Sometime last year, I enlisted the services of a painter to ‘touch up’ a wall. I showed him the color I wanted (an adjacent wall was painted same color) and provided the necessary mobilization to get the job done. He suggested, but did not insist, that I get the paint myself but I ignored his suggestion. A few hours later, I go check on progress and to my surprise, he had used a different color! As is my usual practice, I tried to find out what could have gone wrong; I found out that he was/is color blind. A color blind painter!
When I’m not working, I provide services as an Engineer. I once had the disguised-misfortune of working with a senior Engineer who practiced the CYA strategy to the hilt. I have no problem with people who behave this way; no one wants to get blamed when things go wrong and so we cover our a$$ to make sure that doesn’t happen. But the problem was that he was CYAing with both hands and as a result never had a free hand (metaphorically) to do anything; he never got any work done (at least that way he won’t get blamed when things go wrong, right?!).
Why these stories? Both individuals are part of a ‘system’ set up to achieve results. But because of the deficiency in the nature of their attitude to work, their ability, and mindset versus expected outcomes, there’ll always be a disconnect between effort and results in any enterprise they are a part of. I could go on with many tales but I’d leave storytelling for another time. I have a question though, “What would it take to get everyone to be fastidious in their application of self towards achieving functionality and results in any enterprise they are a part? I’ll propose an answer: we need to adopt Excellence as a religion. I’ll take you on a circuitous journey to explain what I mean; so I’d need you to stay with me on/in this attempt .
Religion can be defined as “a personal set or institutionalised system of religious attitudes, beliefs and practices.” Those who subscribe to organised religion are devoted to a daily practice of habitudes with the express intent of helping them achieve clearly stated objectives. For some, a desire to enjoy success in earthly endeavours is the prize they seek for adhering to precepts of their Faith; for others, it is the hope of eternal life after this life, and for others still, a combination of both. We spend our time and design our lifestyles according to the dictates of whatever religion we follow, ultimately to reap rewards. Even my colour blind painter and engineer are devotees to organised religion; but one would wonder how their devotion to their religion helps them in their profession. Should there not be a direct correlation between one’s attitude to work and his/her personal beliefs? Is it possible to be sloppy in one and successful in the other? Whether we admit it or not, we all desire to perpetually enjoy earthly pleasures whilst we still have breath and one way to establish this earthly utopia is for each and every person to apply himself to creating and adding value and ensuring that all his efforts result in the crystallisation of intended objectives. And that’s where excellence comes in.
We have many religions. Even without us knowing we are adherents to certain practices that are founded on our proclivities, and these natural tendencies subconsciously guide how we live our lives. For some beauty is their religion; they’d do what it takes to stay fresh because they get rewarded by others for being beautiful and that’s the path they have chosen to earn a living; and so they apply themselves daily doing things that would make them stay beautiful. They are more devoted to staying beautiful than they are to fulfilling their obligations to whatever organised religion they subscribe to. For others it’s fashion, staying trendy; acquiring the latest tech stuff; and others going to the disco on Fridays. How does Excellence compare to these ‘religions’?
What does it mean to be Excellent? What does it mean to conduct yourself excellently at all times? Is it even possible to be excellent at all times? Maybe not, but striving towards Excellence surely pays off compared to leaving the outcome of your efforts to luck or chance. Excellence is defined as a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is a concept which when understood and applied eliminates waste, downtime, hurt and dereliction in one’s life and in society as a whole. It’s a mindset; it requires awareness. It needs to be understood. It has to be practiced; and just like a religion, it pays its dividends handsomely well, in this world, both in the short and long term. These dividends include health, wealth, serenity, success at work/school/business, great relationships etc. What more can we ask for from a religion? So can we say Excellence is a religion? From the foregoing, I think the answer can be yes. I’m not asking that you revoke your subscription to organised religion and worship Excellence but I am suggesting that whatever it is you decide to do, make sure that the benefits of following this new ‘Excellence religion’ accrue to you.
Just like any religion, there are certain habitudes that must be practised in order to enjoy associated benefits. I am not an excellent individual, neither am I mediocre by any standard but over time, and from personal experience and the experience of others, I have been able to identify certain behaviors which when dutifully practiced bring gain and value. To attain any goal, you have to spend your time assiduously/religiously doing things that will help you achieve that goal. The word religious is defined as “very careful to do something whenever it can or should be done”. If we therefore see benefits to applying ourselves excellently to anything and everything we do, we can conclude that we subscribe to the notion or concept of aspiring towards Excellence. We also know that to enjoy its rewards, we have to adhere to its precepts and practices, and so can therefore describe its pursuit as a religion. A religion is defined as “an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group”. Is the pursuit of Excellence important to you? It is to me. I believe that I would reap its rewards if I follow its rules and I practice its precepts diligently. I’d share a few of these behaviors with you. The suggestions below are by no means conclusive and you should try to identify other habits you can adopt to help in your pursuit of Excellence (that’s if you believe in it).
Surround yourself with the right people. Jim Rohn says that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Identify who those people are and then do the math; ask yourself what benefits you derive from associating with them; then ask yourself what value you add to them. To complete the evaluation, consider if your life or theirs really is better as a result of your association. If the answer is a honest yes, good for you. If your answer is no, find new friends.
Don’t take on too much at once. There really is no such thing as multitasking. In an attempt to multitask, you are simply shifting your attention from one activity to another (and not doing both at the same time, as is commonly thought) and in most cases, it’s difficult to apply yourself efficiently whilst trying to ‘multitask’. You’d have to be extremely smart to be able to effectively combine two different tasks and achieve excellent results in them. Focus on a major task; if you must attend to something else, put the initial task on hold, attend to what needs attention, close it out, then go back to what you were working on. Avoid distractions, especially social media, TV, and over indulgence in sleep. Social media and TV take a lot of our time without us knowing and infuse outlandish ideas about life into our psyche.
Spend time feeding your mind with positive, value adding information. You need to be consciously aware of the type of stimulus you allow into your life on a daily basis. Subconsciously, our minds are fed with a lot of information, through social feeds, television etc. They feed our minds and influence who we are without us knowing. Books are a good source of information because they come undiluted without the distractions that follow television. I recently discovered another avenue for on-the go learning; podcasts (yes, I know I discovered this quite late!). Download podcasts and save them on your phone. They can be a good substitute for music whenever you have some downtime. Instead of whiling time away listening to music, try to enjoy podcasts on subjects you are interested in.
Be consistent and deliberate in your application of effort in any project you work on. It’s easy to get distracted because many things require our attention these days. Also, nothing good comes easy. But only those who are able to concentrate on a task, put their ‘best’ foot forward at all times and see these tasks to the end will reap rewards. For those who have a problem concentrating, try Red Bull. It actually helps. Be deliberate in your actions. We need to be fully aware of what we are doing, when we are doing it, and to keep the intended result in focus. Also avoid procrastinating. If something needs to be done, don’t take the easy way out by pushing it to another time; just do it.
Make sure you start your day with a to-do list (better if prepared the day before). Having a list of things you want to achieve helps provide a guideline for how you would spend your time that day and it’ll ensure that you never forget to do anything. Make sure the list contains activities that will add value to you and would take you at least a step closer to your goals (and I hope you have clear, written goals). When you complete any of the tasks, cross it out. Doing this gives you a feeling of accomplishment and this feeling actually makes a huge difference to one’s mindset. It’s a subconscious phenomenon and the resultant effect is that we are encouraged to strive to do more. Use the reminder and calendar functions on your phone to schedule activities so that nothing slips by you.
Health is key too. Without health, we cannot excel. A healthy body houses a healthy mind, and the mind is about the most powerful tool an individual possesses. You need to eat right, and exercise. Get adequate rest and adopt postures that don’t compromise your comfort. And drink lots of water.
Religion requires that we follow a set of laid down rules to achieve goals. We are dedicated and devoted to these rules. We pray, we fast, we go to worship centers etc. We do these things to get benefits. Why don’t we approach Excellence the same way? I have already listed some benefits of adhering to this ‘religion’ and also shared some ‘rules’ you can follow to enjoy these benefits. Subscribing to this religion also improves self-confidence; you should be confident in the results of your efforts such that if someone tells you that you made a mistake in your work, you’d reply that it’s impossible that you did.
I’m not advocating that you withdraw your subscription to organised religion, but I’m suggesting that you expend your time on practices that add value to you. We rely a lot on the power of mysticalities to influence the outcome of our efforts on earth. But does the power over the influence of these outcomes lie inside of us? Are knowledge and its application, being diligent, and hardworking, the things required to enjoy success? Or do we say some of it is luck or divine intervention?
Excellence is about attitude; mindset. You need to strive towards it. Excellence is about ability. You must be able to deliver on the things you have committed to or tasks required of you. Excellence is about belief; the belief that everything is possible and that you have all it takes to deliver optimally in all you do. It’s also about pride; self-respect. You are created uniquely and differently from everybody else and so you should never settle for less than being the best. In this world, it’s either you are somebody, or you are nobody – DW, American Gangster. To be somebody, you have to be markedly different, and the works of your hands must always speak for you. Excellence is about awareness. If we are created in God’s image, and indeed we are, who are we not to strive towards it?
Can this new religion help proffer solutions to the issues that have pervaded our society for decades now? Depending on mysticalities to mysteriously transform our self-imposed conditions to abundance and prosperity has not worked. Maybe the power to induce this transformation lies within us. The least we can do is to embrace a new way of thinking and create the change we wish to see.
I’m not perfect (not far from it either … kidding). I’ve not always dispatched my duties with Excellence. I have attempted to, and taken short cuts, and learned lessons from them. I’ve made mistakes, but I make sure that I don’t make the same mistake twice. I’m just trying to create an awareness; to start a conversation on the need to approach life with a mindset of Excellence; on the need to ensure that your attitude and abilities are finely tuned and suited to creating the life/lifestyle you desire. Sharing my thoughts is a process that helps me on my quest for self development. You should do the same; start the conversation with those around you and in no time you’d begin to understand what it is you need to do; who it is you need to be; and how it is that you may live life to your benefit and the benefit of others.
“If you want to learn something, read about it. If you want to understand something, write about it. If you want to master something, teach it.” – Yogi Bhajan