Generosity Thresholds

It’s understood in manufacturing that to be sure you hit a certain standard, your production quality needs to exceed that standard by the amount of the variability of your process.

This means that for processes with high degrees of variability, you need to be way above the standard, so that even when things get messy you’re still staying above the standard. For illustrative purposes, a typical control chart.

In assembly-line manufacturing, the goal is to exceed the standard and to decrease variability, since quality delivered beyond the spec is wasted resource.

I’ve been thinking about how this thinking applies to us as human beings, given how variable we are by nature. It’s true that part of our own deep work – in terms of groundedness, mindfulness, good habits for sleep, food, relationships and health – is to become less variable despite all the vagaries of day to day life.

At the same time, we are (and I certainly am) still, by our very nature, more variable than any manufacturing process. Variability—in our mood, attitude, hopefulness, tolerance, optimism, to name a few—is what makes us human.

And yet there are standards we must hit in terms of how we show up in the world: a minimum threshold for treating everyone with respect, staying fully present, always seeing the best in those around us, being patient, raising others up, being generous of spirit….

And all of this not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, for any of these core behaviors, that one time we fail to meet the mark on something so fundamental can, like one bad meal at a restaurant, destroy trust that’s taken years to build.

The only solution I see is to show up with an over-abundance of all the behaviors that matter. We show up with, and practice, excessive respect, presence, patience, raising others up, being generous of spirit and seeing the best of those around us. So that we are sure that, each and every moment of every day, we are above the emotional line.

This extra generosity, kindness, respect, patience, and care are the opposite of the “wasted” resource when we over-deliver on manufacturing quality—indeed they replicate and ripple out in positive ways that are impossible to imagine or quantify.

Plus, living above and beyond in how we show up to others is self-reinforcing. Over time, we  continually and effortlessly keep raising the bar.