August 01, 2018
Excellence attracts us. Think about how excited we get when we encounter fast internet connections, on-time deliveries, extra-mile services, or convenient and efficient rides. I have seen places where excellence is highly valued; in fact, it gives me hope that we may experience this locally, eventually. I’m certain that some of us long to improve, if not birth, a culture of excellence where we are. At some point, we may have already painted an ideal picture in our minds, of people arriving early, achieving extraordinary projects, and exam results that are outstanding. But in our attempt to create a culture of excellence, how and where do we start?
To begin with, let’s check our motivation. What do we celebrate in our excellence? Is it the comfort? The brilliance? The credentials? It is of utmost importance that our hearts are set right in pursuing something.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31
It is vital to know who you are doing it for. One most important question to be answered in the process of doing things is, ‘Will this give God glory?’ If it is for Him, we can drop any tendencies of dishonesty, pride, or envy. And the real mark of excellence is not that we will shine but that God will be radiant in our lives and people will be drawn to Him.
How then can we create a culture of excellence?
If it is not consistent, it is not excellent. We don’t stop giving our best even if everyone else is already settling for what’s least. Some people aren’t particularly skilled, yet are consistent and their consistency got them promoted to leadership positions. It isn’t about one big-blow attempt at perfection; it’s a lifestyle of giving our best. Consistency is not crippled if the task is grand or simple, hidden or in the open, performed in front of crowd or a few people, or done with or without affirmation. Our faithfulness is endless and not selective.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
1 Corinthians 15:58, ESV
Though it doesn’t happen overnight, excellence is not being stagnant. It makes progress! The best artists and athletes had to start somewhere, and simply persisted to practice and constantly upgrade themselves. We, too, can be diligent and welcome the discipline of receiving feedback, inviting mentors, and learning continually. Excellent persons do not settle for “good enough” and ‘stay the same’ decisions. They ask themselves, “How do I go beyond my job description? How can I innovate and not copy?”
A wrong view of excellence can give us unnecessary pressure. Some of us may have been raised up in a performance-based culture that teaches becoming excellent entails stepping on someone to be on top. Then issues of rejection, worthlessness, and desire for approval sometimes arise in our failure to achieve our goals. We then start taking things personally, even to the point of hiding our best ideas and strategies, so as not to be imitated and still remain ‘unbeatable.’ But real excellence brings others along, and builds and lifts them up instead of putting them down. It’s not just about the accumulation of achievements at the expense of others, but using every platform to strengthen and inspire others to level up as well.
Excellence is not running away from responsibilities, but anticipating and initiating ways to meet the needs. We don’t just wait; we look and create opportunities to serve because we value purpose more than the platform of a good name. As Jesus said to the disciples in Mark 9:35, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” The position is always to serve even if in the process we will not be known. It is not fueled by promotion but simply by a heart to serve.
Is it possible to witness a thriving culture of excellence where we are? Definitely! And one best way to set things moving is to first make the change evident in our lives. Let’s do things in a manner that gives God the most glory. Because the heart of excellence is the glory of God.