“Stop waiting for the tide to change. You are the tide. You have absolutely everything that you need to create the life you deserve. At some point, you need to decide whether to allow yourself to drift aimlessly and hope for the best, or strap on a lifejacket and swim like hell towards the shoreline.”

Michaela Alexis offers us a compelling choice with the above quote. We can either pursue excellence or drift endlessly in the sea of mediocrity.

Sadly, the call of excellence often falls on deaf ears. However, pursuing excellence begins with a decision you make, an ideal you envision. Once that vision is in place, you do whatever is necessary to make it a reality, as delineated by S. Smith and Vivian Harte.

As I have written before and would like to repeat again, one of my mantra’s for pursuing excellence comes from Hall of Fame Coach Vince Lombardi, who when meeting his team for the first time as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, eloquently said, “ We will relentlessly pursue perfection knowing full well we will not attain it, but in the process we will catch excellence, and if you do this, within three years we will be national champions.”

Under Lombardi’s pursuit of excellence, his team during the 1960s won three straight and five total NFL championships in seven years, in addition to winning the first two Super Bowls at the conclusion of the 1966 and 1967 NFL seasons. Lombardi certainly epitomized the pursuit of excellence.

Few could argue with the ultimate goal of achieving excellence; however, many of us fear and avoid pursuing excellence due to the habitual experience of maintaining the status quo of life. The daily grind of life often reduces our ability to transcend above it. Excuses, excuses and more excuses become the rallying point for many.

Consequently, any strategy for personal or organizational excellence centers on the exploration of “where am I heading?” If indeed the adage is true, “the journey is more important than the destination,” then conversely, the pursuit of excellence is greater than the tranquil waters of mediocrity.

How then, do we advance out of the sea of mediocrity? One way to catch excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way.

Specifically, and in order to connect, enable and orchestrate excellence in our lives, a compelling article was written by Charles Specht titled, “7 Reasons Why the Pursuit of Excellence is Better than Settling for Mediocrity.” I will highlight Specht’s salient points and then comment in parentheses on how to add this to your leadership domain.

1. Nothing of any real significance happens to people who linger in the status quo: (The status quo or homeostasis actually kills the body. Our cellular structures are in constant regeneration. My famous mantra is that mediocrity kills excellence every day of the week.)

2. We are created in the image of God. Therefore, you have the ability to do excellent things over and over and over again: (Excellence is never a choice, rather, it is a habit. Choose to be excellent every day and make that your rallying cry and watch your life change.)

3. The world is already filled with mediocrity, so don’t settle for adding more white noise. (Be the change you wish to see in the world and never settle for mediocrity. Embrace the change of being excellent every day.)

4. You grow and develop as a person when you set out to do more than is merely expected or required. (People who pursue excellence are resounding leaders in their field. Pursue effort and not excuses and watch your career grow exponentially.)

5. People will begin to follow you on social media and perceive you as an expert. (Because there is so much “average” out there in the world, we can’t help but notice your pursuit of excellence. You naturally stand out when you gradually strive to do better.)

6. Pursuing excellence shows that you aren’t a victim of procrastination. (People who procrastinate provide nothing of value by remaining stagnant. Excellence is achieved by doing the ordinary in an extraordinary way. You can’t pursue excellence at the same time you’re procrastinating. It’s simply not possible.)

7. People who tend to pursue excellence have less stress in their lives. (Let’s face it. When we put off for tomorrow what we should be doing today, we tend to stress about it until the project gets finished. People who pursue excellence tackle projects as they arrive in a timely manner and attach excellence to their work.)

In the end, pursuing excellence is a life-calling. It is not for the faint of heart. As Warren Bennis exhorts us, “Excellence is a better teacher than mediocrity. The lessons of the ordinary are everywhere. Truly profound and original insights are to be found only in studying the exemplary.”

In a similar vein, Stephen Jobs proclaimed, “Be a yardstick of quality.” Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. What is in your yardstick?

Dr. Edward Piatt, Ed.D., is a retired manager from the state of Illinois with 32 years of frontline leadership experience. He is an adjunct professor of business in the MBA and MOL programs at Olivet Nazarene University, and a doctoral advisor and adjunct doctoral professor at Trevecca University. He is also an organizational/economic development consultant and lectures frequently on Emotional Intelligence (EI), organizational culture, and leadership. You may contact him at epiatt@olivet.edu.

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