Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Pursuit of Excellence

Teams aspire for excellence. Businesses thrive on excellence. Leaders seek it. People want it, but here's the quandary.  What the heck does excellence actually mean and how do we reach it?

I have discussed this topic with so many people this past summer, and one thing is certain. Nailing down a common definition of excellence is like nailing jello to the wall.


After discussing it in length so many people and reflecting on various responses, I have learned one thing about excellence.  I know what it is not when it comes to education.

Here's what excellence is not. 

1. Every kid hitting the same level of performance. 
2. Every kid behaving in the same way. 
3. Every student passing a standardized test. 
4. Banners of student achievement
5. Trophies and accolades. 

Excellence is not tangible.

So What Is Excellence?

Well, if we can synthesize these antonyms of excellence at a little deeper level, I think we will find that excellence could possibly mean this. 

1. A mindset of constant improvement
2. A relentless pursuit of superiority
3. A passion for greatness 
4. A thirst for personal fulfillment 
5. A hunger for something beyond our wildest dreams 

So How Do We Reach Excellence?

Well if we can agree on the descriptors of excellence, then how can we reach it. 

1. Start thinking in terms of quality and improvement.
2. Search for examples of excellence
3. Constantly follow and learn from others who do great things.
4. Keep a to-do/project list and stick to it.
5. Celebrate progress.
6. Set goals, reach them and repeat.
7. Embrace failure and learn from it.
8. Share ideas with others.
9. Consume feedback daily.
10. Make the pursuit of excellence your lifestyle not your latest fad.

Excellence Quotes

I find much meaning through quotes. Years ago I came across the leadership work of Vince Lombardi, the great Packer coach of the 1960's. He created the first NFL football dynasty through his constant pursuit of greatness. He described excellence with these two quotes.

Excellence must be pursued.  It must be wooed with all of one's heart and all of one's might.

Perfection can never be attained, but if we chase perfection, we will catch excellence.


  1. Hello John!

    I find your blogpost on excellence really encouraging, you write with such great insights! Have you ever considered writing about online education? I came across this great European online education provider called Eliademy. They are doing a great work aiming at democratising education with technology. I would love to read about your insights on their work!

    best regards,

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