I was recently fascinated by an intriguing video of author and screenwriter Neil Gaiman giving a commencement speech to the 2012 University of the Arts graduating class. There were several marvelous insights in the speech, which you can see here. About three quarters of the way through, Gaiman eloquently articulates the path to business excellence for freelancers. It applies very nicely to business across the board.

Entrepreneurs, managers, and employees alike take heed, if you want to be considered excellent at business, you need to master these three simple things.

1. Be Efficient --Turn in work on time.

2. Be Effective--Do great work.

3. Be Congenial--Be a pleasure to work with.

Of course this makes perfect sense. But Gaiman goes on to point out that even any two of these will keep you in business if you can't master all three. Here is why:

  • If you do great work and are a pleasure to deal with, then most people will put up with a deliverable arriving a little late.
  • If you turn in work on time and you are a pleasure to deal with, then most people will put up with your work being a little less than perfect.
  • And if you turn in great work and you turn it in on time then people are more willing to put up with you being unpleasant.

Now I agree wholeheartedly that two out of three may be enough to keep you limping along in the business world, but it also leaves the door wide open for those really amazing people in business who strive to achieve a hat trick.

Gaiman has done an excellent job of identifying the typical approach to business: Two out of three ain't bad. That means those of you who are diligent enough to be efficient, effective, and congenial, can achieve excellence and roar past your mediocre competition with ease.

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