Ignoring Success for the Pursuit of Excellence

21 Mar

Guest post by: Matt Priest

I’m just not good enough.

We’ve all either said this out loud or had it echo through our minds at some point throughout our lives.  However, my problem with this statement is that it is often left incomplete. In reality, we’re saying to ourselves, “I’m just not good enough for ________.”  What fills up this blank?   Almost every time someone says, I’m just not good enough, the statement ends with, for him, her, them, this company, that school, this award, that organization – and the list goes on.

My response is: so what? 

The more important question is, are you good enough for you?

In a world defined by meritocracy, we sometimes fail to look at our personal achievements and weigh whether we truly give our best to achieve the highest level of success available to us.  We constantly judge ourselves using standards created by society, employers, academic boards, faculty, and even our own parents and friends.  While I’ll be the first to admit, meeting and exceeding such standards is worthy and rewarding – but the question remains:

What is the driving force behind your efforts?

Are you working yourself to the bone, spending countless hours studying, preparing, and molding your mind and body into somebody or some thing that world expects you to be?  Or, are you working and preparing yourself to simply be your best, no matter what the subject, event or the program? Are you working with the confidence to know that, when the curtain closes and the dust settles, you will have given it your very best and that is something you can be proud of, no matter what any one else thinks?

Remove your focus from achieving and surpassing standards others have put into place.  Striving to gain pseudo-approval from third parties will never satisfy the hungriest, most driven individuals because society always has a way of raising the bar, requiring higher scores and levels of achievement every step of the way.  Instead, strive for excellence.

The dictionary defines excellence as the quality or state of being outstanding and superior.  An individual striving for excellence is not bound by the limits or standards of success dreamed up by others. When we pursue excellence, we are in control of the ceiling. When we pursue excellence, there is no ending, limit, or standard someone else has set in place. We do not simply achieve, we excel.

Despite the scandal that plagued the final months of his life, Joe Paterno said it quite well:

There are many people, particularly in sports, who think that success and excellence are the same thing. They are not the same thing. Excellence is something that is lasting and dependable and largely within a person’s control. In contrast, success is perishable and is often outside our control.

Do not aim to be successful – success is a moving target made up by the world.  Instead, pursue excellence. Choose to be comfortable with yourself knowing you give your very best every day.  If you constantly pursue excellence, success will take care of itself.

Don’t worry about being good enough for anyone other than yourself. We need people who choose to be excellent at something and do it ferociously. We need people who master their own decisions, habits and motives and move forward toward their own definition of what good enough means – who move toward excellence.

Matthew Priest is a management consultant for Kalypso.  When not flying around the country solving corporate America’s problems, he enjoys competitive running, country music, attempting to be the next Emeril Lagasse, and working with student leadership organizations like the Stelos Alliance.  Hailing from the booming East Texas metropolis of Lumberton, Texas, Matt enjoys the fact that he drives a truck, knows how to two-step, and talks with a Texas drawl.  Yee-Haw y’all.


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