A Passion for Excellence
It has been said that a passion for excellence carries a price. Simply put, that means: The adventure of excellence is not for the faint of heart.
Excellence is a personal commitment. Whether you’re looking at a billion-dollar corporation or a three-person accounting department [or a ten-man Family Home], you see that excellence is achieved by people who muster up the nerve (and the passion) to step out in spite of doubt or fear or job limitations. They don’t hide behind office doors, committees, memos, or layers of staff; they understand that stepping out and stepping forward is the fair bargain they make for extraordinary results.
How can you achieve excellence? Above all you need an invigorating purpose you can call your own, one you care enough about to justify investing your steadfast interest in—one that, we hope, makes you happy, because you will live with it day in and day out.
Whatever your purpose, it has to be worth your full attention. It has to be worth the time and effort it will cost you to master it. Doing better than average not only takes nerve, passion, and purpose, but it also takes tenacious preparation.
The good news? You can start [on the road to excellence] now. The bad news? You’ll never finish.
This is when you must take courage. Courage and self-respect are the lion’s share of passion. It’s hanging in long after others have gotten bored or given up; it’s refusing to leave “well enough” alone. It means that anything less than the best really bothers you, maybe even keeps you awake at night. It usually means sticking your neck out.
Daring to give your best shot to something you care about and asking others to do the same is self-exposing. It asks you to choose sides, to wear your passion on your sleeve.
Passion opens you to criticism, disappointment, disillusionment, and failure, any one of which is enough to scare off all but the bravest souls. But the passionate, courageous, self-respecting people we know, when challenges or risks loom before them, regard them as something to be faced.
Passion doesn’t have to be flashy. Garden-variety, everyday passion is the stuff of excellence. Being visible takes guts. There you are, a regular person, stepping out from behind your desk [or out of your comfort zone], where it’s safe. You have to believe that the stepping out is worth the trouble. It does take courage—the ability to face up to difficulty in spite of doubt, the ability to say good isn’t good enough, the ability to learn from the losses, to celebrate the successful tries, to realize that even if you fail the first time, there’s reason to try again, that the sting is brief.
Excellence is optimistic. It’s believing that something can be done, that it’s worth fighting for, worth trusting others to play a part. And there is a benefit.—Optimism is good for your overall physical, emotional and physiological wellbeing.
All the same, sticking with it day in and day out is plain difficult, and not only because of the waves a passionate endeavor can make. Even a pocket of excellence can fill your life like a wall-to-wall revolution.
We have found that the majority of passionate activists who hammer away at the old boundaries have sacrificed vacations, evenings, weekends and lunch hours, gardening, reading, movies and most other pastimes.
When you have a true passion for excellence, and when you act on it, you will stand straighter. You will look people in the eye. You will see things happen. You will see heroes created, watch ideas unfold and take shape. You’ll walk with more spring in your step. You’ll have something to fight for, to care about, to share with other people. It’s not easy. It takes real courage to step out and stake your claim. But the renewed sense of purpose, of knowing you are making a difference, of self-respect, of experiencing positive change, growth, innovation and progress, is well worth the price.
This is the price and reward of excellence.
Excellence: A professional has a higher purpose in mind, a goal, something that drives him and motivates him to be the best he can be, something that pushes him past mediocrity and into excellence.—Jesus (ML #3684:113)
Purpose: This is the true joy in life—being used for a purpose … being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. Life is no brief candle to me. It’s a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.—George Bernard Shaw
Preparation: Spectacular achievements are always preceded by unspectacular preparation.—Roger Staubach
Daring: Dare to be different. Venture to vary from the norm.—The guys that stay put and never go anywhere, just like everybody else, never change anything, never make history!—You never hear about the people who wait around to see if it can be done. You only hear about the people who either made it or died trying! Dad (DM 1: June 20)
Failure: I don’t fear failure. I only fear the slowing up of the engine inside of me which is saying, “Keep going, someone must be on top, why not you?”—George S. Patton
Challenges: The ultimate measure of a person is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in times of challenge and controversy.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Risks: Often the difference between a successful person and a failure is not one who has better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on one’s ideas, to take a calculated risk—and to act.—Maxwell Maltz
Passion: Put passion into everything you do, for it is passion that fuels the engines that turn impossible dreams into reality.—Steven K. Scott
Guts: Only pioneers climb mountains—people who want to do something that no one ever did before—people who want to get above the multitude—beyond what has already been done and accomplished. Pioneers must have vision—vision to see what no one else can see; faith—faith to believe things no one else believes; initiative—initiative to be the first one to try it; courage—the guts to see it through!—Dad (ML #00B:4)
Stick-to-itiveness: You know what you need to do, you know where the Lord has led you, you know what He’s asking of you, so all that is left is for you to decide that you want it too, that you want to win and overcome and achieve, and you will. It takes sweat, it takes work, it takes time, it takes perseverance, it takes discipline, it takes denying yourself, it sometimes requires privation or a lack of the comforts of life, but if it’s worth it, then you’ll do it gladly. You have to want it. Do you?—Thomas Edison (ML #3504:82-84)
Revolution: It is necessary to “root out, pull down, destroy, and throw down” the old, in order “to build and to plant” the new; there just isn’t room for both! There is no such thing as the peaceful coexistence of good and evil! One or the other has to conquer! You “cannot serve two masters.” You cannot belong to both the System and the Revolution! It’s impossible, as Jesus said, “You’ll either hate the one and love the other, or hold to the one and despise the other.” You’ll either stay in the System or drop out! There’s no such thing as hanging somewhere in between, suspended between Heaven and Hell in some kind of compromiser’s limbo! You’ve got to drop out if you’re going to live!—Dad (ML #42:19-20)
Sacrifice: Can that which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt we owe to our God be called a sacrifice? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own best reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say, rather, it is a privilege.—David Livingstone
Courage: In the battle of life, it is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of the deeds could have done better. Credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.—Theodore Roosevelt