph over new diseases and viruses to make a fitter world to live in. Such challenges in the ever-changing economy and society need to be confronted bravely and wisely. For this, striving for excellence should be the emphatic philosophy should we intend to excel in our respective arena. The above concepts hold very well in every wake of life, too.

As a conclusion, mark the famous saying by author Salvador Dali: Have no fear of perfection-you’ll never reach it. Strive for excellence. Because, as aptly aforesaid, Excellence is a journey.

The author can also be reached at


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CA Saurav Somani
(CA - practice)
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