After graduation, one of my IIT buddies, a mechanical engineer, took up a job at a large auto manufacturer in India.
Once he joined the manufacturing plant, he saw that they did not have too much respect for precision. If some part of the car assembly did not fit exactly, they would just try to see if light hammering could make it fit.
But his experience in Germany turned out to be very different. They were fanatic about precision – even a fraction of an mm tolerance was taken very seriously.
The difference between good and outstanding is the difference between 99% and 99.99%. That extra care is what Mercedez and BMW brands are built upon.
Whether it is precision engineering or performance in international sports, the winner and loser differ by such a small amount that most of us would never even notice.
Precision engineering is a good metaphor for excellence. In engineering, the quality is lost when that fraction of a millimeter ‘tolerance’ is not respected. In life, excellence is lost when we have that little bit of extra tolerance for sloppiness.
Whether as an individual, company, or society – how good we are depends upon what we are UNWILLING to tolerate.