“Who wants to be part of something excellent?”
Of all the times I’ve asked this, I’ve never had anyone not raise their hand. No one wants to be part of mediocrity. We wish to reach the zenith of our potential.
So, if the great majority shares this ideal, why aren’t more businesses and their staff inspiring people with their greatness? What’s the disconnect between our desires and the outcome?
I have a theory.
We’ve been made to believe that excellence or greatness is glamorous. It isn’t.
To be excellent is to love the mundane.
Greatness Is Committing to the Mundane
Most would agree Dan Brodsky-Chenfeld represents excellence. His life is like a Hollywood movie where the hero experiences incomparable hardship that would defeat nearly all of us and yet, he rises above every obstacle to reach the highest stage and then defeat an unbeatable opponent. (If you don’t know Dan’s story, pick up a copy of his book, “Above All Else.”)
What makes Dan different from the rest of us?
The answer is Dan is committed to the mundane. The thousands of hours Dan has devoted to the unglamorous, seemingly boring aspects of life are what differentiate Dan from so many others.
The esteem Dan has earned is a result of his accomplishments, but it’s important to understand that his excellence isn’t a byproduct of his achievements; it’s Dan’s discipline to doing the little details well, over and over again.
This is the difference between good and great.
To be excellent is deciding to be excellent in every small detail. It’s the things you don’t hear about or the things people don’t think about. The sum of these details is what creates excellence.
When I think of attention to detail, I think of my mother at age 65 cleaning her Jeep in her nightgown at sunrise. I had volunteered to pick up some guests at a nearby hotel to bring them for that morning’s kayak tour (my parents own an eco-kayaking tour on the island of Antigua).
I said, “Mum, what are you doing?” Her response: “James, you only have one chance to make a great first impression.”
THIS is the definition of excellence. It’s doing things that no one knows about. It’s engaging in the mundane. It’s cleaning toilets or Jeeps, or picking up trash better than anyone else can. It’s unglamorous, but that’s where the magic lies.
One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Sanborn, author of “The Fred Factor.” Sanborn writes, “Uninspired people rarely do inspired work. Passionate people are different. They do ordinary things extraordinarily well …”
To me, this is the foundation of what it means to be at the top of your game. It’s doing the ordinary, extraordinarily well.
Ask the Right Questions
If your desire is to be the best you can be in your field of expertise, then it requires a self-awareness of where you are in the big picture of what you do. It’s important to ask the right questions, from a global perspective down to minute details.
Take some time to think about the following:
What are you doing and most importantly, why are you doing it?
If you’re doing what you want to be doing, can you be better at it in your technique and better for the people you serve?
If you’re not doing what you want to be doing, what’s the first step you need to take to move in that direction?
If you could define what excellence looks like in your field, what does that look like?
Who represents excellence in your field? Examine what they do; can you do it better?
Would your peers say your attitude is mostly positive or mostly negative? Ask people you trust.
Create two lists:
- A procedural list.
Identify every procedure associated with your job. Rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 in each process. Now ask someone you trust to rank you on those same procedures.
- A point of interaction list.
Create a list of every point of interaction with your employer, your peers and your customers. Rank yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 at every point of interaction. Ask someone you trust for feedback.
It’s a Process
One of my favorite TV shows is “Chef’s Table” on Netflix. I am the worst cook ever, but I love this show because it tells the story of how the world’s top chefs transform from being unknown to the world’s best, with multiple Michelin Stars.
The common thread for all of these chefs who are part of the cooking elite is:
- they each made a conscious decision to be great,
- they made changes and sacrifices to learn from the very best,
- they took what they learned and became excellent themselves.
My challenge to you is this: don’t settle for good. Strive for greatness. The majority have average perfected already.
Do you wish to be part of something excellent? If so, it has to start with you.
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