Thoughts on Excellence

December 27, 2016

The Faribault Daily News, in conjunction with the 2016-17 Faribault Virtues Project, is publishing a guest column each week that focuses on a specific virtue. This week, Nick Stoneman writes about “Excellence.”

Excellence is not a competition. It is not about winning or losing or being the best. It is an ideal. It is aspirational – that which we see as highest of standards. It needs to occupy a very important role in our daily lives. Why? Because in its absence we are lacking direction, lacking meaning.

Mediocrity does not advance society, does not build bridges across humanity, does not invent, develop, solve, seek, or inspire.

Excellence is the accelerant that fuels society because it is that which holds us to levels of deportment, to standards of civility, to ethical conduct that allows community to take shape and form, to grow and embrace its members, to provide for a bright future.

Imagine a child who knows not of excellence, who accepts “just enough” as enough. Imagine that child without a sense of the pursuit of something greater, without a personal creed that strives for the excellence that, for example, his religion - as a Christian, Jew, Muslim, or Buddhist – expects. Imagine a child who knows not of the importance of fostering the growth of her mind and all its potential because the notion of excellence as pursued by an intellectual is not known.

Excellence must pervade our worlds. It must be that fruit hanging from the limb perpetually just beyond our grasp, or the North Star of our lives’ journeys. Pursuing excellence is difficult, requires sacrifice, and is never ending. Yet, it makes us better as people, for as we pursue, we discover. We uncover where we are weak and need buttressing. We discover new worlds, new abilities, new interests. We grow, transform, evolve and – if we are really fortunate – we make a difference.

Too often we live with accepting less of ourselves. Perhaps it is self-preservation, or perhaps it is just laziness. Or maybe it is because we have accepted who we are, what we know, where we are going, what we have accomplished. It is a personal decision, and, of course, one person’s sense of excellence differs from that of another. But it is the pursuit, the dogged commitment to being better – in one’s faith, in one’s personal health, in one’s work, in achieving one’s dreams that is at the heart of excellence.

The pursuit of excellence is the pursuit of the desire to improve. Lose that desire and you have abandoned excellence. Those who sustain that desire are the ones who make a difference, are the ones who achieve and find success – whether as teachers, artists, priests, entrepreneurs, police officers, bankers, or athletes. We all know them and admire them – not because they have an award or medal, but because they embody the pursuit, impact all of us for so doing, and certainly make our world a much better place for their remarkable efforts.

Published January 3, 2017, Faribault Daily News.

  • News Image