The world’s greatest projects did not end with someone saying “good enough”. In fact, “good enough” rarely produces anything of value. Yet many people are still drawn to this concept of doing just the minimum to get by, and we all pay a price for it.
There is far too much mediocrity in the world, and we’ve all witnessed it. I’m not talking about mistakes, either. We all make mistakes. I’m talking about the people who just don’t care enough to actually want to excel, to be the best, to help others, to go above and beyond, to break boundaries, to be of great value to society, to push themselves, and to grow.
I know that many people don’t want those things. They just want to get their paycheck, or go to class, or go home, and not be bothered. I can respect that, but only, and this is a big only, if they are not hypocrites about it. Why? Because, in my opinion, too many people are quick to expect a lot from others before they give a lot from themselves. I think that before we even think about demanding excellence from others, we need to be demanding it from ourselves. If we’re not, we have no right to complain, grumble, or correct others.
For example, if we slack off at work, show up late, and don’t do our job, when our plumber messes up, we shouldn’t chastise him. When the mechanic can’t fix our car, we shouldn’t fret. When the teacher shows up late, we shouldn’t panic. After all, if we were in his/her position, we would do a poor job, too, if not demanding excellence from ourselves.
Mediocrity is even common in college. Nearly every single class has someone on Facebook, twitter, texting, playing games, or sleeping. Many students spend more time watching Jersey Shore, partying, sleeping, and wasting time than they do studying, reading, learning, or working toward a goal. Some students even get upset at those who ask questions in class. Once again, I don’t agree with it, but they can do whatever they want. But what aggravates me more than nails on a chalkboard is that these same people complain and whine when they do poorly on tests, don’t get jobs, or fail to meet deadlines. Really? Listen, you get out what you put in. Do not be surprised that poor work ethic and mediocrity leads to minimal or no success. Of course it does! If success could be achieved by mediocrity then we’d all have it! We must do more than the average person if we want more than the average person. Frankly, some people don’t get this because they are too busy complaining.
Here is the biggest problem, the reason why many people don’t consistently manifest excellence: they trick themselves into believing that excellence is only needed on certain occasions. For example, some athletes completely blow off school and say “Hey, I try really hard when I play basketball, I don’t have to try hard for anything else.” False, and here is why: basketball, or any other individual pursuit, is just one thing that we do. Our habits shape us. So if we do fifty things (school, homework, exercise, jobs, projects, service, favors, etc.) and only try to excel at one of them (basketball), that means only 2% of the time we’re doing our best. In other words, 98% of our activities get done half-heartedly. No matter how hard we work during that 2%, it can never overshadow the 98%. Accordingly, we must strive to do our best in every single thing that we do. “Doing our best” ought to be a habit and and way of life. In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Our best should be expected, not just a “once in a while” thing. Even if the task is small, it doesn’t matter. If we’re raking leaves, let’s rake them like a boss. After all, every act of ours should represent the best of what we can offer.
I’ve been made fun of and even hated at times for working hard on school projects. I’ve been known to go “all-out”, even if it’s just worth five points. People constantly ask me why I bother to do so, and I just simply tell them, “I want every single thing I do to be amazing”. With that expectation, I’m seldom disappointed in the result. If you want to be great at what you do, you must demand excellence from yourself.
The effects of mediocrity and excellence reach everyone. Sometimes we have to deal with the problems others create, but sometimes we get to piggyback on their progress. It works both ways, but I like progress a lot more than problems. I like achievement more than failure and I like being happy over being uneasy. However, unless we raise the bar, for ourselves as individuals and as a society, we will continue to have more of what we don’t want. We will continue to have unnecessary problems, failures, and uneasiness. The best way to improve the future is to decide now that we will aim higher, work harder, and demand more from ourselves than we are currently doing. If we all did that, or even if just some of us did that, imagine how much positive change we could see in the world.
Going forth, let excellence be the standard in your life. Always try your hardest, no matter the task, and keep this in mind: if it’s not worth your best effort, it’s not worth your effort at all.
“Excellence can be obtained if you:
care more than others think is wise,
risk more than others think is safe,
dream more than others think is practical,
and expect more than others think is possible.”
Photo by kikashi