The Path to Success is Paved with Learning

4 Tips for Continual Growth

The Path to Success is Paved with Learning

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning” — Benjamin Franklin

The world is constantly changing, it has been and always will be. It is also a universal truth that our ability to prosper in a changing environment is dependent on our willingness to continually invest in our personal development through life-long learning. There is no shortcut and at the same time there is no higher return on investment available to us to increase our success, fortunes, and satisfaction. Investing in our ability to adapt and increasing our capability have no downside and for the most part cost us little beyond the work of executing a planned strategy.

We need to continue to grow which means developing our capabilities. When we stop learning we are stuck where we are. The world around us is going to continue to change and advance. If we are not willing to at least keep pace with the change, we will be left behind and just keeping pace with the change will not move us toward our goals. To thrive in a changing environment requires that we are developing our capabilities in a planned direction, with sufficient depth to increase our ability to provide value.

We master change through continuous learning. As an individual and a leader, continuous learning is about upgrading our skills and increasing our knowledge to be able to provide solutions in the future to questions that have not yet been asked. It is about combining our experiences with new ideas to have a better ability to adapt to new or different circumstances. Continuous learning involves viewing every experience as a learning opportunity and updating our understanding with the new information. We subjugate change to a common condition as we add to our knowledge and understanding and then apply our learnings to our environment. The very act of moving forward results in change and we become accustomed to change as a common component of every day life.

Our goals include personal growth. Continuous learning is such an important element in our personal growth and success that we should not leave it to chance. As we develop our annual development plans in alignment with our long-term career goals, it is important to identify specific educational and stretch-assignment opportunities to grow our experience. Ensuring that our goals have specific learning opportunities identified increases our understanding and enhances our capabilities.

The primary purpose of continual learning is to help us enhance our capabilities so that we are more effective in the future than we were in the past. This is the fundamental definition of the pursuit of personal excellence. In order to gain greater satisfaction from the results of our efforts, it is essential that we increase our capability. By investing in ourselves through continuous learning we enable ourselves to deal with future issues more effectively than we do today. We enable our future.

I have provided a framework for pursuing personal excellent in my book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here! In the book I have outlined both a system for evaluating our strengths and talents and setting long-term goals and a process for pursuing those goals leading to greater personal success and satisfaction. These processes work together to help us set a direction and utilize continuous learning to maximize our ability to pursue personal excellence. We should not leave something as important as our personal success to the random whims of circumstance. If we are to be successful, we need to plan our success.

Here are 4 tips for achieving continual learning:

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

7 Principles for Personal Excellence

Life Outside the Comfort Zone

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” — Neale Donald Walsch

The following is an excerpt from my book: EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here!

It is important that we continually stretch ourselves to try new things and reach higher levels of performance. In order to try new things, we have to move outside the comfort of our routine to have new experiences and with that comes the anxiety of the unknown.

Simply put our Comfort Zone is a place where our activities and behaviors fit a pattern that minimizes risk and stress. It provides a mental illusion of a state of security characterized by regular happiness, low stress and low anxiety. It feels comfortable and routine. It is everyday activities that we are used to that keep us from feeling anxious, uneasy, and unsafe.

In order to push ourselves to learn and achieve more, we need to move from the routine, safe Comfort Zone to a place that fosters improved learning and engagement, which is an area just outside our Comfort Zone. This area is sometimes referred to as the Learning Zone. As our anxiety level increases we move from the Comfort Zone into the Learning Zone and finally the Panic Zone. The idea is to find the proper balance that helps us increase our performance without moving into panic driven anxiety.

While anxiety is not something we typically go looking for, studies have indicated that a small amount of extra anxiety move us into an area of increased learning and performance. When we mix feelings of success with a limited amount of anxiety we find that we are more engaged, creative, energized and ultimately satisfied than living in our Comfort Zone.

In the Learning Zone we will find that we will have an easier time dealing with new and unexpected change. One of the worst things we can do is pretend that fear and uncertainty do not exist. By taking risks in a controlled manner and pushing ourselves to do things beyond what we would normally do we become accustomed to living with uncertainty and change in a controlled environment and realize our greater potential.

We will find it easier to brainstorm and channel our creativity. While not a fully quantifiable benefit, it is commonly agreed that seeking new experiences, learning new and improving existing skills and opening our thinking to new ideas can inspire us in ways that few other things can. Learning new things and comparing that knowledge with our previous experience can lead us to explore and seek out even more ideas. As we see old problems with a new perspective we find new solutions and we find that it brings greater energy to our curiosity.

Stepping out of our comfort zone into the Learning Zone enhances our ability to grow. Our Comfort Zone is really not about comfort but about avoiding risk and anxiety. We have overcome our fear of risk by redefining our measure of success such that as long as we learn we are successful. Living in our Learning Zone is a no-risk proposition for us and is a key part of our foundation for supporting our journey to excellence.

Learn more about the 7 Principles for Personal Excellence in my book EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here! available at Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you for taking time to join our community. I look forward to exchanging comments with you on this topic.

Thanks,

Skip Gilbert

Trust Our Intuition

4 Tips on trusting our intuition

Trust Our Intuition

Have you ever been faced with making a quick decision without all of the facts? Have you ever had a feeling that one path was better than another? Or have you ever gathered a lot of information but it is still not clear what to do, yet you have to make a decision anyway? I know I face that situation on a regular basis, either there is not enough time or information and a decision needs to be made now. In times like that we have no choice but to follow our intuition.

So what is our intuition and how is it different than instinct? Intuition is a process of using our knowledge and experience to know or decide something without analytic reasoning. On the other hand, our instinct is a feeling or hunch in reaction to a specific event or situation.

Both are valuable and helpful when used appropriately. Our instincts are probably more deeply rooted in our DNA and past experiences. The word instinct comes form the word “instinctus” or “impulse” meaning the body’s biological tendency to make one choice over another. They are things like the gut feeling we get when we see an event or react to a threat. It doesn’t require thought, it is a reaction to a stimulus. Our instinct will be to duck if something is thrown at us. It is the way we want to react when insulted, it is our first reaction when something quickly changes in our immediate surroundings.

Intuition on the other hand is our thoughtful immediate decision making process without utilizing a process of fully balancing the pros and cons. It is our first response when confronting the need for an immediate decision. The word intuition comes from the word “intuition” or “consideration” formed by beliefs, experiences and memories. It leverages our past experience and the result of similar situations in the past to project a preferred action in this situation. In the situation requiring an immediate decision our mind races through all of our previous experiences and gives us an instant decision. It allows us to make the best decision we can with the limited information we have at the moment.

Everyday we are confronted with the need to make decisions with imperfect knowledge or information. Whether it is a key business decision or deciding what to have for dinner or even which way to turn to avoid this traffic situation, we have to make decisions quickly. Many times we do not have the opportunity to run a full analysis on the situation and chart out all of the risks and benefits. There is simply not enough time to fully analyze each decision against the multiple outcomes.

At some point we have to make a decision. We cannot wait at a stoplight and run a full spreadsheet analysis of the impact of our decision to turn right. We just have to make the decision and see what happens next. The inability to make a decision without intense scrutiny and analysis leads to “analysis paralysis”; the inability to make quick decisions.

Fortunately we have a built-in decision making tool called intuition. Our intuition gives us the ability to make a pretty good decision based on what we have experienced before. The decision will not always be perfect, but it will be right most of the time. It will allow us to move forward and see what happens next. It will be right a high percentage of the time and we should feel confident that without the opportunity to gain more information, the decision we make now will be the best decision we could make at the time.

We can improve the quality of our intuitive decision making by continuing to improve our knowledge and experience through our growth as we pursue excellence. As I pointed out in my book “EXCELLENCE: You CAN Get There From Here”, by planing our growth we build on our skills and talents providing a basis for even better decision making in the future.

Since intuition is based on combining our past experience and knowledge to allow a decision at the moment, it is not likely that the decision will yield a great new approach to the problem. That is not to say that our intuition doesn’t play a role in breakthrough thinking, in fact it is quite the opposite. Most breakthroughs require an injection of intuition to push us past the apparent facts. The very nature of the analytical process is that every answer yields two new questions. At some point an intuitive decision is required to decide which branch of research should be followed.

The net takeaway is that our intuition gives us the ability to make pretty good decisions with the information at hand at the time. We can have confidence that when forced to make a decision with incomplete information we can rely on our intuition to fill in the missing data and yield the best decision we could make at the time, and that decision is better than no decision at all.

Here are 4 tips on how we can use our intuition to help us everyday:

Our Reputation is our Currency

4 Tips for managing our reputation account

Our Reputation is our Currency

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” — Benjamin Franklin

One of our greatest assets is our reputation. Our reputation is a reflection of our character and our calling card for our future. Our reputation is the current accumulation of the impression others hold of our accomplishments. It is the net result of what we have done and the way we have done it. Even those who have chosen to produce nothing have a reputation. We each have a reputation. There is no escaping the fact that others consider our credibility and set expectations based on our reputation, and that either opens or closes doors for our future.

Our reputation serves to provide opportunity or stand in our way to our next success. In a way, it serves as a form of currency. We add to our account when we accomplish something that produces respect in the eyes of our observers. When we complete a task or activity or produce something of value, the net result of that accomplishment gets credited to our reputation. Completing a project with excellence, helping someone in need, taking time to teach another, producing a better widget, all are things that get credited to our account in a positive way. Think of these as a net deposit to our account.

We make withdrawals from our account when we do something that damages our reputation. Claiming someone else’s work as our own, not meeting our commitment, not completing the work we were paid to produce and other things of that nature, withdraw from our account. The rate of withdrawal may be much more rapid than the rate of deposit of positive experiences.

We borrow from our account when we ask other people to trust us or to trust someone else based on our recommendation. When we ask people to move forward with something they are not sure about, they do so based on the value of our reputation. If in their eyes we have proven knowledgable and trustworthy then they will take a risk based on our advice. We have loaned out our credibility and reputation in the form of trust. If our advice proves trustworthy then our account will be credited with interest. If our advice proves not to be trustworthy, then we will have lost the value of their trust and reduce the balance in our reputation account.

Everything we do or say impacts our reputation and impacts how other people see us. With every interaction we are either adding or subtracting from our balance. We either continue to prove our trustworthiness or we diminish it. Every transaction either adds or subtracts from our account.

More than ever our reputation is being measured in public. Social media like Facebook and Twitter make it extremely convenient for others to vocalize their opinions of us. Metrics are available such as likes or retweets. If we publish, our readers may make comments. When we produce something our product may be reviewed on Amazon or Yelp and our comments may produce reactions. Consider that even our credit rating is a measure of our reputation. All of these things drive the total picture of who we are and either raise or lower the balance in our reputation account.

Our reputation is earned, not inherited or purchased. There is no amount of money that can buy a good reputation. Money may be spent to create positive messages, but in the end it is the people that we interact with that determine our reputation. Eventually, our true character will filter through the publicity and set the tone of our reputation. Our reputation is driven by our actions and how they are perceived by others.

It takes a long time to build a positive balance in our account but we can throw it away in a few minutes. We need to be careful how we spend our reputation. Do we continue to use it as capital to build greater success or do we throw it away by compromising our values?

Here are 4 tips for managing our reputation account:

1) Live our values. Ultimately our true values will be revealed. We are better served to understand our values and live up to our standards. Anything else will eventually be revealed in our reputation.

2) Think before we act. Is this action something that we could be proud of or does it fall short of our character? Pause to evaluate our action and not just follow the crowd.

3) Consider how our actions will be perceived. We need to act according to our values, but we need to do so in a way that considers how it will be received. Act in a manner that is encouraging and uplifting, even if the action is providing adjusting feedback.

4) Learn from our mistakes. We are not perfect and it is beyond our capability to be so. However, we can strive to do better next time. As we demonstrate our commitment to following our values our failures will be diminished and our reputation will be reinforced.

In the end it is all about living up to our values and making sure our actions reflect that. The accumulation of the net of our deposits and withdrawals from our account sets the value of our reputation.

Thank you for spending time with me today. I am very interested in hearing more about how you spend your reputation account.

Thanks,

Skip Gilbert

Take Time to Celebrate Success

4 Tips to celebrate success

Take Time to Celebrate Success


The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate. — Oprah Winfrey

How did things go last week? Which do you recall more, the successes or the challenges? There were successes, actually many of them. Did you take the the time to enjoy the success or were there too many pending challenges to take time to reflect?

If you are like many of us, the busyness of everyday crowds out our time to reflect on our accomplishments. We are busy in our multi-tasking mindset, trying to manage numerous things at the same time with little extra time. It seems that the only celebration is in the form of relief that something has come off the list of things that need to be done. Accomplishing something just gives us more opportunity to work on the other things demanding our attention.

When we take the time to reflect and consider our accomplishments, we most always find that we are winning. Who would have guessed it? It sure doesn’t feel that way. There are so many things demanding our attention that we do not even realize that we are winning in our battle for success. Most of the things we attempted worked and if we are focused on the right things, actually moved us ahead. We did the work, but didn’t take the time to appreciate the success and enjoy the satisfaction. Yet, achieving satisfaction is one of our biggest drivers toward undertaking an activity in the first place.

Satisfaction is the net reward of success. It is the great feeling that we get when we accomplish something that aligns with our values. It is the big reason we set out to accomplish something in the first place. Work without satisfaction is just a job. Work that provides satisfaction is success. We need to recognize our success to continue to motivate ourselves to achieve more. Not recognizing our success is like winning the game but not looking at the final score on the scoreboard. We have earned the opportunity for the satisfaction, we need to be sure to enjoy it.

The true impact of our celebration is to reinforce our learning. The things we learn from each experience are probably more important than the thing we accomplished. Our learnings go with us forever and the thing we accomplished we leave behind. Taking time to celebrate our success allows us to tie what we learned to our positive emotion of satisfaction and make it available to us as a positive tool for use in the future.

So let’s celebrate! Woo Hoo, we did it! Good for us! When we reflect on last week there were a lot of things that went our way and were accomplished. Large and small, the things we did worked. We held our own in a meeting, everybody got to school on time, we made progress on a big project, we even found time to cut the grass. A lot of things went well thanks to us.

It is important that we reflect on the accomplishments that were important to us. Of course we want to please other people, but if at the root of our activity we are not pleased with ourselves, we will not achieve satisfaction. Don’t be afraid to privately pat ourselves on the back. We deserve it. We do not need to be overly boastful, but we deserve the recognition for the things we accomplished.

We should also offer others the opportunity to celebrate with us. It may surprise us to find that others noticed our accomplishments and are excited for us as well. Who knew they even noticed! We are all pretty busy and just like us, they sometimes just do not have the opportunity to express appreciation.

How about it! When we take time to look at the scoreboard we are actually winning and we have a fan club! How cool is that!

So let’s take a look at some of the things we can do to make sure we celebrate our success. Here are 4 tips that we can use everyday:

Personal Vision

A quick process to create a personal vision statement

Personal Vision

What do we want to be when we grow up? Certainly when we were much younger that was a question we often answered with some type of hero-like image. Firefighter, police officer, nurse, doctor, or other larger than life image that served as a type of super hero to our impressionable minds. As we view ourselves, what is it we want to be? How do we want other people to see us? What drives our satisfaction? What qualities do we hold valuable and what accomplishments will make the biggest difference to us and others?

Our vision sets an image of ourselves in the future having achieved things that seem impossible at the moment. Our vision represents an unconstrained picture of what we want to be without regard to the seemingly impossibility of the achievement at this point. We need to dream big, imagining not only the material aspects of our lives, but relationships, connections, lifestyle and spirituality. We need to imagine the best possible scenario for our everyday existence that pushes all of our positive buttons. This is our “If we can dream it, we can do it” moment, no holds barred in our thinking.

To a large degree it comes down to how do you define success? In all likelihood it is more than the accumulation of material things. History has proven many times over that the accumulation of material things as an end in itself will not be fully satisfying. For many the raw accumulation of wealth without a purpose will not be a satisfier as an end point as well.

Our satisfaction is driven by our achievement for a purpose and our connectedness to the world around us. The old adage is that very few people in their end days say I wish I had spent more time at work. They more typically say I wish I had spent more time with people, family and friends. So our vision must include our total being and not just the material aspects of our existence.

What do we want our life to be like when we get there? There is more to life than just work and achievement, what is the value of the achievement? We need to think about who we will be helping and how those around us are better off as a result of the things we have done. To achieve less will be a hollow victory when we realize that the result was less than the best we could have done. We will be disappointed when we realize the excellence target was missed because we did not fully consider how we impact others and the satisfaction we draw from that accomplishment.

So what does a vision statement do?

  • It describes who/what I want to be in the future (when I grow up)
  • It answers the question, where do I want to be?
  • It paints a picture of what I want to be on some time horizon, say five to ten years
  • It inspires me to be more than what I am today

Now let’s create our personal vision statement.

When Risk is too Risky

4 tips for managing risk

When Risk is too Risky

The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that (is) changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. — Mark Zuckerberg

When taking a risk is in itself too risky we are in a very bad place. Life is full of risk and there is no avoiding it. We take a risk every time we do something. It is a risk to get out of bed, we could fall and hit our head and suffer terrible injury. Equally, if we manage to get out of bed we could slip and fall in the shower, severely lacerate ourselves shaving, choke while brushing our teeth, trip while putting on our shoes, and so forth and this is all before breakfast.

We are surrounded by risk and it is just part of the human condition. There is a risk of a negative consequence around every thing we do. At any point something could go wrong and the consequences could range from inconsequential to terminal. There is no way to avoid things happening.

There is also equally a chance of a positive outcome from everything we do. We could wake up one morning to find that we have won the lottery, our terminal disease is in remission, our broken relationship has been mended, we are becoming more attractive as we age and our lost dog has returned home. These things can all happen as well and they are just as likely to happen as the bad things. Many good things happen to us every day, but we tend to worry about the bad things and forget about the good things. This is especially true if we are not moving toward excellence in our lives where we have an opportunistic outlook and see risk as a no-lose proposition.

Where we lose our way is when we can only focus on the negative outcomes and exaggerate the likelihood of them becoming our current reality. We then become engaged in a depressing spiral of looking for the bad because we are afraid of the bad and then become over sensitized to the unfortunate things that happen to us every day.

How many times have we commented that after someone points something out to us we see that very thing more often? Perhaps a unique model of car or something unique about a song or something similar. I certainly have noticed that once I am aware of a specific song I hear that song everywhere I go. The reality is that they are not playing that song because I am in the area, it is just that I have been sensitized to that song, and now I am more aware of it playing than I would have been previously.

Do you remember when you first learned to ride a bicycle or taught someone else to ride? I remember seeing a hole in the road as I was learning to ride and the more I focused on that hole, the more I steered my bicycle toward that hole and sure enough, eventually crashed as I drove into the hole. It was almost as if it had a magnetism to it that I could not escape. The reality was that there was over three feet of road on either side of the hole, but because I was so focused on the hole and what would happen if I fell in it, I ended up driving right into it.

It is much the same when we consider risk. If we are focused on the negative branch of what can happen, we will start to look for it and be more aware of it happening in the world around us which will further feed our fears. This cycle can build on itself to the point that we are convinced that bad things are happening to us and we are more likely to cause the negative thing to happen as we subconsciously draw nearer to it.

This can work to our favor just as easily. If we focus on the positive branch of a possible outcome, we will become more aware of it happening in the environment around us and we will start to draw nearer to the possibility that it will happen to us.

Risk is just part of our lives. There is no escaping it and it is not a bad thing. However, if we see risk as a bad thing, it often becomes our reality. We manage risk by placing ourselves in a no-lose situation such as by adopting a journey to excellence. When we embrace change and risk, and view it from the perspective that we are resilient enough to deal with the bad things that might happen and intelligent enough to learn from our experience then there is no way to lose. We set ourselves free from the bondage of worry about things we cannot control and find that the magnetism of the things that go right pulls us to a higher performance and level of satisfaction.

Here are a few suggestions for managing risk:

Perform at Our Personal Best

4 tips for achieving our personal best

Perform at Our Personal Best

The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. — Confucius

Do we perform at our personal best everyday? Are we keeping track of our personal best in the areas that matter most to us? Are we familiar with the concept of setting a personal best? These are great questions to ask of ourselves and great food for thought. To perform at our best we need to keep track of our performance so we can celebrate our success and learn from our challenges.

Part of accomplishing our goals is tracking our progress against those goals. As important as it is to create our goals so that we have direction for our activities, it is equally important that we keep track of our progress toward those goals. When we created goals we made sure that they were going to lead us in the right direction and we probably used a technique such as SMART goals to identify them.

If you are not familiar with the SMART goals process, here is a quick overview:

Specific – Exactly what we want to achieve
Measurable – Set a metric that can be tracked
Actionable – Stated to take action like run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes
Realistic – A stretch but not something impossible
Time-bound – Identify a time that it will be accomplished by

Using the SMART technique we will create goals that we can actually use and ensure that we are making progress in our intended direction.

A key part of the SMART goal is making it measurable. With this we are able to understand our starting point and how we are progressing toward accomplishing this goal. Since it is measurable we can track our progress and use that progress as a motivational tool to encourage our performance. We can see if we are succeeding and celebrate our success or challenge ourselves if we are behind in our progress. With this we are able to see how we are progressing and adjust our approach as necessary.

A great technique for measuring our progress is to create a spreadsheet or create a grid on paper that identifies the starting point for our goal and then provides space to update our current status. Using the running example, if my overall goal is to run 3 miles in less than 30 minutes, then I might setup a calendar and write the number of minutes it took me to run the 3 miles each day. I could convert that to a chart if I am analytical in nature and see my progress or I could give myself a star every time I achieved my goal.

Another great technique and a quick way to see how we are doing is to identify our personal best in our tracking log. Our personal best is the best time or highest level of achievement that we have had so far on our journey to our goal. We could circle or highlight it in our log but also just put it on a sticky note or on our desktop as a reminder of our accomplishment to-date. By doing this it gives us a great target for our next attempt.

Our progress will not always be linear meaning that todays performance may not be better than our last attempt. We may be trying some new technique or approach or just not be able to deliver a better performance than our last time every time. It does however give us a target that is just a little better than last time and something obtainable with just a little better performance. Beating our target keeps us motivated and provides the sense of accomplishment that we need to push ourselves into ever better performance.

Here are some practical tips for achieving our personal best:

Do Our Best Every Time

5 Tips for Doing Our Best

Do Our Best Every Time

The pursuit of excellence leads us on a journey of self-improvement that can be simplified to doing the best we can and doing better with each chance we get. Excellence demands that we fully apply ourselves maximizing the use of our abilities and knowledge and always strive to produce something better than our previous efforts produced.

Our results at first will only be slightly better than the standard of ordinary as we measure our surroundings at the time. With each opportunity to apply our abilities and expand our experiences we move ourselves step-by-step to a higher level of performance. Just like using our muscles in our exercise program, the more they are used the stronger they become. It is the same with our pursuit of excellence. The more we add to our experiences and learn how to more deeply leverage our talents, the greater the outcome we produce.

In doing the best that we can do, we can fully apply ourselves to see what the best we can do really is. If you are like me, there are many times I have given something less that one hundred percent subconsciously on purpose as a guard against failure. My misguided reasoning would go something like, I will give this a good shot, but not really everything I have so that if it fails, I do not have to face the reality that the best I could do was not good enough. This is a trap that does not serve us well. It does not protect us from failure, but in fact creates a greater likelihood of failure. Not doing our best cannot produce our best results. It will at best produce ordinary results.

One of the biggest challenges is to put aside our ”risk buffer” and actually attempt the very best we can do. We often rationalize our ordinary performance by leaving something on the table so that we do not have to deal with the realization that our best effort was not good enough. The problem is if we hold on to that buffer we never really find out what we can do and we lose the opportunity to make larger strides in our progress.

The idea that somehow not doing our best protects us from risk is just an illusion. Anytime we do not do our best we are by definition producing a lower level of output than we are capable of producing. With a lower level of performance we have increased the likelihood that someone else will produce a more effective result than we have and actually increase our exposure to criticism.

In order to pursue excellence we have to put it all on the table every time. We can not leave something behind to protect our ego from the true reality. If as part of our pursuit we position ourselves to learn from every experience doing less than our best because it might not be good enough seems laughable. All that we truly risk when we do our best is dealing with the reality of where we truly are when compared to the ordinary.

However, in the past ordinary results have been good enough. It was safe (so we thought) being good enough as there was always somebody worse and ordinary was good enough. In fact, occasionally good enough was rewarded sufficiently to allow us to believe we were exceeding expectations without having to do all of the work. Compared to someone who is on a journey of excellence, we will be falling behind as the standard continues to be raised. Not giving one hundred percent will become a self-fulfilling formula for mediocracy, leaving us exposed and conditioned to underperforming and overall not driving our personal satisfaction.

We might surprise ourselves that we are more capable than we thought, or discover that we are not much better when fully engaged than when we did not fully apply ourselves. In the worst case at least we know where we stand and in the best case at least we know where we stand. The only difference being our own self-perception, which we control anyway.

There is no other sure path to excellence than to take the risk of doing the best we can do. We are not trying to be perfect, just better than last time, every time.

Here are some tips to be sure we are doing our best:

Excellence is an Attitude

It is a journey

Excellence is an Attitude

It is a journey

Journey

For many years I have been searching for examples of excellence and the things that lead to excellent results. Through my search I have found that excellence is not something that can be acquired through training, but it is an attitude or way of thinking. Overall it is a journey from where we are to the best we can be in every aspect of our life.

Excellence is not something learned, but a mindset of relentless pursuit. Just understanding something does not by itself change our behaviors. It is the internalization of this knowledge and the resultant change in our approach and actions that puts us on the path of excellence.

That is not to say that we cannot learn about excellence. Quite the opposite. We need to be exposed to the concept of excellence to understand what it looks like and how we think about it. Much of achieving excellence comes from an understanding of quality and setting standards as a personal best and improving with each opportunity to perform.

When we take a look at the basic definitions of a skill versus an attitude we can clearly see the difference and gain more perspective on excellence as an attitude. According to The Merriam Webster dictionary, the simple definition of a skill is: “the ability to do something that comes from training, experience or practice.” They provide a simple definition of attitude as: “a feeling or way of thinking that affects a person’s behavior.”

The pursuit of excellence is something we have to cultivate from inside ourselves. It comes from the point that we find we are no longer satisfied with our results and seek to achieve the best we can in every area of our lives. It starts the moment we finally decide to put it all on the line and see what we are really capable of producing. It is the point that we take away the safety buffer of leaving something on the table and fully applying ourselves to a result that would be better than anything we have ever done before. Discovering and dealing with our shortcomings may be a rude awakening, but it sets the benchmark for doing better next time.

Nobody can give excellence to us and there is not a course we can take to get a degree in excellence. It is only something we can achieve from within ourselves by doing better than we ever have done before. We do not have to be perfect. That standard is unattainable, but we can push ourselves to do the very best we can. It is our own race, others can keep the score but we are the only ones that can measure the satisfaction.

So what are some of the attributes of excellence we can strive for everyday?