"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." --Aristotle
When I was a kid, my sister made a habit of calling me stupid. And since we are what we repeatedly do -- or hear -- I made a habit of believing I was stupid. After all, I had no reason to dispute her affectionate nickname for me. She was two years older than me, made straight A's in school, and planned to be a teacher. I made mediocre grades at best because of my belief and so decided to focus on music, not academics.
My average grades and expertise in music managed to get me into the same college as my sister. One day, she challenged me to an IQ test being sponsored by the Mensa Club. I'm not sure why I agreed to the test, but I did. The results shocked us both.
My score was 23 points higher than my sister's. Immediately I felt intelligent and began to apply myself in a different way. Not only did I surpass my sister's scores in her toughest subjects, I learned to achieve perfect and higher than perfect scores and amazed my teachers in the process. I dropped out of music and took up philosophy and psychology and eventually business.
I felt as though I had been freed from prison. But why? I was the same person with the same mind the day after the test as I was the day before the test. I looked the same. I acted the same. I hung out with the same people. Only my grades were drastically improved. I would strive for 100, then do the bonus questions. My grades shot up to 106 and 112 averages. It became fun, and my peers dubbed me a geek. That title made me proud.
For the first time in my life, I was the teacher's favorite and maintained a 100+ average. Not in just one or two subjects, but in everything I took. How could that be? I was supposed to be a poorly paid starving artist, not a geek like my sister. Then I started asking myself a different question. I started asking myself how I could apply this quest for excellence to every aspect of my life, including music.
The first thing I realized is that excellence requires commitment. It is this commitment which separates successful people from average people. Average people may want and expect excellence, but they don't understand it enough to become committed to achieving it.
We all understand commitment in terms of loyalty to friendships, marriage and work. Commitment, however, is really the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to someone, some thing or some ideal. In essence, it is the act of creating a contract or a binding obligation with "excellence." Mark McCormack, founder and CEO of International Management Group (IMG), the sports management conglomerate that represents Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Arnold Palmer and Andre Agassi, once said, "Commit yourself to excellence from day one ... it's better to do nothing at all than to do something badly." The key word here is commitment.
After I understood the commitment required, I sought an understanding of the subject. Excellence is brilliance. Excellence is distinction. Excellence is superiority. Excellence is perfection. Excellence is greatness. Excellence goes beyond the status quo and against the norm. Warren G. Bennis once said, "Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary."
As it relates to business, the company's level of excellence determines sales. In order to achieve legendary status, businesses have to be superb at what they do. People don't say, "Hey, let's go get an okay steak," or "Let's go to a second-rate party." You do not and will not hear such things because people expect excellence from the businesses they buy from.
Excellence is also ongoing. It is not a position, place or achievement. No one arrives at excellence for excellence is not a destination. Tom Peters, a renowned business philosopher, said, "Excellent firms don't believe in excellence -- only in constant improvement and constant change." He also went on to say, "If it isn't broke, you just haven't looked hard enough. Fix it anyway." Excellence, therefore, is a state of mind.
So how do you accomplish excellence? Simple. Change your thought process.
From a very young age, we are conditioned by our parents, siblings, teachers, peers and media to accept mediocrity. It starts with our grading system, a system which promotes average work. I lived shackled in that system for years, a C student who believed he had no potential, no hope, no chance for success. I was average, and I thought that's who I always had to be. Until I saw those test scores. Something inside me clicked at that moment, and I recognized I could be excellent.
My recognition of the fact that I could be excellent is what changed my life. I recognized it because my eyes and ears were WIDE open, and I caught what it meant to achieve excellence. The same holds true for you. Excellence can only be achieved when you are present and focused. When I say present, I mean being actively engaged in the moment. Have you ever played a sport, won, but were not sure why? What about winning and knowing it was in the bag? What was the difference? Your eyes were "WIDE" open. You were confident because you were focused and present.
Even while you are reading this, your mind is processing a million things. You are thinking about that meeting you have this morning, that place you are going for lunch, that phone call you need to make, that bill you have to pay. Am I right? Admit it.
This article originally appeared on IT Strategy Tips. Email Joey at email@example.com
Mr. Boggs - Sensei
Goshin Karate & Judo Academy
6245 E. Bell Road #120
Scottsdale, AZ. 85254