How do you clear the obstacles that stop you from being your best every day?
There is a way out of this dilemma.
Four simple concepts can keep you on the right road.
A small book with a powerful message
We sabotage excellence.
Harry Paul, John Britt, and Ed Jent weave an intriguing story in Who Kidnapped Excellence? The mystery opens with a kidnapping and a ransom note left in the administrative conference room.
“We have taken your excellence. If you ever want to see your Excellence again, open your eyes & pay the ransom.”
Excellence, kidnapped overnight, leads a close-knit team. Passion, Competency, Flexibility, Communication, and Ownership need their leader.
Without spoiling the intrigue and suspense, the antagonist, Average, taunts his colleagues with boldness and contempt. Excellence reminds him that,
“Average is the enemy of being your best.”
We can talk about striving for our best. Signs and slogans can proclaim our commitment to excellence. But what are we doing?
Talk and posters are no match for the meddling and provocative nature of average. Average can destroy and inhibit excellence in even the best of circumstances.
In both our personal lives and in the workplace, we unwittingly allow Average to grab a foothold. We wonder why change and reaching excellence takes so much effort and energy. Like the Dementors of Harry Potter, Average can suck the life out of Excellence.
How do you clear the obstacles that stop you from being your best every day? There is a way out of this dilemma.
Follow The Law of Excellence
Keep a constant awareness and vigilance to always be your best with
Passion involves living your life with enthusiasm. What makes you go the extra mile? Do you continue to keep a smile on your face, or at least in your heart, even when the work is hard?
“Passion is what turns life into an adventure.” —Ed Jent
To be your best requires more than passion. We must have the knowledge and skills that carry us forward. I may have a passion for playing the piano, but I will never learn to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” without practice and musical skills.
Competency goes beyond technical skills. Positive relationships also support our efforts and fortify our individual and collective resilience to persist. Remaining a learner avoids the trap of finding ourselves stagnating in our knowledge or interpersonal development,
“Avoid competency traps. Do not stay where you are good at things. Go out and be challenged.” —Andrew Creighton
Passion and competency set the stage for excellence, but what about the unexpected?
Flexibility maintains our ability to adapt and change, especially when we least expect the need to alter our path. How we react and respond to change can either spur us or stop all momentum toward our best.
“I’m looking for a few good men with infinite capacity for not knowing what cannot be done.” —Henry Ford
I worked with a brilliant team of women in an environment of constant ambiguity. Regulations and requirements always seemed in a state of flux. Not once did I hear a gasp of resignation. No. This group pressed on for solutions and innovative strategies.
Everyone on this team showed up every day with passion, knowledge, and an understanding that change remained constant in our work. The freedom to speak up and share our perspectives and beliefs served as the key ingredient to our success.
Communication begins with clearly articulated roles and expectations. Effective communication includes speaking and listening. Purposeful dialogue depends on actively listening—as we suspend judgment of the speaker or ideas.
The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw
When we bring passion to our work, continually learn, adapt to change, speak up, and listen, we stand poised to take ownership and hold ourselves accountable.
Ownership ensures my commitment and responsibility to what it takes to become my best—or our best. The ultimate test of ownership comes when we stop blaming and pointing fingers. I am accountable for my action.
Constraints and barriers exist. Period. How do we choose to operate within them? If we blame others or the unknown for our struggles, we miss the opportunity to look within our capabilities.
“Responsibility equals accountability equals ownership. And a sense of ownership is the most powerful weapon a team or organization can have.”
— Pat Summitt
How will you follow the Law of Excellence to subdue and eradicate Average?
Putting it all together
What is stopping you from being your absolute best every day? Notice, I didn’t ask what’s stopping you from becoming a millionaire, a Pulitzer Prize recipient, or the most sought after speaker in your field?
Being your absolute best may or may not result in those achievements. What matters is the journey you take from mediocre to your best consistently every day.
On any given day, your best may fall short in your eyes or even the eyes of your colleagues. Don’t give up.
We will struggle. We will even fail. There will be darkness. But if we are clear about the values that guide us in our efforts to show up and be seen, we will be able to find the light. We will know what it means to live brave.
Do your very best for today. Resolve to do better tomorrow. Repeat.