Before the Pursuit of Excellence

TAGS: Before the Pursuit of Excellence, pursuing excellence, Jason Brown, commitment, CrossFit, success

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"What matters most is how well you walk through the fire."
— Charles Bukowski

I think it's safe to say that most of us want to be good at what we do. I don't think I've ever heard someone say, "I want to be average at my job." Committing yourself to excellence is a huge commitment, though. It takes not accepting anything other than your best work, at all times, and no matter where you are in life, you're always striving to move forward. Complacency doesn't exist with those who commit themselves to "excellence," and even when things go awry, we have plans in place to keep pushing forward.

In this article, I hope to take a step away from talking about strength, conditioning, and CrossFit. I'd like to touch on some things that will hopefully help you to become a better coach, business owner, and athlete.


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I was watching a re-run of Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares the other night. I'm sure many of you are familiar with the premise of this show, but Gordon goes into failing restaurants in an attempt to "save" their businesses. For some, it works; for others, not so much. In this episode, this particular woman had purchased her restaurant even though she had very little restaurant experience. She was convinced that her food was on point. She said more than a few times, "I think our food is good," albeit Chef Ramsay stated numerous times that her food was “dreadful."

Upon further investigation, the food this restaurant was serving had violated many cross-contamination laws, not to mention not having one single item on the menu that was fresh. Even still, the owner was convinced that her food was good. I was shocked by how many times she made this statement. If Dave Tate walked into my gym and told me, "My coaching sucked," I'd probably ask him how I could improve. This situation—having one of the world's top restaurateurs come into your restaurant and tell you in so many words that your business is f'd up— is no different. I'm not sure how anyone could be so resistant to the truth. How is this even possible?

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This got me thinking: How could someone's views be so distorted? The more I thought about it, the more I came to a few conclusions:

  1. Most people like the idea of being "excellent" or "great," but few will actually do what it takes to get to that point.
  2. In this case, the owner of the restaurant thought she could walk into an existing structure and simply collect a paycheck. For any of you who own a business, we know this simply isn't the case.
  3. The owner of the restaurant had convinced herself that there were other reasons for her restaurant failing and did not take any responsibility for any of the issues.

There were many things wrong with how the owner of this restaurant was leading her staff, but the crux of the situation to me was that this woman was being blinded by her own dream of owning a restaurant, the dream of it being excellent, but without being committed and aware of what it would take to provide a high level of service.

I think we should do a few things before pursuing excellence. Here are some of them:

  1. Understand your "why." Do you really love what you're doing, or are you just trying to make a quick buck?
  2. Fully internalize the fact that being "excellent" is going to take 100% commitment to never being complacent.
  3. Know that sometimes even your best efforts will not be enough. That doesn't mean you throw your hands up and walk away. It simply means that you have an opportunity to find another way of doing things that will most likely be better than your initial plan was.
  4. Know that"excellence" is a lifelong process. I've heard Gary V. talk about how he often gets emails from old high school friends that say things like, "You're so lucky.” He's always angered by this because these people did not see the long struggle he endured to become successful. It's guaranteed that you will face some adversity, want to give up at times, and endure many years of struggle before things fall into place.
  5. Never accept anything less than 100%. Rushing through your work to "get something done" will not get you closer to excellence. It's a painstaking process, but those who are committed to this path will do whatever it takes to ensure the highest quality of work. Haste makes waste.
  6. This world owes you nothing. Just because you work at something doesn't mean results are guaranteed. Keep pushing forward anyway.

I'm sure this list could be extended, but I think you get my idea. What I'm trying to get at is, don't fall in love with the idea of being excellent if you're not willing to roll up your sleeves and lead by example. There is no such thing as "turnkey" in life. You either have to be willing to walk through fire to get there or the pursuit of excellence is going to be a long and disappointing journey.

It Has Something to Do with the Struggle

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