what we are missing
Last month, I read the book Grit by Angela Duckworth, a scientific look at how effort and perseverance matter more than talent. The motto of our home has always been, "hard work pays off" so you can imagine how deeply this book resonated. The concept comes down to this- effort is a higher predictor of success than natural ability.
As I read, I began to think of excellence, the place where skill and effort meet. When ability, passion, and grit come together the result is brilliance. What is interesting about excellence is that we often only recognize it in comparison. It isn't until we come in contact with quality that we see what we are missing.
No one demonstrates this concept more than my dad. He is excellence personified which means he is a catalyst for change. It also means that once you meet him, you are left with a wake of realization. Suddenly, what seemed good now seems a little mediocre or pedestrian.
Let me give you a quick background on my dad. He was born into a hardworking family where hilarity was abundant and success was born from determination. He went to a private school on a sports scholarship, started multiple businesses in his teens and twenties, and was the first person in his family to graduate from college. When he was graduating, he found out the company he had secured a job offer from was going bankrupt. In a moment of pure gumption, he found a flyer in his department for a job opening and took every phone number stub so no one else could interview. He got the job and crushed it. He took a few pay cuts and moved into different jobs for the potential of growth. During one of those jobs, he started a company that he ran and eventually sold, allowing him to retire in his thirties. Oh, and the company he first worked for? He now heads up their board of directors. Toss in two masters degrees, teaching at colleges, traveling the world to consult, becoming a preacher, sitting on another board of directors for a non-profit, and a hilarious personality and you can see why people are blown away. But what really impacts people is the realization that he never rests on his laurels. No matter the circumstance, he puts his whole heart into it.
There are countless things I love about my dad but this is probably my favorite. I've seen organizations and people have lightbulb moments as they talk to him. They see him work, see his heart, see his excellence and realize this is what they've been missing. It's not that they have been missing him specifically, rather they have been missing the wholehearted quality that comes from someone who knows effort matters. The biggest concept I'm seeing is that excellence matters in every single area. The way my dad loves his friends and family is often miles above the norm. The way he cleans the floors in his home (with a special mop and exact recipe of soap) puts regular cleaning methods to shame. The ways he engages people, teaches, supports, and cast vision are all incredible. Structure is built where it was lacking, new excitement is breathed where it was waning, effort is born where it was lackluster. That is the mark of excellence, and coincidentally, my dad.
As I'm thinking through this theory, that excellence is recognized in comparison, I can't help but wonder, what are we missing? What are areas in our life running on mediocrity rather than quality? What do we produce?
I want to be a person of excellence which means I first must encounter it. To grow, to be a catalyst for change, we have to figure out the areas of lack. If the common saying, "You are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with" is true, then I want those five people to be in full-hearted pursuit of a job well done in some area of their life. Because through that encounter, I can't help but be changed. My eyes become open to what I have been missing in my own life, whether its dedication or tools, to help buoy me to excellence. Then, ideally, I will rise to the challenge, combining skill and effort in search of the exceptional. It's not a quest for perfection. Rather, it is an aim of blending practice and heart into producing our best in whatever we do. It is a recognition that talent only gets us so far but purpose and perseverance will outpace it every time.
When eyes are open to what is missing, change occurs. It is a basic formula. As I've thought about excellence, these are the two questions I asking myself.
- Do I know what excellence looks like in (fill in an area of your choice)?
- Am I intentionally doing my best?
It's a simple place to start. BUT, I've seen through the example of my dad and countless others, that working to answer these questions with a yes results in a massive impact. When we chose to answer yes, to find examples of greatness, to live in the world of ability plus grit, we change lives. We change our families, communities, and everything we touch. Our yeses may just be what the world is missing.
So I'm reaffirming my belief that hard work pays off. If you need the scientific proof behind that statement, read Grit. It will bolster your determination to be tenacious, purposeful, and selfless. Let's surround ourselves with people who demonstrate the power of effort and the beauty of impact. Then, let's be people who strive to do the same.
Skill + Effort = Excellence
Excellence + Contact = Change
I want to know what I'm missing. And thanks to my amazing dad, I am constantly having my eyes opened and being challenged and encouraged to push for better. Not for measurable achievement but for more heart, more intentionality, and more effort. Day by day, he is teaching me how to be a world changer. I couldn't be more grateful.
MMH- Thanks for being an example of excellence but mostly for being an excellent dad. Home team forever.