June 22, 2021
When I was still in highschool, I remember listening to a song that had so much meaning to its message. The musicality and the message were so good, it made me think about it over and over again. A friend of mine told me that he and his brother experienced the same thing whenever they listen to songs with great messages. His brother said:
“That’s what excellent things do to us: they leave something in us and move us.”
It is easy to spot excellence because it will always catch your attention and will eventually capture your heart. Anything that is excellent will stand out either from the crowd or from the clutter. Though the same is true with mediocrity, of course it is nothing like the effects of excellence to a person’s heart. Excellent works will leave you edified and encouraged, while mediocrity will leave you empty.
My college professor in literature told our class: “Whatever is excellent will stand the test of time.” Though she was referring to literary works, I think it is the same with any excellent work. Whatever the word “work” means to you—a report, a presentation, a routine, an assignment, passion project, a craft—if it is excellent, it will stand the “test of time.”
The value of excellence extends far beyond your work as a student or your chores at home. The truth is that if anyone desires to make a difference, being excellent shapes that desire into being. We are so used to seeing mediocrity that is why excellence is a breath of fresh air.
Breathing the air of mediocrity causes us to be desensitized. It numbs the senses of appreciating good and valuable work. If you take just a few minutes to think about the condition of society, you would see why it is important to be excellent in whatever we do.
Excellence is progression, not perfection. Excellence does not always mean getting it right the first time. It also means being willing to do it the second time or persevering until it is done in the best way as humanly possible.
Here are four ideas that can help us understand excellence better.
1. Excellence is hard work. Regardless of the field we are in, our hard work greatly affects our excellence. Excellence does not happen by accident. People work at it intentionally and deliberately.
I was part of a dance group when I was in highschool, and we became the back to back champions. Our routine was just around 6 to 10 minutes, but it was a product of months of tedious and tiring training—from composing our own music, lyrics, to coming up with fresh choreography. It was all worth it when we became the regional champions. Though being excellent does not always have to be in the context of competition, being excellent will always make you say “It was worth the hard work.”
2. Excellence requires teamwork. It is true that “behind every great player is a great team,” and I would like to add the words “beside and in front of” because of my own experience with the people who support me. I have the privilege of being surrounded with excellent people from my family to my friends.
They say that the higher you climb up to the ladder of leadership and success, it gets lonelier. But when excellence is viewed as something that requires teamwork, success no longer feels lonely. The relationships we have make being excellent much more meaningful. The joy of being excellent is multiplied by the people that you share it with.
3. Excellence is a heart issue. I have seen the difference between those who love what they do and those who just wanted to get things done. While excellence entails a good set of grades, it also reflects a good set of moral character. This means that you can get the highest scores in your class and the most praised output in your group. But if it was achieved through cheating or other acts of compromise, it devalues the quality of the work.
However, this is not an excuse to slack-off as well. Excellence means that the person who is at the bottom of the ladder but climbs it anyway, slowly but surely and honestly, is excellent. Excellence is not just about having skillful hands but also having integrity in your heart.
4. Excellence is a response to God’s grace. Five years ago, I graduated from the School of Campus Ministry, and during our graduation, I remember posting this on my Facebook account:
“After experiencing God’s grace and goodness through the people around me, why should I not give my best in every endeavor? Why should I live a half-hearted life? Why should I venture on finding pleasures in this world? Why should I hold back in pursuing God and His call? Let every fight be passionate! For I would rather have battle wounds and scars than have none at all! I am in a position where the most logical decision is to throw my life at the cause of Christ!”
When I begin to think that excellence is ultimately the work of God in me, the word “excellence” no longer becomes intimidating but slowly, it becomes comforting and liberating because I remember that it is not about me. It comforts me because no matter how many times I fall short from the expectations of people, no matter how many deadlines I miss or details I forget, God’s grace will never fall short on me. It will always be more than enough. Of course, grace is not a license to keep on missing deadlines and all other things. Grace causes many good things, but mediocrity is not one of them.
It is liberating to know that God is not waiting for me to fail but to excel. Excellence is not a way to impress the King or gain His approval. It is a “response” because the King is your Father, and He is already well pleased with you and loves you.
May we grow in excellence as we delight in God and His grace, not the applause and praise of men.