Return to "excellence"


We return to "excellence". The word is bandied about quite recklessly I fear. Let's be more careful. On the continuum I use to express performance, it lies just below the impossible to obtain "perfect" yet above both "great" and " good" respectively. All of these qualifiers are superior to "sufficient", "unacceptable", and "poor". In decending order. It would be moot to give much attention to these lower descriptions, but we would do well to invest some in the better understanding of "excellence" ( heretofore referred to without quotes). How far above good and great is it, and how far away from perfect? These are sometimes subtle and even capricious hashings, but what they mean specifically to you may very well influence your performance more than a simple definition would seem to.


How you think about what excellence is and your relationship to it is critical in my estimation. It becomes the bar you jump against, the standard you compare to, and the level of effort you accept as rewarding or not. It guides your goals and impacts your desire to reach past your station. You can let others define what is excellent or not in your world (and believe it, there are plenty of people eager to do so for you) but that is a mistake. I am suggesting that it is your responsibility alone to draw the lines. NO ONE should tell you what is excellent or not. That is your job and your lunch to eat. If you hold too low a standard you may disappoint yourself when you achieve a goal. If you reserve it for something too close to perfection, frustration is bound to be a close companion. It perhaps will take a good deal of trial and error, but you should come to terms with EXACTLY what it means to you in your world. Having said this, it behooves one to ask how it is that one decides what excellence will look like.

The most obvious way is to mark it against a norm or established benchmark. It is ok to use these external cues and rubrics on occasion, but I'm trying to sell something deeper to you. I have many worthwhile ideas to explore for you but let us look at one that an athlete of mine uses as their own. When I pushed them on the idea of knowing ...

What makes them know they have done excellent work, the reply was, "it is FULFILLING". We spoke at length about what was precisely meant by that word and it became clear to me that it was a deeply personal experience. It seemed that they were describing an emotion and an experience at the same time. That "fulfillment" was for them both something felt and something that happens to one. That either one was not enough. That both aspects were involved. So it was an event of great personal significance as well as a deeply felt emotion. And emotion and an event. A feeling and a happening.

This is as good as anything I can come up with!

I wont continue to go down the road that they explained to me ( however fascinating the description was) but I will give you that starting point to craft your own version of the details. I think a good exemplar of excellence "should" be very personal and exist mainly on the inside. The emotion high and the prescribed meaning clear. Then the "event" portion dynamic and impactful. Something that "hits" you. But also absorbs you into it. Engulfs you in the moment AND the feeling. I like the idea of them both necessary together. And I like the primarily private nature of this description.

It is YOURS. Its not for general consumption. It happens to you, inside you, and BECAUSE OF YOU. I wanted to pass on this person's unique view of excellence and to nudge you toward defining your own. I think they have given us a great place to start. On subsequent talks, it became clear that this was only one type or flavor of excellence. And perhaps like the differing kinds of love there are many and they serve differing purposes. That's fine. Exploring any of them will be rewarding and enlightening.

You can learn a lot about yourself by doing this thought experiment to define excellence. If it is hard for you don't worry. It is no requirement for fabulous success. But it just may be important to being able to fully appreciate and enjoy that success. Give the relationship between fulfillment and excellence some consideration. What does that mean to you? What concepts would you add to that? And finally ,what does excellence really, really mean?

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