“The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water.”
“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence.”
For two weeks this summer much of the world’s focus was on London and the showcase of the Summer Olympics. We watched the thrill of athletic competition as the world’s premier athletes competed in a myriad of games, contests and events. Athletes from around the world prepared themselves with years of disciplined preparation for an event that may last but a few seconds. As a result, we witnessed many world records shattered in their commitment to athletic excellence.
Tom Peters burst on the business management scene in the early 1980’s with his best-selling book In Search of Excellence. It was followed up three years later by A Passion for Excellence, another best seller. The business community applauded him when he wrote of value-driven excellence as an essential component of a company’s success. It was seemingly a fresh idea at a querulous time.
The Apostle Paul, however, spoke of excellence centuries ago when he wrote “…and don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best.” (Colossians 3.23, Message) As Christians and as Christian leaders we should not allow either the athletic community or the business world to have a monopoly on the pursuit of excellence. A commitment to excellence should characterize all that we do, all that we say and who we are.
The alternative to excellence is mediocrity and a tolerance for mediocrity has ramifications in numerous arenas. One writer has observed that “…because of our mediocrity, we Christians all too often provide the excuse the world is looking for to ignore the truth of Christianity.” How many times are we guilty of setting low standards, doing the minimum requirement or just being lazy? It is often times tempting to take the path of least resistance. But as Bob Murphey stated, “The line of least resistance makes crooked rivers and crooked men.”
Excellence is not perfectionism, bigness, compulsivity or prideful exclusion. Excellence is simply doing the very best you can with what resources you have been given. Excellence sets the bar high and refuses to succumb to the attitude that says, “Just okay is good enough” or “That should do” or “Nobody will even notice if I put forth a greater effort.”
What drives the pursuit of excellence? Let me suggest three things:
A complete understanding of your position, the privilege and the responsibility of leadership should promote personal and corporate excellence. As a leader and as a believer we need to recognize the necessity for us to model excellence in every area of life.
A passion and enthusiasm for your God-given purpose, mission and vision will motivate you to give your very best in any enterprise or endeavor.
A personal promise or commitment to our individual growth, development and excellence will assure excellence in our lives. But if that pledge proves insufficient, an unqualified commitment to Christ as our Savior will not allow the option of mediocrity.
In his autobiography Why Not the Best? former U.S. President Jimmy Carter tells about his interview with Admiral Rickover. Rickover’s interviews were legendary, as he wanted to cut through glib, rehearsed answers to get a look at the person underneath. The admiral asked Carter how he had stood in his class at the Naval Academy. “I swelled my chest with pride and answered, ‘Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!’ I sat back to wait for the congratulations.” Instead came the question: “’Did you do your best?’ I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was. I gulped and admitted, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’ He looked at me for a long time, and then asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget-or to answer. He said, ‘Why not?’”
Leaders cannot take others farther than they have gone themselves nor can they impart what they do not possess. You may not feel that you have extraordinary or spectacular gifts, but even the simplest tasks can be done with excellence. Those around you will appreciate the extent to which you embrace excellence in your own life and work. And ultimately, excellence will attract excellence.
Stay the Course,
Dr. Greg Morris