What is Excellence?
According to the dictionary it is defined as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.”
“… a center of academic excellence.”
A perfect example of excellence over a lifetime, to amazing results… Marie Curie.
Understanding Can Take a Life to Find
I am extremely interested in understanding the things people pursue that require a long and intense application of Excellence and who they become because of that pursuit.
I am intensely curious about people who pursue things that require a long and intense application of Excellence and how that creates who they become.
One of these people, to me, is a woman named Marie Curie. Wikipedia says:
She was born in Warsaw, in what was then the Kingdom of Poland, part of the Russian Empire. She studied at Warsaw’s clandestine Flying University and began her practical scientific training in Warsaw. In 1891, aged 24, she followed her elder sister Bronisława to study in Paris, where she earned her higher degrees and conducted her subsequent scientific work. In 1895 she married the French physicist Pierre Curie, and she shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics with him and with the physicist Henri Becquerel for their pioneering work developing the theory of “radioactivity”—a term she coined. In 1906 Pierre Curie died in a Paris street accident.
Marie won the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her discovery of the elements polonium and radium, using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.
Under her direction, the world’s first studies were conducted into the treatment of neoplasms by the use of radioactive isotopes. In 1920 she founded the Curie Institute in Paris, and in 1932 the Curie Institute in Warsaw; both remain major centers of medical research. During World War I she developed mobile radiography units to provide X-ray services to field hospitals.
While a French citizen, Marie Skłodowska Curie, who used both surnames, never lost her sense of Polish identity. She taught her daughters the Polish language and took them on visits to Poland. She named the first chemical element she discovered polonium, after her native country.
Marie Curie died in 1934, aged 66, at the Sancellemoz sanatorium in Passy (Haute-Savoie), France, of aplastic anemia from exposure to radiation in the course of her scientific research and in the course of her radiological work at field hospitals during World War I.
“Well Behaved” Women Rarely Make History
She was constantly in pursuit of knowledge and experience. But in Poland it was illegal for women to be educated at the University level. Luckily, for Marie, there was a school they called the “Flying University”, as it would have to change its location frequently to avoid persecution. She and her young colleagues simply felt they should have the right to knowledge and growth, like any other person, man or woman.
She would claim no special status except Equal. This would be a special status for a woman of the late 19th Century. She believed herself to be equal to any man intellectually and no better than any woman who did not believe in their own equality. Part of the reason she felt equal is that the sciences, and most intellectual pursuits in fact, did not seem to (outwardly) care about gender, they only cared about ideas and the pursuit of Excellence – doing things to the highest degree possible.
Point in fact, there were not, and still are not many Equal to her pursuit of Excellence and productivity. Which, ironically, makes her incredibly special (but that is a whole other).
Science’s most important attribute is Excellence. Without a constant pursuit of Excellence one cannot possibly maintain the environment necessary to prove anything. Therefore, it goes to reason, that if Excellence is part of any scientific pursuit, then certainly Excellence needs to be a part of any scientist pursuing the proof. Marie Curie exemplifies this premise.
Very few people have the Integrity in process and commitment to do what Marie Curie did. For instance, when she developed the X-ray technology, she tested her this “new technology” on herself to prove its effectiveness and safeness.
Marie is a Human NOT Bound by Time – She was WAY Ahead of It.
In representing the common needs and capabilities for woman, from Personal Growth to profound intellectualism, she carried herself with dignity and confidence, a true Ambassador to the Value of Excellence.
Her commitment to the value of her work inspired Marie Curie to do things well beyond the norm for women of her time. In a time when “miniaturization” was not a thing, she created a mobile version of her X-ray machine, and put it in a truck. She took her mobile X-ray vehicle to the war zones of World War I to treat soldiers… the moral fortitude to facilitate such a plan says a lot about her Character, and, in part, explains why she has been an inspiration to many people for over a century.
Whether you agree with her process, perspectives, philosophies, premises, or practices… or have any interest in pursuing science or challenging the status quo, Marie Curie is admirable for her professional and personal Excellence.
EXCELLENCE: an attribute
When Excellence is a foundational Value to your identity it must be carried deliberately, represented with poise, and cultivated to an appreciable level – act with Integrity, be an Ambassador, and grow your Character – then your life will have potential for being Happy AND Successful. If the Consideration is that all who pursue Excellence are equal in Value, that means that anything is possible. And there is a simple Joy in that.
My excellence: I appreciate every chance I get to explore my own potentials and possibilities. Do You?
Share your thoughts on Excellence and what it means to you.
You could even share a favorite interaction with someone whose dedication and qualities have affected your thinking.