I believe that the exceptional life is one that could be summarized in only a few words. If you say “Wayne Gretsky”, I think “hockey”. If you say “Steven Spielberg”, I say “movies”. If you say “Donald Trump”, I think “real estate”. Without hesitation, we could clearly articulate the masterwork of their lives, and we would only require one or two words to do it.
If you don’t yet have a single word or phrase that offers this same type of summary of your life’s work, please allow me to suggest one. If you want an exceptional life, a committed and passionate marriage, achieving and well-adjusted kids, physical vitality and rock-solid finances, I’d like to advocate this one word to live by as your creed. One descriptive word that is the autograph you place on every piece of work that you do, every handshake you offer, every promise you keep. I suggest you live your life… with excellence.
Henry Ward Beecher said “Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anyone else expects of you.” How will you manifest excellence in your life? By becoming obsessed with deliver the very best level of service into the lives that you touch. Remove the statements “not bad”, “pretty good”, and “close enough” from your vocabulary. Treat them as the most corrosive poison imaginable. Don’t ask “What is the bare minimum required of me? What can I do to get by?” Ask instead “What can I do that will amaze my clients? What can I do to render my spouse speechless with love and appreciation? What can I do to make myself burst with pride over the work I’ve completed?
When you answer the phone, put the biggest smile on your face and fill your voice with passion! When you prepare for a presentation, jump on the Internet one last time to search for the perfect anecdote to tie your thoughts together brilliantly! When you comfort your child, see the world through their eyes and give thanks for the gift of their life! Do everything with excellence. Pay your bills with excellence. Shine your shoes with excellence.
To nurture excellence in our spirit, we must seek out those leaders whose code of conduct is so pure, whose resolve is so unyielding, who courage under fire is so unshakable, that they provided an instant measuring stick in our hearts and minds to compare ourselves to. When faced with a leadership challenge, ask yourself “What would Abraham Lincoln do?” When faced with a question of faith or compassion, ask yourself “What would Mother Theresa do?” When faced with a situation of overcoming illness or impossible odds, ask yourself “What would Terry Fox, Lance Armstrong, or Rick Hanson do?” What would my greatest hero do in this exact moment? Do it. Do it now. And if people only describe you in a few words, let them describe you as someone who is passionately committed… to excellence.