The Plumb Bob of Excellence is a unique and original creation of Stephen Hall, Author of several books on Quality and Ethics, the latest due out in the spring of 2014 and titled “EXCELLENCE.” Excellence is defined as “Consistently Meeting Right Standards.”

The concept begins with Aristotle, ancient Greek Philosopher, considered the father of ethical thought. Aristotle is quoted as saying “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” He is also quoted as saying “that the three ways to successfully argue a point of view are ETHOS, LOGOS and PATHOS,” meaning ETHICS, or CHARACTER, LEGAL or Right and PATHOS or Passion.


Understanding that Excellence is a habit leads us to the notion that habits are more easily formed if there is a symbol to constantly remind us to stay on course. This led the creator to seek an appropriate symbol to visually represent Excellence. In due course the symbol was found in the Old Testament of the New International Version of the Bible. Specifically, the Book of Amos,. Chapter 7, verses 7 and 8 states as follows:

Amos 7:7-8 “This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall
that had been built true to a plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. And the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Amos?” “A plumb line,” I replied. Then the Lord said, “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people.”

In conclusion, the three knobs on the Plumb Bob of Excellence represent Aristotle’s ETHOS (Code of Ethics) or Standards, LOGOS or Right Standards and PATHOS or Passion to Constantly Meet the Right Standards. The Plumb Bob of Excellence hanging in the corner of  your office is a constant visual reminder of your quest for excellence.
  1. Is the standard legal?
  2. Does the standard hurt anyone?
  3. Is the standard fair?
  4. Is the standard honest?
  5. Can I live with the standard?
  6. Am I willing to publish my standard?
  7. What if everyone had my standard?
In the Old Testament, the term “Lord” refers to God. Those, for whom “God” is not a viable concept, can easily substitute “Higher Power” for “Lord.” Regardless. The point is that the plumb line was used to insure that the wall was being built straight and true and, thus, by placing the plumb line amongst the people, God (Higher Power) is saying that it will provide a guide to living our lives straight and true. The Plumb Line (Bob), thus, becomes a symbol for Excellence.

What remains is for individuals or organizations to create a list of intended standards, known as the Code of Ethics. Assuring that the standards are “right” involves the following tests: