It's the secret to a good cappuccino, a great meal, an extraordinary salesman or a great fashion house.
Take this flat white I'm having here today, in the same coffee shop as yesterday. Yesterday, I could barely drink it for fear I would turn into a yeti and stay up dancing through the week – that's how strong it was. Today, it resembles a latte.
Now we aficionados of the daily coffee, expect one thing – consistency.
We want this morning's coffee to taste as good as it did yesterday, last week, or last month, and expect the same for next week, next month and tomorrow.
That's the only reason we chose this specific coffee shop, this particular brand of coffee and this exact style of preparation.
"Adventure in life is good; consistency in coffee even better.”
Justina Chen, North of Beautiful
The latte art guide details 12 different types of coffee and how to make them. The trusty wikipedia expands that to 31.
Baristas on Quora tell us that there are at least a dozen aspects, which alone may produce bitter coffee. Then there's the milk, the water, the pour, on and on. They warn however, that “it is a curse to understand the whole espresso process if you frequent sub-par coffee shops, or even good ones with inexperienced baristas.” Amen to that!
Yes! Coffee making is an exact science, and getting the perfect cappuccino every time, or consistency, is the hallmark of excellence.
What creates the difference between good and awesome is repetition. Doing something well once or twice is within everybody's reach. A great cake, a brilliant piano performance, a hugely profitable month, a straight A in an exam.
Everyone may have had the experience once, perhaps a few times. The great achievers and performers though – those Olympic medalists, and billionaires and record breakers and cum laude graduates, they do it all the time. Yes. They focus, and train and intend to do that, every time. They are able to repeat that brilliant something. Again and again. That's consistency.
Repetition and continuous improvement means expanding, stretching beyond limits and comfort zones. And that starts in the mind. It requires belief and faith and perseverance – subjects I covered before.
Consistency asks that you pay attention, look, be aware. Be conscious. It's always about the little detail.
Mostly, consistency is the result of a quest for excellence. A desire to make things better. It could be a cup of coffee, or growing a perfect rose, or becoming more sustainable, or making the world a better place.
A quest for excellence, a desire to better things, means caring. It means caring enough to go the extra distance, to do that little bit more. But that tiny bit more, that extra little something, always translates into a huge difference.
Consider the finish of a garment or a shoe; the difference a tiny bit of salt makes on a soft boiled egg; or a few drops of lemon on a piece of salmon.
Consider athletes. In July 1945 Gunder Hägg took the title for the fastest mile run (4:01.4) from fellow Swede Arne Anderson. He beat him by 0.2 seconds!
It's interesting to note that Hägg first won this title three years earlier by beating the previous record, also by 0.2 seconds. Hägg's winning time was at that time 4:06.2 which Anderson matched a mere nine days later.
Two months after that, Hägg beat Anderson again, by a whole 2 seconds, prompting Anderson to do the same within that same year. Then Anderson beat his own record by another second a year after that.
You'd think Hägg would have left it at that – but no, yet another year later...we are now in 1945 – just 0.2 seconds (that's as long as it takes you to say 'one, two') and Hägg wins back the title! Clearly the Swedes are more competitive than they'd have us believe.
But consider that it took Hägg three whole years to improve his record from 4:06.2 to 4:01.4 that's a 5.2 second improvement! Three years to improve something by five seconds. Imagine that! Imagine the perseverance, and the repetition. Imagine how many times Hägg must have run that mile. Over and over again. And then again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Once more....
Incidentally, it took nine years for this record to be broken again by Bannister. Yes, Kiki does does speak sport every now and then. (Why are you talking in the third person Kiki?)
My Jung teacher always said, that the last five or ten percent of anything is always much, much harder to do than the first ninety or ninety five. That's definitely true. Then that very, very last bit – that last two or three percent. Well... Improving that, is something different all together. If you've ever tried to raise your grade or project mark or musical performance score from say 96% to 98% you will appreciate exactly how hard it is.
Trying to get something just right, beautiful, excellent, perfect, is not neurotic. It's not unrealistic, or foolish. It may be difficult, but when you look at a rose, or a sunset, when you taste a perfect hollandaise sauce, or indeed a well made cappuccino, then you realise that it is possible!
And if it's possible to do whatever it is, perfectly and beautifully once, then it's possible to repeat that and do it again. Though it will be much harder. That's consistency.
Consistency requires that we never settle. It is a hero's quest. Especially in the land of mediocrity. Do we live there? Sometimes I think we do. Like some version of Gulliver's Travels. Yes, I do think that sometimes. I think it when all odds seem to conspire towards settling for some third rate, half baked version of what I'm trying to do. And when the pressure is on to just give up and settle.
But we need never give up or settle. We need never relinquish our quest for excellence and beauty. For perfection. For great delivery. For improvement. For consistency. For where will the world be if we all stop trying to excel? If we stop trying to make things better?
Imagine if Michaelangelo had said, 'stuff it, that's good enough I think. This rock is way too hard. Call it an abstract... I'm going to stop here and go for a pint with the lads.'
Imagine if Mother Teresa had said, 'this is such a huge task, I don't know where to start. it's no use even trying. How can I possibly make anything better here?'
Imagine if the Buddha had said 'nah, this enlightenment lark is much too difficult, I think I'll just go back to the palace'.
Even if we are not trying to perfect or excel. We at least have to try to make something, anything, better. Improve something. Especially something we are doing. And that, requires a specific way of looking at the world. It is a way of looking that says I care. I take responsibility. I respond. I create. I can make a difference.
Consider for a second what a difference one single human being can make. It's always one single human being – not a group or a crowd or a posse. Not initially, anyway. It's always just one person. One Mother Teresa. One Mandela. One Christopher Columbus. One Jesus Christ. One Martin Luther King.
One person, is all it takes to change the world. One small act is all it takes to change the world. Consider that. Consider that that person could be you.
The world is holographic, energetic, connected, and exists by virtue of relationship. So when we make one small part better, we improve the whole.
If we desire and focus on improving and on making something better, we can start with a better cappuccino. (Listen up baristas of the mediocre coffee...) Or a cup of tea. Do you know how hard it is to get a decent cup of that? Harder by far than getting a good coffee. Oh and please, please, can we get rid of those terrible metal tea pots that have infiltrated every coffee house from here to Timbuktu!!! They were never designed for breakfast tea with milk! (Okay, enough ranting Kiki!)
We could create a great omelette, a beautiful book or website, better delivery of our product, better speech towards our staff. We could dress better, keep a cleaner car. Many teenagers could simply wash their hair! We could make one single person's day better, somehow.
We could pick up that litter we didn't drop, or hang that shirt back on the rail or tidy the public bathroom even if we didn't create the soap drip on the counter. (it's just soap...)
The Japanese call it Kaizen, the idea of small, continuous improvement.
And when we make anything better, we automatically make the world better, and we improve everything in our own lives too. Because how you do anything is how you do everything. And because everything is connected.
With the motivation of making things better, we can repeat, becoming consistent in making things better, and then perhaps making one very special something great. Like a cappuccino. Every time. Or a cheese souffle. Or the words to a song. Or a speech that will raise money for an orphanage. Or words to end the war. Any war.
A quest for excellence. Making things better. Kaizen. Consistency.
Consistent performance is not just about doing though, it's actually about being.
To deliver consistency we have to cultivate consistent behaviour.
Can we be consistently patient, (no, not I, sir) kind, honest, trustworthy, reliable, loving, conscious, uplifting, cheerful? We sooo need more cheerful people!! Really, we do! Everyone need to cheer the dickens up already! (PG rating) And have more fun! Much more fun. Lightness. Upliftment.
What behaviour can we consistently deliver that makes a positive difference? What qualities in ourselves are we working on excelling in? Consistently. That's the real question.
Consistency requires focus and dedication and above all willingness. Willingness to make things better. A desire to leave things better than you found them.
'Don't try to build the greatest wall that's ever been built.
Focus on laying a single, expertly-placed brick.
Then keep doing that, every day.'
Make one single person's day better, somehow, today. Make something better!
We create the world