Monthly Archives: May 2012

Passion to Perfection

Passion to Perfection

An Art of the Question Blog

Is my passion driving personal excellence?

If you consistently do your best, the worst won’t happen.

–       B.C. Forbes

Things were desperate.

Bill’s daughter was getting married. It was to be the perfect day. The perfect setting, the perfect caterer, the perfect groom – and of course, the perfect daughter. There was just one hitch. Bill needed a tuxedo.

Not just any tux would do. He needed an Armani. He looked everywhere, but could not find an Armani tux. Time was running out.  In desperation, he called his local Nordstrom.

The professional at Nordstrom took his measurements and asked for a little time to work out the logistics of getting the tuxedo. Bill thanked her and left, cautiously hoping for a miracle.

He got a call from the Nordstrom sales person the next afternoon. They had the tux, and were doing the alterations. The tux would be ready very next day! Unbelievable!

The next day, Bill drove to Nordstrom and tried on the tux, which fit perfectly – courtesy of Nordstrom, who did the alterations for free! After searching the entire city for a week for an Armani tuxedo with no success, Bill could not have been more excited. Curious, he asked his Nordstrom personal shopper how they found the tux and got it ready for him so quickly.  She just smiled, and replied, “Magic”.

But Bill wasn’t going to be put off so easily. He kept asking, and finally got the whole story.

As soon as he left the store that first day, she began working the phones. She found the tuxedo. Only one problem – it was in New York – the other side of the continent!

She arranged with her contact in New York to put the tux on a truck which was headed to Chicago. She called the Nordstrom in Chicago and made arrangements for one of the team members there to meet the truck.  From there, they sent the tuxedo overnight to Portland, where Bill lived.

She then coordinated with the alterations team to do a rush job, and do it perfectly, which they did, in time for Bill to pick it up just as they had promised.

And there you have it – magic, Nordstrom style.

Oh, and one more thing. Nordstrom doesn’t sell Armani tuxedos.

Where does that kind of service mindset come from? What made the Nordstrom professional go to such great lengths to find, ship, alter and present an item that their company doesn’t even sell?

It is passion.

In ancient Greece, there was a teacher named Apollos. One of his students was a physician named Luke, who described Apollos as a man “fervent in spirit who spoke and taught accurately”.  The word fervent comes from the Latin  ferventem, and means “boiling hot, glowing.” That is an excellent description of passion.

And notice that it goes on to say that he spoke and taught accurately.  In the Greek, this word is rendered Akribos, and means to be diligent, accurate. perfect and exact.  It means to be excellent.  Passion leads to excellence.

I taught a class recently on passion and personal excellence.  They are linked. Passion gives birth to personal excellence. Passion arises from deep inside us and drives us to do things to the very best of our ability – and beyond. Passion sees no obstacles – it sees only the opportunity. The opportunity to be unique, to serve a customer or a client in ways that absolute blow away all expectations. Passion drives us with a deep fire.

Do you have that kind of passion?

Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “NO!” from many of us. According to one study (see done by BlessingWhite, only about 1 in 3 employees are engaged in their work.

Think about that for a minute. What if your chances of getting a pilot that paid attention to flying the plane was 1 in 3? Would you get on the plane? Or how about if you knew the doctor who was going to do surgery on you only got it right every third patient? Would you choose a different doctor?

Of course, none of us would get on that plane or go under that knife. But every day, we deal with people who are disengaged, providing a substandard service or product for their customers, their employers, and anyone else who comes into their orbit.

And the interesting thing is this – most of us don’t wake up and say to ourselves, “Today, I am really going to blow it. Today is the day I am going to do the worst job possible! Today I will leave a trail of such poor performance that no one will ever want to hire me again!”

No, but we do something even more damaging. We allow ourselves to be mediocre. Apathetic. Lethargic. Disinterested. Bored. Uncaring. We allow ourselves to just get by, expending the least amount of energy and engagement possible.

Here is the irony! We weren’t created to be that way!  When we do just enough to get by, it robs us of our energy. We were created to be people of passion. When we do a job well, we are energized and excited.

Do you have passion?

In the early 19th century, retail stores were an iffy affair. Poor merchandise, dirty stores, and terrible customer service marked the landscape of the retail world. But one entrepreneur didn’t buy in to the standard set by many. He had passion. He wanted to do it better, and he knew he could set himself and his organization apart from the crowd.

His name was Marshall Field. When he launched Marshall Field and Company in 1881, he immediately raised the bar for the rest of the retail world. He gave his customers a guarantee and the right to return merchandise. He offered credit. He even put a restaurant in his department store for customers!  He was passionate about his work, and it led to excellence in what he gave to others.

He put it this way.

“To do the right thing, at the right time, in the right way; to do some things better than they were ever done before; to eliminate errors; to know both sides of the question; to be courteous; to be an example; to work for the love of work; to anticipate requirements; to develop resources; to recognize no impediments; to master circumstances; to act from reason rather than rule; to be satisfied with nothing short of perfection.”

Do I have passion? Is it leading to personal excellence?


Coming soon! Psalm/One Press presents the new book by Terry D. Newberry, The Boss. For more information, go to, click on the page for The Boss.


It’s A Bird! It’s A Plane! No, Wait – It’s Ed!

Could That Be A Hero?

An Art of the Question Blog


I think he was Superman.

It all started pretty normally.  He was born in a small town in Mississippi, one of nine children. From early in his life, he knew he wanted to be a military man.  He fulfilled his dream, serving in both the US Navy and the Army.  In fact, he joined the Navy and served in WW II before he ever graduated high school!

After the war, he went back home, and completed his high school degree, and then it was off to the service again – this time the US Army. He fought in Korea, and survived the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, in which 257 of his fellow soldiers died.  Only 14 men survived the first skirmishes.  14 out of 271.  Like I said – Superman.

During that battle, he received a battlefield commission promoting him to second lieutenant. He turned around and immediately led his men back up the hill, back into the thick of combat. He had neither the time nor the luxury of fear or hesitation.  Ed W. “Too Tall” Freeman was a hero. A true, honest-to-goodness American hero.

Ed always wanted to be a pilot, but he exceeded the height limitations. He was “too tall” for pilot duties – hence the nickname.  But Ed wasn’t one to give up easily on his dreams. He had joined the military and served in two branches and two wars because that’s what he wanted to do.  He trusted that things would work out as they should. And sure enough, in 1955 the height limits were changed, and Ed became a pilot.  He fulfilled his dream, and learned to fly. 

I’m telling you, he was Superman.

Isn’t it interesting how some people seem to be guided and set aside for a particular task or time? It’s as though their calling – their passion – is a spark, an engine and a homing device, all in one, that moves them into their perfect place. That’s how it was with Ed.

Think about it. Like I said, he survived a two-year assignment on the USS Cacapon during WWII. He then survived the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, beating the odds in which 271 men went in, and only 14 came out. And now, inexplicably, the height limit for pilot training was raised, and Ed realized his dream of becoming an aviator.  

But perhaps there was something else at work here. Although Ed was already a hero, he was about to become the stuff of legend 

The date was November 11. The year was 1967.  Ed W. Freeman was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He was nine days shy of his 40th birthday. 

The area around LZ (Landing Zone) X-ray was hot. US Forces were surrounded and outnumbered by the enemy nearly 8-to-1. The brass on the ground had instructed that all helicopters were to clear the area – including the MedEvac teams.  

There were wounded men – teen-aged boys, really – in the middle of that hell, watching the choppers peel off, one by one, each turn of the rotor taking them further away from the wounded and damned. The boys huddled on the ground, perhaps praying for a quick end, knowing the situation was hopeless. 


And then Ed showed up.

Flying a lightly armored, unarmed UH-1 Huey, he landed in the middle of that maelstrom of enemy fire, taking hits.  And waiting. Waiting for some of those teenagers to be loaded onboard so that he could fly them to safety.

Again and again he returned, his chopper pocked with bullet holes, the Perspex windows cracked and broken, smoke billowing from the motor. Fourteen times he dropped into that caldron of Hell, until he had flown every wounded soldier to safety – all 30-plus of them. He sustained four bullet wounds during the extraction. 

Ed Freeman was Superman. Ed Freeman was an American warrior. Ed Freeman was a hero.

He retired as a Major in the US Army, and went home to his wife and two sons.  When he got home, I wonder how many people passed him on the street, or saw him in the market, or sold him a car or socks or fishing gear, never knowing how close they were to a living legend.  How many people greeted him at the Post Office and never realized that he had his very own Post Office – the one in his hometown had been named after him! Or maybe they saw him at the grocery store, unaware of the scars he bore in his body from bullet holes, unaware of the magnificent spirit contained in that aging body. Unaware.

How many sensed the man he was? How many knew the truth of his bravery?  I know of at least 30 young men who were keenly aware.  I wonder what those 30 young men rescued by Ed on that November day did with their lives?

I wish I could have met Ed “Too Tall” Freeman. I would like to have had a glass of iced tea with him. Not to talk about the war or his heroic exploits, but just to meet the man whose spirit was so powerful that it transcended risk or danger – or even death.  Yes, death. Because Ed passed away a few years ago. His passing went relatively unnoticed, which seems wrong to me. It seems that there should have been silence and fanfare and weeping and flags flown at half mast, and maybe even a disturbance in “the force”. Because Ed was a hero. But even Superman can die.

How many heroes do we meet every day, unaware of the immensity of their spirit cloistered in a body that has become old and frail.  How much we owe these silent men and women, how much respect is due them. They have a story to tell and wisdom to share, and courage to inspire.

Learning about Ed made me want to be a better person. It made me, in some small  way, want to be a hero to someone. Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m not thinking of anything like Ed did. But maybe something simple. Maybe, at the end of the day, our most powerful days are those when we are able to make a difference in the life of someone else.

And boy, we could use some of those things right now.  We need a few more Supermen. We need a few more “Ed’s”.

%d bloggers like this: