What is the first response that comes to mind when I say, “Let’s talk about EXCELLENCE?” If you read this blog last week, I hope you have made an intentional effort to make your thoughts positive. So maybe your first thought was, “Fantastic! This is exactly what I have wanted!”

If you missed last week, I encourage you to go back and read that coaching on PERSPECTIVE. You will be glad you did. But, back to EXCELLENCE…maybe you were slightly less excited and you thought, “Excellence! That takes too much effort. How about ‘good enough’?”

I recently read a quote, “I thought I wanted a career. Turns out all I really wanted was a paycheck!”

Some days I think that describes many of us. We start out with great enthusiasm, but as time goes on, perhaps our reality is just not quite up to our initial expectations, so we become, frankly, lazy, and just begin to accept mediocrity in our lives and in our work. After a while, we are just marking time, instead of investing in a pursuit of excellence. When we stop to think about it, we tend to say, “Just let me sleep for a night, and I’ll throw something together in the morning.” And we go through life thinking, “I’ll do this better next time.” “Tomorrow, I’ll start over and get it right.” And ‘tomorrow’ rarely comes, so our lives turn into ‘good enough’, and we miss out on so many opportunities and experiences just because we settled.

Here’s an exercise that I believe you will find enlightening. Take a pen and paper and give yourself a few minutes to reflect on the following locations and situations:

1. Your last vacation – where did you go? What did you like most about your accommodations?
2. Your favorite restaurant – what do you notice first when you walk in?
3. The ‘dream’ house – you know the one that every time you drive by it, you really wish you lived there… what do you like about the house?
4. Think of the last time you saw a play, an opera, a show? What did you enjoy most? If you would prefer, think of the last sporting event you saw. What did you enjoy most?

Now, look back over your list, and let’s review it together, looking for a pattern. Did you like a particular hotel because it is always clean and beautiful and the staff is pleasant and helpful? What about your favorite restaurant? Is the food fresh and tasty? Is the restaurant clean, the wait staff cheerful and efficient? Is your dream house well-maintained? Does it have beautiful landscaping? What about the show or sporting event? Were the players well-trained? Did they know their lines or run their routes with perfection?

Is there a pattern of excellence in your choices of favorites? I would guess there is. We all appreciate the extra effort, the ‘step above’ that sets apart the hotel, the restaurant, the home, or the team. We want excellence. We choose excellence. But my question for you today, is “Do we practice excellence?”

Excellence is defined as “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” Excellence is about effort. It is an attitude that results in an action.

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A writes in his blog the following description of what excellence means at his company:

Several years ago, Chick-fil-A introduced “Second Mile Service” to our employees. Going the second mile comes from the book of Matthew in the Bible. Jesus says, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). In business, as it is in life, there are certain expectations that people have: be nice, work hard, be ethical, say “please” and “thank you.” 

Those are things we should all do because it’s “just right.” It’s the ante. It’s expected. It’s obligatory and most times a compulsion that takes very little effort.

It’s the first mile.

The second mile “ups the ante.” It’s the above and beyond. It’s helping mothers with children to their tables, refilling drinks, engaging in conversation and opening doors for customers (at a fast food restaurant!) It’s an authentic smile, and it is absolutely “my pleasure.”

Going the second mile means living out the Golden Rule and putting others before ourselves in a world that is all too often about "me, me, me." When we look at each day as an opportunity to put others first, we are quite simply, but powerfully living out what God has called each of us to do.

No doubt, we have all experienced the customer service excellence that has become as much a trademark of Chick-fil-A as the chicken sandwich. It is a pleasure to go there, knowing that you will be greeted with a smile, treated with respect and served a tasty meal. We count on that at Chick-fil-A, and have come to expect the ‘second mile’ service.

Often, we find a lot of traffic on the first mile of any journey. A lot of people are willing to go the first mile. But the moment you get to the second mile, there’s hardly anyone on the highway. That’s what sets apart those willing to excel and to make the extra effort, and that’s why they make an impression that is remembered.

Now, let’s move a bit closer to home. What about in your own life? Starting with where you spend many of your daylight hours – at work. Are you an employee of excellence? Do the people at your office know you are the one that does not settle for mediocrity, but puts dedicated effort into both the small tasks and the large projects?

People with a mindset of excellence will stand out. They are the best businessmen, the best teachers, the best musicians, the best cooks, and the best soldiers. They are model citizens, drive the cleanest cars, and have the best-kept lawns. They show up on time, they follow up on tasks, and they exhibit the best attitude while doing all these things! Because that is what a mindset of excellence creates. It produces an unwillingness to settle for second best or just getting by, and drives a person to put in the extra effort required to excel.

Excellence is a mindset that can be seen in everything you do. I recently read the story of a German who once visited a temple under construction where he saw a sculptor creating an image of Adam. Looking around, he saw a similar image lying nearby.

Surprised, he asked the sculptor, “Do you need two statues of the same man?”

“No” said the sculptor without looking up, “We need only one, but the first one
got damaged at the last stage”.

The gentleman examined the discarded image but did not find any obvious blemish.

“Where is the damage?” he asked.

“There is a scratch on the nose of the man”, said the sculptor still busy with his work.

“Where are you going to install this statue?”

The sculptor replied that it would be installed on a pillar 20 feet high.

“If the image is that far up who is going to know that there is a scratch on the nose?” the gentleman asked.

The sculptor stopped his work, looked up at the gentleman, smiled and said, “I will know it!"

Excellence is a drive from the inside. It is a personal mindset that brings the satisfaction and the knowledge that you have done well. It is not done for the praise of others, yet when you are a person of excellence, people will notice. Excellence will propel you forward and set you apart.

I encourage you to make a self assessment. Are you a person of excellence? Are you on the second mile?

If you are not, do not delay. Begin now to make the extra effort and to develop the attitude that what you do – both big and small – creates the type of person you are. Reaching your goals and achieving success requires you to have a mindset of excellence. The actions that follow this focused mindset will put you on the path to become one of the greats.

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