“Do Everything with Excellence” Is Hogwash

excellenceA lot of people are trying to “raise the bar” on excellence these days.  Excellence is important, but the idea that we should do everything with excellence is an impossible goal.

Excellence means exceeding expectations.

Unless you are blessed with a talent that enables you to naturally exceed expectations, to exceed expectations in any endeavor you are going to have to put extra time, extra effort, or extra resources into that endeavor.

Your personal time, energy, and resources are limited.  If you put extra time, effort, or resources into one thing, you have to take it from something else.  It’s impossible to be excellent in your career, an excellent spouse, an excellent parent, an excellent PTA member, an excellent home owner, have an excellent body, and be an excellent golfer all at the same time.

Sure, there things we can do to raise performance and productivity across the board and we should, but there are still limits to what we can do.

Ultimately, excellence is a matter of choice.

Intentionally or unintentionally, we all choose what we want to do with excellence, and what we are OK with doing OK.  We make that choice when we decide what we to put extra time, effort, or resources towards, and what we’re just going to do as well as we can with less.

I want to be an excellent husband, parent, follower of God, and leader at work. While I often fall short of excellence, I do my best to put extra time, effort, and resources into those things.

On the other hand, nobody is every going to confuse me for a model or a pro athlete, so I’m content to exercise for 30 minutes 5x a week with some cast-iron weights and an $80 bike I got at Wal-mart.  My house is never going to be in Better Homes and Gardens, so I spend time and money on the weekends with my family rather than on home improvement projects.  I usually help coach my son’s baseball and soccer teams, but I’m not out to win a national championship, so I don’t put time and money into researching the best methods, training videos, and equipment.

What do you want to do with excellence?  Have you made an intentional choice to put extra time, effort, and resources into those things? If so how?  If not, what adjustments are you going to make?

18 Responses to ““Do Everything with Excellence” Is Hogwash”

  1. I put the “do with excellence” in the same category as Seth Godin’s “don’t do anything unless you can be the best in the world.” I think both hard just setting people up for unreasonable failure. Don’t slack off, do the work that you are being paid for, if not better than what you are being paid for. Work as if you are working directly for God. All of those I can get behind. But how do you change a diaper excellently? What does it mean to be the best in the world at photocopying a bulletin?

    • Exactly. I’m not suggesting anyone slack off or do sloppy work, but I believe we should intentionally choose to shoot for “adequate” or “don’t embarrass yourself” in less important things so that we can focus our time, effort, and resources on the things we want to do with excellence.

      • I have been having this same conversation lately with several people. I think the problem is that most people don’t know how to evaluate what is important and what is not. Either everything is important or nothing is important. Both sides miss the mark of real living in a real world. And by default we are going to have different answers because we have different gifts and interests and skills. I tend to draft blog posts fairly quickly. I try not to be sloppy and avoid errors, but I am also not trying to win a Pulitzer. I am trying to get down initial impressions or thoughts on a book. But others really are trying to craft a post. When I cook, I usually shoot for adequate. I like cooking fine and every once in a while I go all out, but most of the time, eating is something I do so I can do something else. But my wife thinks about and crafts her food. She wants it to be right. I enjoy her excellent food, but sometimes I would prefer eating a bit sooner. And she almost never reads any of my blog so any smidgen of excellence I have is lost on her.

        • Adam, those are great examples. I hope others will take the time to evaluate what’s important and what’s not as you have.

  2. Paul,

    I am simply trying to do what is right and what is good for me instead of the exact opposite. You’re a good man keep up the great work.

  3. A distinction needs to be made between ‘excellence’ and ‘perfection’ – there is a world of difference between them! There is also a tendency to equate the 2.

    Excellence is a behavior, while perfection is a condition. This is why we say ‘strive for excellence’ and ‘achieve perfection’.

    Be careful, too, about comparisons. Excellence comes from within and is God-driven. Perfection is external and judged by human standards.

    “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” http://read.ly/Phil4.8.NIV

    Here’s a podcast on this very topic: http://geeksandgod.com/episode98

    • Steve, that’s a good point. Although I don’t think perfection is the right word, it is important to make a distinction between doing the best we can at something and producing a good outcome.

      • Perfect may not be the perfect word, but I think you got my point – the process (effort) and the product (effect) are to be considered separately.

        As Adam stated and another Paul reminds us – ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men’ – that, to me, is excellence.

  4. Hi Paul.
    Excellent post.

    You’ve liberated me somewhat with this one.

    Yet, also, it admonishes me, in a good way. I pour my pursuit of excellence into the wrong places sometimes, such as computer games. I tend not to pursue excellence in some of the important areas, such as beauty and housework, but this blog post will help me to pre-establish my focus areas. Thanks.

  5. Paul, I have been reading your blog for some time and this is the first time I have commented. I have focused my energy on many other things that were not that important, like computer games, going out and kinda left other more important things undone. I don not want to become focused only on work and family, but I do think I need to change my focus. Many blessings and thank you.
    Julie

  6. What a stress reliever. You would like Flylady.com Perfection is a dirty word for her and, let’s face it, perfect can’t happen. The one perfect person was crucified. I do my best but when it’s all over, I go back and say, “I wish I had thought of that. . .”

  7. Great post Paul, I think excellence don’t need to be viewed by ourselves, because sometimes most of us are really not content on what we have achieved, that we tend to look for something more to get more unless it’s proven by people who surround us would say that we are excellent. We should not stress ourselves over that, as long as we love what we’re doing, we are happy about it, we can inspire others that’s what excellence to me. Even if I don’t receive an award for it, as long as the people supports me for what I did. A simple recognition is a great proof that you are excellent.

    Thanks and stay inspired!

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