Is “Excellence” the Road Less Traveled?

I was recently asked to speak during a business women’s luncheon at The University of Alabama at Birmingham. As I prayed about what God would have me say, my attention was continuously drawn to one specific word…excellence. One day as I was preparing, my life flashed before my eyes. In that moment, I began to assess my actions and efforts, past and present, which led me to ask a couple of questions…

  • What does it truly mean to be excellent?
  • Is excellence today’s standard or is it overshadowed by success?
  • Are excellence and success comparable?

The online dictionary’s definitions explain excellence as the very best, possessing good qualities in high degree, a higher standard than set by culture or the world, giving your best. But forty-two years of life (and a little research) has taught me more about excellence than Webster ever could.

Here are 10 things I’ve realized about excellence:

  1. Excellence and perfection are not synonymous. Excellence is doing all you have with what you have in a particular season of life.
  2. Excellence and success are not interchangeable. Culturally, success is measured by title, prestige, and status. But while success, by the world’s standards, is only available to a few, excellence can be achieved by all. Excellence can lead to success, but success does not always equate to excellence.
  3. Excellence knows when to say no. Excellence does not attempt to be all things to all people all the time. (which leads to #4…)
  4. Excellence does not over promise and under deliver.
  5. Excellence goes beyond that which it feels like doing. It is fueled by will not want (see last week’s post!). Excellence goes the extra mile.
  6. Excellence understands that its only competitor is itself.
  7. Excellence does not live in the past, but moves forward unrestricted by yesterday.
  8. Excellence is the measure used to evaluate decisions and actions based on the highest quality you have to offer.
  9. Excellence is a process and is intentional. Pat Riley, one of the greatest NBA coaches of all times once said, “Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.ā€
  10. Unlike success, excellence does not always make the headlines, but is most often noticed when it is no longer there.

My discussion with the ladies during the luncheon began with one of my favorite poems but today, I think I’ll close with an excerpt. The final stanza of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost says this…

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and Iā€”
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Ahead of each of us are various roads. Much like the poet, we too must make a decision as to which path we will choose. The road of excellence. The road to success. The road that gains the approval of others. The road of dormancy due to indecisiveness. And although all roads are not mutually exclusive, I must ask…

In today’s society, is excellence the road less traveled?

Now, share your heart with me. Looking forward to your perspective on excellence.

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