The Nine Things Holding You Back from Excellence
Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor. I think that’s why I liked it so much. I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.
In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun. If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.
I like the word excellent or excellence. Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:
Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.
Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.
Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. It takes planning. It requires repeated action. And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.
I want to be known for going about life with excellence. Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.
9 Things Holding You Back from Excellence
- Lack of focus – Excellence is impossible when our mind is concentrating on too many things at the same time. I want to be an excellent husband, an excellent father, an excellent son, an excellent brother, an excellent grandson, an excellent friend, an excellent employee, an excellent boss, an excellent writer, an excellent speaker, an excellent coach, an excellent runner, an excellent driver, an excellent brewer, an excellent landscaper, an excellent reader, an excellent conference attendee, an excellent mastermind member, an excellent mastermind facilitator, an excellent Toastmaster, an excellent Toastmaster Area Director, an excellent missionary to Guatemala, an excellent leader, an excellent saxophonist, an excellent small group leader, an excellent youth volunteer, an excellent community volunteer, an excellent Eagles and Bears fan, an excellent Phillies and Cubs fan, an excellent Survivor fan, an excellent Amazing Race fan, and the list goes on and on and on. Things things are great, but it’s hard to be excellent when I’m not focused.
- Lack of energy – Excellence is challenging when we lack energy. I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 11PM every day. I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by working every day without rest. In reality, my ability to successfully pursue excellence declines as I fail to recharge my battery by getting enough sleep and taking a break from time to time.
- Lack of time – Excellence won’t happen if we don’t have time for it. I fill my calendar with activities, meetings, and “commitments” leaving little time for actions which will lead to excellence.
- Lack of clarity – Many fail to achieve true excellence in their lives, because they lack purpose, passion, direction, and overall clarity. If you don’t know where you’re going, you will get their every time. Too many of us go through life doing what others tell us to do instead of figuring out what we were meant to do. We chase after things that don’t matter, because we don’t know the difference between “doing good things” and “doing the right things.”
- Lack of appropriate input – Excellence may never happen if we don’t get the right input in our lives. If I want to become an excellent saxophone player, it won’t happen without the right instruction. I won’t become excellent at playing the saxophone by taking lessons from a beginner drummer who has never even seen a saxophone. And listening to podcasts about leadership will do little to help me improve when it comes to playing the saxophone.
- Lack of appropriate skill development – Excellence doesn’t happen with practice and intentional skill development. Chances of becoming an excellent public speaker can be improved by listening to polished, professional public speakers, but I won’t become excellent at public speaking unless I work on my speaking skills by practicing, getting feedback, correcting my mistakes, and doing it again and again.
- Lack of planning – Excellence doesn’t happen by accident. I will fail to become an excellent marathon runner without a plan. I’ll fail to write an excellent book without an idea, an outline, and a plan to get to the final product. It’s nearly impossible to achieve excellence without intention.
- Lack of action – Excellence won’t happen by sitting on the couch. If I want to run a 5K, I have to get off the couch and run. If I want to write a book, I have to open my laptop and write. If I want to dunk a basketball, I have to jump. Excellence won’t come to us. We have to go get it!
- Lack of repetition – Excellence isn’t a one time event. Excellence requires repetition. If I want to write a book, I have to write every day. If I want to become an excellent husband, I have to work on it every year, every week, and every day. Too many people miss out on excellence, because they give up after the first attempt.
Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.
Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8