My name is Alheri and my mind wanders a lot (intelligently, I’d like to think). When I have random thoughts that I cannot reconcile internally, I turn to my friends for help. Sadly, those friends probably don’t want their ears talked off with my endless philosophical ramblings, hence I have turned to you, dear readers with very few answers, and a few good questions. We’ll have fun exploring these topics if you’d join me on this journey. Oh, why “This and That”? Because we discuss any and everything. Also, I assure you, I’m far from boring, and I write quite well. Not convinced? Read to see for yourself.
Today I would like to talk about excellence, it’s something I’ve seen displayed and rewarded a lot in the past few weeks.
Excellence is quality, distinction, superiority, brilliance. It is going above and beyond the call of duty to produce work that is befitting. It is giving thought to what you’re doing and doing it to the best of your abilities. It is diligence and sustained effort.
It’s not competing against other people. It is not fighting hard to emerge at the top because of the need to prove yourself or the need to accumulate street credibility or a reputation.
Although, those could be good drivers, I think if that’s your sole motivation, you’re very likely to burn out. Excellence is not trying to massage your ego, and pulling everyone down in the process. That’s pettiness.
I’m thinking about excellence because it’s graduation season, and those who have sustained excellence over their university career are being honored. And I’m thinking about how I may not graduate with those honors to my name. I know, I know, there is more to life than accolades and awards. There is more to life than being on the honors roll or being at the top of your class. Life is about balance, and the ability to enjoy the process, rather than being antisocial or so focused that you don’t see anything else but your destination.
But then again, there’s nothing like the fulfilment that comes after giving your best to something and knowing that you fought a good fight!
I’ve thought vaguely about the concept of excellence in the past, but I’ve never sat down to think about the process behind creating excellent work; work that is revolutionary, work that is groundbreaking. I often think about making a difference in the lives of those around me, and in the world at large, but a good starting point often deludes me.
Thinking about all my friends who have been honored for their work these past few (and upcoming weeks), I have come to realize that there is no one moment when one suddenly becomes an excellent individual. It is the culmination of small decisions that eventually leads to the glory of finishing well.
What is the point of saying all this?
A lot of the time, we excuse our failures: Oh, I was heartbroken; I was sad; I was frustrated; that professor is mean; my boss is a demon; my husband is difficult.
We arrive late at an event and we blame everything but ourselves. We mess up a relationship and rather than own up to our mistakes, we say that it wasn’t worth it after all. She/ he wasn’t even alllll that. But us? We’re a bag of chips and more.
We accept mediocrity, we excuse sub par work, we expect less than perfect. We don’t give our best, because it simply isn’t a walk in the park. It is difficult, tasking, and sometimes frustrating.
At the end of the day, those who emerge as stars are those who provide excellent results, time and time again.
Beyonce Knowles is the worldwide phenomenon that she is because she has refused to accept mediocrity. She has set a fantastically high standard for herself, and she continues to out-do it every.single.time. She breaks barriers with everything she produces. You may hate her, but you have to respect her artistry, her work ethic and her tenacity.
Chimmamanda Adichie is the celebrated writer that she is because she simply has refused to provide sub par work. You can read an Adichie piece and always expect to be blown away by her virtuosity and her attention to detail. You may not like the stories she tells, or her characters, but you have to once again, respect her ingenuity.
Really, these two women do not have two heads, they simply have decided that every day, they will produce excellent results. They will exceed your expectations of them. They will do better than they did they day before.
I wish I came to this realization sooner. Now, I have just one year left in university and my goals are looking farther away than I would like, simply because I was okay with an average performance for too long, instead of going above and beyond.
I wish someone had told me that it takes doing one tiny assignment well, and performing well on that one test. It’s time to take stock and think about all the things that we really could do better, and actually decide to do those things better.
When we surround ourselves with the very best, we have no choice but to become the best. Whatever your hands find to do, do it well, because a person diligent in their work will stand before kings and not ordinary men.
What do you think? Are there things in your life that you could have done better? How would you like to improve? Or, have you been one to produce absolutely stellar work time and time again, biko, how do you do it?