From Webster’s Dictionary:
Tolerance- (3). The allowable deviation from a standard.
What does this definition have to do with Clutter and Efficiency?
Each of us has a standard of what is acceptable and what is not to just about everything we encounter in life. The range of what is acceptable is also known as tolerance. Anything that is unacceptable crosses the line of tolerance and becomes “intolerable” as I discovered one day as a four year old. I was watching my mother make pancakes and I asked her something I had heard on television: “What in the h--- do you think you are doing?”
A person holding a degree of authority will say or think “I will not tolerate this” when their standards of expectations have not been met. It is then essential that action is taken to ensure standards of quality.
As my mother shoved a bar of soap into my mouth, I wondered what the relationship was between whatever it was I had said and this horrible taste now dripping down the back of my throat. I realized that what I had said was wrong and I should be careful not to repeat it. The incorrect behavior was corrected. Discipline there for is required to maintain standards.
Where there is a lack of discipline, standards cannot be maintained.
A child, not knowing any better may leave his or her belongings all over the house simply because they do not know any other way. Being neat and tidy doesn’t make any sense to them.
To those without standards, all things are tolerable.
To the child without discipline, all things are acceptable.
If for example, there are no consequences to a crime, the criminal will perceive that his behavior is tolerable by society.
What is tolerable for one person may not be tolerable to another.
When individuals with wide tolerances interact with individuals of narrow tolerance, conflict is inevitable.
Conflict arises between differences of tolerance.
If an individual with a wide tolerance cannot prevent themselves from infringement upon others, others with higher levels of tolerance will attempt to either enforce the perceived correct behavior or remove themselves from interaction.
There are complete sciences devoted to the idea of tolerance in manufacturing processes. Installing definitive tolerance management systems save companies billions of dollars each year by decreasing unwanted variability and reducing the chance of creating defective goods. In the same way, personal tolerance systems can also reduce unwanted stress and conflict.
While it may be judged by some that narrow tolerance levels are extreme, others may view them as: determination, discipline, drive or ambition. In any case, the result is the same, predictable results based on predictable discipline. Individuals who are consistently successful follow a degree of personal discipline to achieve their goals. It is safe to assume, that if non-successful individuals were able to live by equal standards of discipline, they too would experience a similar degree of success. Therefore successful individuals are generally self-made.
Machined parts have ranges of acceptability that cannot be seen with the naked eye. The box of bolts you purchase at the hardware store may appear to be identical, when in fact they are not. If we were to examine them closely enough, we would find every bolt is completely different in length, weight, and thickness- we would just need some very sensitive equipment to measure these differences. The same is true with people and personalities.
However, because all the bolts in that box are “similar enough”, they are usually accepted as identical. The same is true of people. We classify groups of individuals with similar characteristics in the same way, using labels, like American, Russian, Mexican, etc. This grouping of individuals falsely implies that the group is not only similar in one way, but similar in many or all. This is not true. Every individual everywhere is unique. Labeling allows us to assume a group is completely equal based on one standard of measurement, in this case; race. Therefore, we must recognize that measures of tolerance rely completely upon which standard is being measured, and to what degree of deviation that standard is acceptable.
Potato chip manufacturers rigorously measure the amount of salt in their product, as they know salt is related to taste. As long as that saline concentration falls within a certain range, the chips are deemed acceptable and are sent off to the stores. They are less concerned with the shape or weight of each chip.
The stricter the requirements of tolerance in number of standards measured, as well as the smaller the acceptable standard of deviation, the higher the quality a product is believed to have. Superior, high grade and excellent are all adjectives used to describe things of high quality and the same is true for individuals who are able to maintain high levels of personal standards.
If there is no standard of tolerance, there can be no predictable level of quality.
Let’s talk about you. Somehow, someway, your tolerance levels have been engrained in your brain. The use of swear words may or may not be acceptable. Smoking may or may not be acceptable. Certain ideologies, like laziness or greed may or may not be acceptable. You have a range of ideas which are considered acceptable and others which are not. Many of these tolerance levels were established on a conscious basis, others were not.
Nearly all of conscious tolerance is learned either through up bringing or choice. Because this is true, it means you can change the quality and value of you by adjusting and managing your tolerance levels. While this may seem obvious, it is different than just setting goals and following them, we all know traditional New Years Resolution goal setting is short lived.
What I suggest is establishing a FLEXIBLE, ADAPTABLE, system that can be adjusted day to day. Such a system allows you to meet your personal standards of tolerance, without having to follow a rigid set of rules. I know that may seem contradictory, but its quite effective if you know the rules of the system.
Example: You are setting yourself up for failure if you say “I want to wake up every morning at 530am and go to the gym” when in fact, what you really want is to “get into shape”. Did you know:
When setting goals, your levels of tolerance must be aimed upon what you really want, not a list with words on it. Inflexible goal setting is doomed for failure because once we fail to meet a single standard of the wrong measurement ie “waking up at 530am” we are more likely to forget and abandon the real goal, which is “to get into shape”. If we were talking about potato chips, it would be like saying this bag of chips needs to be thrown out because one of the chips is shaped funny. We have to know what we really want, what will get us there, and how to stay flexible.
The hardest part of this FLEXIBLE system, is knowing the difference between adaptation and “Compromise” which is the next chapter.