Posted by: amylamb | September 9, 2011

The Nature of Excellence

How do you grade yourself?

I noticed a difference in grading scale when I made the transition from undergraduate to graduate work. In college, you get an “A” by doing what is expected of you.  But in grad school, merely meeting the standard doesn’t cut it. If you want an “A” then you have to exceed expectations. This slight change in scale has completely transformed my perspective on excellence.

We relegate the quality of our work to the man-made standard of normalcy. But we who are in Christ are called to, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23). But the last time I checked, that which is done wholeheartedly – especially from a heart in which the Holy Spirit dwells – is anything but mediocre.

The world doesn’t need more mediocre work. The world needs excellence. Excellence doesn’t merely meet the standard – it resets the standard. It challenges us to dig deeper, push harder and go farther. True excellence inspires us to make an unprecedented contribution. It makes progress that acts as a foundation for others to enter in and build upon. This collaboration of excellence builds momentum that acts as a magnet to the outstanding. Excellence keeps moving forward. Quite frankly, it’s unstoppable.

Climbing the last 10% of the grading scale takes 90% more effort than exerted to merely the meet the standard. But within the last 10% dwells the extraordinary. It is difficult, ridiculous, and at times, seemingly impossible. That which is created in excellence will multiply exponentially, but that which is created to meet man-made expectations will soon be forgotten in the realm of mediocrity.

So take a long, hard look at your definition of “good” work. Engage the expectations that are set for you (or that you set for yourself), then build a strategy on how to blow them away. Eliminate the unnecessary and focus your efforts on the one or few things through which you are called to reset the standard.

Whatever He calls you to do, don’t get comfortable. Keep moving forward, leaving excellence in your wake.

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