Miserably Failing Excellently

I’ve always been fascinated and motivated by the idea of striving for excellence. But I’ve been doing it all wrong. And have failed miserably.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit. ” – Aristotle paraphrased by Will Durant

This quote has been a major building block for me in my life. It speaks to two subjects that I find quite interesting : excellence and habits. Excellence is not just an idea or something to strive for but one that can be found in action, repeated action that forms a consistent habit.

This provides a framework where we can begin to visualize what excellence looks like.

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There is also an unspoken aspect that follows quite naturally that excellence is a choice in our actions. A choice to be excellent at a thing while not pursuing other things. Not only choice but intentional and conscious choice.

Of course, Aristotle wasn’t speaking of a singular act and was speaking to the habit of excellence coming from what we repeatedly do.

To strive for excellence is to go beyond okay, beyond the ordinary standards, far beyond good enough. It is to reach for unusually good – and this takes being uniquely in a class all to itself reserved for the few. To step away from the pack. Away from how it has always been done or how everyone has done it.

“Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way. ”

Booker T. Washington

It then follows that to attain excellence we must risk failure. To be excellent, one has to be less than excellent by falling right on our face after reaching higher than everyone else.

Now that is scary. And thrilling.

Think of all those that we have heard use the word excellence.

They describe their work as excellent. They as a boss tell you they demand excellence trying to sound like leaders inspiring others to greatness. Always looking outward for others to be excellent and rarely role modeling excellence. Show up to work on time. Turn in your work on time. Meet expectations.

Mediocrity masquerading as excellence.

How many of us have the word excellence on our resume? Demonstrated excellence. Committed to excellence. Operational excellence. You name it, I see it all the time. I’ve been guilt of it, and it pains me to realize it. Ouch.

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Are you at the top of your game? Can you demonstrate excellence through a consistent habit and delivery of top of your field results? Great.

But I suspect that many of us are doing really good work, but just shouldn’t be using the word excellent.

Knock it off already – we sound silly to self proclaim excellence without the action to back it up. Look at your work. You should be proud of what you are doing, but is it really excellent. Do the results back it up?

“The foundation of lasting self-confidence and self-esteem is excellence, mastery of your work. ”

Brian Tracy

What this means is that we have some work to do on this journey to strive for excellence. We’ve made the first step by desiring excellence and being committed to doing the work towards excellence. But if we haven’t risked it all and stuck our neck out, then we can’t have had the experiences to learn from and to reach beyond into the land of excellence.

I’m reaching for excellence with this post. I’m not just saying what others want to hear from me. I’m pushing my own boundaries. I’m trying. I’ll learn from what works. And I’ll keep trying to refine this message so that it touches people and helps them on their quest to change for the better.

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I’ve failed at excellence and that is exactly where I need to be. Falling on my face is good as long as I keep getting back up. How about you?

It’s okay that I may fail. But I will reach for excellence and not claim I’ve reached the peak of the mountain when I’m still staring up. There is work to get done. Let’s get on with it.

“Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence. ”

Jessica Guidobono

Here is a good (less than five minute video) from Rules of the Mind on Aristotle – Excellence Comes By Habit

Check out the book Focus : The Hidden Driver of Excellence, by Daniel Goleman and learn how to cultivate attention as a way to achieve self -control.

For a quick read, check out my LinkedIn article Fight Mediocrity, Strive for Excellence

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