Isaac Disraeli, once said, and rightly so, “It is a wretched taste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.” The way you present yourself as a company or as an individual can either create or destroy opportunities.
You can do a lot of work in marketing yourself and your brand, but if you do not augment whatever you claim to stand for with excellence, you will find yourself at the drawing board again.
Excellence is the ability to surpass the norm or ordinary standards. There is an ordinary way of doing things, but when you harness the standard of excellence, you do things in an extra-ordinary way.
Do not just desire to succeed, desire to excel in whatever you will be doing. Excellence is an attribute that will distinguish you from the rest. In fact, it distinguishes leaders from followers. You need to desire to raise your standards as an individual or as an organisation.
The standards that you operate with determine the type of clients you attract, and the type of money you make as well. No one is attracted to companies that appear to have a patent for mediocrity, nor is there any employer who wants to be associated with employees who are just concerned about rendering service without paying heed to the manner in which the service is being rendered. Clients always deserve the best when you are dealing with them.
Break the cycle of mediocrity in your life and replace it with a standard of excellence. The starting point in creating excellent organisations is in creating excellent individuals.
Excellence is a decision
We are a product of the decisions that we make. The same applies to excellence. There is no one who woke up excellent. They made a decision to be excellent. You can choose to live a life of excellence or a life of mediocrity. Discipline yourself to surpass mediocrity and do things differently. It has often been said that you can take a donkey to the river but you cannot force it to drink water. You can get all the motivation and literature on excellence, but if you do not make a decision to practice excellence, you will always be in the same position.
Desire and have the drive to improve yourself. Always look for opportunities to develop yourself, your service delivery, your deportment and so on. If you do not choose a life of excellence, no one will do that for you. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavour.” (Vince Lombardi)
Excellence opens doors for you
Excellence separates you from the rest of the people in the world. Excellence builds a brand for you. The goal of branding is differentiation and standing out. The world has opportunities tied to no one’s name but to those who can operate excellently. You do not need to know anyone in top offices, but they need to know you through excellence.
Excellence is a lifestyle, it is a way of doing things. Excellence is what took a shepherd boy in ancient Israel from the wilderness to the palace to be the king’s musician even though he knew no one in the high places. He lived his life with excellence.
That is why the great Greek Philosopher Aristotle is often quoted for saying, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.” Once excellence is a habit, it becomes your default setting. You do not have to think or plan to do things excellently, you just do them excellently. Make excellence your default setting.
“The Best or Nothing”
The phrase sounds familiar — right? That is Mercedes signature. For Mercedes the star emblem is more than just a badge but their commitment to give you, “the best or nothing.” They would rather do nothing than do anything that is below excellent. The Mercedes brand has remained one of the dominant brands wowing customers with amazing experience. But how have they managed to sustain their commitment to the best or nothing;
Innovation: Mercedes-Benz has remained one of the innovative companies which has continuously explored and developed newer ideas to enable their clients, to experience the potential of the road ahead.
Performance: Anyone who owns a Mercedes brand will attest to the fact that the brand regardless of model has high performance. The more advanced models also provide better performance. When you are driving a Mercedes it’s no longer just a question of moving from point A—B, but also the experience of moving from point A—B.
Design: The company thrives on a combination of artistry and engineering to create vehicles that are mouth-watering from the tip to the tail end.
Safety: Mercedes continuously develops technology that enhances the safety of its clients by helping to protect and prevent them from collisions.
Environment: The company is moving to electric cars, in a bid to reduce the negative effects the automotive industry has had on the environment over the years.
The enemy of excellence is negligence. Negligence is in two ways, the first one — a person knows what has to be done but chooses to do the thing in the wrong way, and second one — a person does not know what is supposed to be done but still proceeds to perform the task. Be clear on the task if you want to be a person of excellence. It is always better to ask than to maintain silence and do the wrong thing.
Your work should reflect that you have indeed applied your mind to the task and have executed it to the best of your ability. Speed is a very important component in business but the workmanship exhibited in completing the task is equally important.
Take time to assess your own work and ask yourself if it reflects the best in you. Like John Deer make a commitment that, “I will never put my name on a product that does not have the best that is in me.” Harness the input of your colleagues so that they can give you honest feedback about your work and seek ways to improve.
Negligence is one of the fastest ways that enables you to lose credibility, and damage your personal brand. The first thing people question after seeing your work is competence; “does this person know what they are doing?” The sad part is that negative publicity moves faster than positive publicity.
“Father I can’t’ see the world”
You may by now know Andrea Bocelli one of the finest voices in the world. One of his songs, “Time to Say Goodbye” with Sarah Brightman is one of the best-selling songs of all time. He has done several others songs that have sold millions of copies globally. But his story is not one that was easy. Surgeons advised his parents to abort him before he was born (warning that he was likely to have multiple birth defects).
The parents went against the advice, and decided to keep him. Andrea was born with congenital glaucoma. He fell blind at a tender age of twelve. Not understanding what was happening he had a conversation with his father;
Andrea: I can’t see the world.
Father: Even though you can’t see the world, you can make the world see you.
What a profound conversation! Make the world see you! That advice changed his life for good. Today Andrea is one of the world’s greatest opera singers and has sold over 80 million records! He has done collaborations with some of the world’s finest talent like Celine Dion, Ed Sheeran among others. He became a person of excellence, and built a powerful brand, that has made the world stop and look at him.
You do not become excellent in your service by having the word “excellence” as one of your core values and having it written all over the place. You practice and live it. Wishing does not take you anywhere, but action does. What you practice daily becomes a part of you. Your life will not change in a day, but it will be changed by what you do daily. Condition yourself to doing things excellently daily. Those who negate excellence will depend on those who uphold it.
If you want to be a leader in your field, practice excellence. If you want to stand out in your studies, practice excellence. The Greeks recognised the concept of excellence. It was covered by what they called “arête”, which meant an outstanding fitness for purpose.
It was premised on the realisation that excellence has roots in practice. “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” (Aristotle)
Size does not matter
No task is too small for excellence. Your touch of distinction should be visible wherever you touch. The manner you treat your clients, deal with your family, write your assignments, write your letters and make your presentations should exhibit excellence. Your faithfulness in serving where you are will determine the faithfulness you will serve within positions of higher and better responsibility. If you want excellence in your own business, practice excellence in other people’s businesses.
Lewis Latimer, one of the leading black inventors in history, rose from being an office cleaner to becoming a serious draftsperson in America during a period of intense racism. His formula was to practice excellence in everything he did. He impressed his employers and they had to elevate him from being just a cleaner to a draftsperson. “If you are going to achieve excellence in big things, you develop the habit in little matters. Excellence is not an exception, it is a prevailing attitude.” (Charles R. Swindoll)
Excellence from the inside out
People have been so much accustomed to working their lives from the outside in. This does not take you far. Work your life from the inside out. What is on the outside should be a reflection of what is inside. Excellence should therefore come from within.
It should be a part of you — a lifestyle — and an “addiction”. Demonstrate organisation in the way that you handle your personal life and your business. “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal — a commitment to excellence — that will enable you to attain the success you seek.” (Mario Andretti)
Excellence creates opportunities for you
No one is attracted to mediocrity. Everyone wants things that have a touch of excellence and that reflect that someone really applied their mind to what they were doing. I had the opportunity of witnessing this principle via television in Zimbabwe.
Those who live in Zimbabwe might recall what happened to musician Alick Macheso at the Defence Forces Day in 2012. A sterling performance did not only result in ululation and standing ovations from the crowd, it attracted a personal invitation to the VIP stand by the then President Mugabe. Macheso himself admitted that this was a rare honour. In an interview with the Press, Macheso said, “I am honoured to shake hands with the President. I used to hear of him when I started my career as a musician. I never dreamt of meeting him, let alone shaking hands with him. Today is my greatest day. I am very humbled.”
Never take for granted anything that you might be doing. You never know where your answer will come from or how your dream will be fulfilled. You do not know who will come into contact with your work.
Sometimes your business simply needs one person who will say, “Where can I find this company? I like the quality of their work. I like the way they do their things”. Your breakthrough in life is a smile away from you. Never take for granted any opportunity that comes your way. Serve like it’s your last day and work like you are getting the best salary on earth.
Never be afraid to sacrifice
Do more than what you are being paid to do. Og Mandino captures this point in an interesting way, “Deliver more than you are getting paid to do. The victory of success will be half won when you learn the secret of putting out more than is expected in all that you do. Make yourself so valuable in your work that eventually you will become indispensable. Exercise your privilege to go the extra mile, and enjoy all the rewards you receive.”
We go up by giving up certain things. It might mean knocking off an hour later when everyone has knocked off. It might also mean a little bit more of generosity and patience. Be prepared to do more than what your contemporaries are prepared to do.
Excellence is the price that is paid for greatness. Greatness is responsibility. Mark Twain puts the concept of sacrifice aptly like this, “Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody is watching.”
Let your work speak for you
Do not tell people about what you can do, just do it. Your work speaks volumes about who you are. It has often been said that a painting speaks a thousand words about the person who painted it. What does your work speak about you? How many people are you going to attract by the way you do your things? If service delivery was food, how many people would want to eat yours? How tasty is your delivery?
People should know of your work even before they know you personally. WhatsApp has over 2 billion users in the world today, but very few people know the founders of WhatsApp.
In fact, many people do not even care, but they are so into the product itself, and by so doing they are contributing towards the development of the brand.
The success of your organisation is dependent on its success to serve with commitment and excellence. “The companies that survive longest are the ones that work out what they can uniquely give to the world, not just growth or money but their excellence, their respect for others, or their ability to make people happy.” (Charles Handy)
The extra degree
Did you know that at 211°, water is very hot? However, at 212°, something begins to happen, it boils, and with boiling water, comes steam, and steam can power a train. Raising the temperature with just one degree makes the difference between the water being very hot, and one that generates enough force to power a steam engine.
This is a simple, but profound metaphor that can guide us in our personal and professional endeavours. You need to consistently push to make that extra effort in whatever that you do. Even the seemingly small things can make a huge difference. That effort of putting that one degree is important in that it will enable you to achieve not only the primary objective, but you the exponential rewards that are possible.
Commit to make 212° the target for everything you do! You may have failed in the past, but that should not discourage you from going the extra mile. The 212° is not just about taking action, it is about committing to taking action for exponential results. You may not see the results in the immediate in other instances while some may manifest earlier. But no matter how long it may take, that one extra push often gets you 5, 10, or even 100 times more results than you were originally trying to obtain.
The extra degree concept is about going a step further, persistence and applying extra effort. It further teaches us that even the seemingly small things can make huge differences. It is about actionable focus. Take charge of your life, and realise that you are responsible for your results. Operate at 212° in everything you do, and you will experience exponential results. “Excellence is not a destination; it is a continuous journey that never ends” (Brian Tracy)
Arthur Marara is a corporate law attorney, keynote speaker, corporate and personal branding speaker commanding the stage with his delightful humour, raw energy, and wealth of life experiences. He is a financial wellness expert and is passionate about addressing the issues of wellness, strategy and personal and professional development. Arthur is the author of “Toys for Adults” a thought provoking book on entrepreneurship, and “No one is Coming” a book that seeks to equip leaders to take charge. Send your feedback to [email protected] or Visit his website www.arthurmarara.com or contact him on +263772467255 for bookings.