Finding Your Potential In Excellence

A couple years ago, my ESL class at a university in China was not going very well. My students were apathetic, arriving late, not practicing their English like they were capable of, and showing no sense of urgency to learn the language. For whatever reason, they were not working toward excellence or living up to their potential. I talked to them about it, both individually and collectively as a group, but we could not figure it out. I met with the class monitors-my leaders-who understood our standards and knew what our class culture was all about and that the speech competition was soon approaching, but any progress we made did not seem to stick. I was frustrated and it bothered me.
The English speech competition went on as scheduled and many of my top students participated. They spoke well, but it certainly was not excellent-not like I had heard in the past and certainly not to the caliber that would win at the national event. I even had one student come up to me right after the competition and confess, "Mr. Ron, I never want to feel that way again," describing her lack of preparation and confidence.
In the days that followed, I started reflecting on potential. I wanted to find out why this happened. As an business and life coach and educator, I wanted to use this experience as a teachable moment. I also wanted to make sure this never happened again. But most of all, I wanted to find out what was missing. What put us in that position in the first place?
I discovered that what was missing were eight values necessary for achieving excellence and uncommon success and realizing the great potential each of these students had within them. These values, which I soon realized were universal and could be applied to any field, industry, or profession are: hunger, effort, process, quality, consistency, leadership, time, and perseverance.
As I began wrestling with the impact of the values, I concluded they act both independently and collectively. Each value in and of itself is powerful and capable of having a significant impact on our quest for excellence. Together, the eight values become an unshakable force, leaving no stone unturned, and putting us in the best position to living up to our greatest potential and succeed.
Since that turning point with my students, I am proud to say we had a number of speech tournaments of excellence together over the next year. That semester of "pretty good" motivated us to lower our tolerance for mediocrity and raise our standards and expectations to always work toward excellence and use all of our potential, even if we sometimes fall short.
Jazz legend, Wynton Marsalis, said, "Maybe the preoccupation with technological progress has overshadowed our concern with human progress." This article, at its essence, is about human progress and defining the eight values that lead to success.
Hunger is about your desire, passion, drive, initiative, and how proactive and self-motivated you are. One characteristic of people who are hungry is they "begin with the end in mind." This means you must be proactive in establishing a game plan and work backwards, visualizing the end result and working toward excellence every day. As author John C. Maxwell said, "The secret of your success is determined by your daily agenda."
One of my Chinese students asked me a question I will never forget: "How do I become a great speaker?" What a loaded question! After thinking about it for a few minutes, this is what I came up with: "Well, first of all, you have to have a great semester every semester. To have a great semester, you have to have a great lesson every week. And to have a great lesson every week, you have to have a great practice session every day."
How driven, proactive, and hungry are you on a daily basis? If you were shadowed tomorrow, what would we observe?
Effort refers to your work ethic, focus, and ability to execute at a high level. Legendary coach John Wooden called hard work industriousness, which meant "true work at your highest capacity, fully engaged, totally focused, and completely absorbed." In addition to the physical effort of practicing the piano for example, mental effort is just as critical to your success. Sports psychologist Gary Mack proclaimed, "Once you reach a certain level of competency, the mental skills become as important as the physical skills, if not more so."
When I advised my students on how to practice their speaking skills, I emphasized practicing with a high level of concentration, awareness, focus, intensity, intent, and purpose. When they focus, they are at their best. Their minds are engaged, in addition to their ears and hands. When they do not focus, they do not come close to reaching their potential. Now, I say the same things to my business and professional clients.
Are you taking your career as far as you can-both physically and mentally-or are you going through the motions, treading water, and spinning your wheels? What, if anything, is holding you back from giving your best effort? If you are an entrepreneur, are you leading by example with a high level of concentration, awareness, focus, intensity, intent, and purpose?
Process is about the journey, not the destination. Our society tends to overvalue results and undervalue process-the very process that leads to the results we are aiming for. According to author Thomas Sterner, "We have a very unhealthy habit of making the product-our intended result-the goal, instead of the process of getting there. We look at the process... as almost a necessary nuisance we have to go through in order to get to our goal." Finding our potential is in the process of being excellent.
Who do we think we are? Excellence must be crock-potted, not microwaved. Microwaving is fast, rushed, and does not taste very good. Crock-potting is slow and steady, and as the meal simmers over time, it is much more satisfying.
Do you know someone who is not successful? Look at his/her process. Do you know someone who produces mediocre work? Examine his/her process. How much do you value the process compared to the result?
Quality is about taking pride in the work you do. It is about your performance level, confidence, and professionalism. Quality is also about taking care of the details, setting standards, and holding others accountable for meeting and exceeding those standards. Willa A. Foster wrote, "Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives."
As a business coach, when I get paid to diagnose the ills of an enterprise, I am considered a professional. When people hire me, they expect quality-period. There are no excuses. Not being prepared is simply not an option.
One of my goals is to get hired again by the same people, because they know what they are getting with their money. Word of mouth spreads very fast as well. Remember-people don't pay for average. Would you pay for an average meal, an average movie, an average book, an average concert, an average cell phone, or an average computer? People pay for quality and excellence.
Does your name stand for quality? Do you stamp a superior quality on everything that goes out of your hands?
Consistency refers to repeatedly doing the things that will put you in a position to succeed. In fact, it is one of the invisible secrets of finding your potential and being a success. Consistency is also about making smart choices and decisions that add up over time. It is about slowly chipping away, making steady progress, and constantly getting better when others who are inconsistent are stagnating. Consistency is about having the self-discipline to embrace repetition, a key to learning, improvement, and achieving excellence. John Wooden said, "There is a choice you have to make in everything you do, so keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you."
How consistent are you on a daily basis? Do you have the self-discipline to repeatedly do the things that will put you in a position to succeed?
Leadership is about working toward excellence with others. The truth is that excellence is rarely an individual accomplishment, but rather a team accomplishment and joint venture. What few leaders truly understand is that real, authentic leadership is not about you, but the people you are responsible for leading. If you want to improve your leadership skills, simply improve the seven C's of leadership: character, competence, commitment, caring, confidence, communication, and consistency.
What is your philosophy? What are your standards and expectations? Are those in charge leading by example, putting others first, and walking their talk? Leadership begins in first being able to lead yourself. Finding your potential and being excellent takes great personal leadership.
Colin Powell said, "The performance of an organization is the ultimate measure of its leader." So how is your organization doing these days? Are you shining the leadership spotlight on yourself or on your people?
7: TIME 
Time is about managing your time and organization-two of the most important keys to success in work and in life. One of the great equalizers in this world is that everyone has 24 hours in a day. How we use those hours is what separates excellence from mediocrity and what separates potential for average. Best selling author and speaker, John Mason said, "Time, used correctly, is perhaps your most important asset. Treat time carelessly and it will do the same to you and your organization."
Saying "no" is another important skill of valuing your time. For example, sometimes I have to make a decision to recommend making a change in a product or service because the work is redundant or can be done more efficiently with better technology by someone else. When this situation occurs, I usually explain to my client that "No one cares what we don't do. They only care about what we do."
In other words, in my opinion, it is better not to do something at all than it is to do it poorly. More often than not, biting off more than you can chew will lead to mediocrity. Instead, eliminate the stress and allow more time to focus on other things. The result is doing less-better. Less is more. By saying no, you are saying yes to doing less better and greatly improving your chances of excelling in your potential and achieving excellence.
How well do you value time? Are you comfortable with saying "no?"
Perseverance is the persistence, resiliency, and inner strength you need to move forward during tough times. If you were to study the careers and experiences of those who have achieved uncommon success, you would find a time when they arrived at a crossroads and had to decide whether to give up or to persevere. Successful people also learn to expect adversity as they work toward excellence. They are not surprised when it comes, and they do not let it deter them from their goals.
Perhaps your dream is to complete your degree, attain a college teaching position, or become an entrepreneur. Or maybe you are preparing for a speech, applying to graduate school, or searching for a job. Whatever your situation, whatever your goals, you will have to develop the value of perseverance if you want to succeed. Authors Dennis Coates and Meredith Bell said of perseverance, "Just decide that after most people have dropped out, you'll be one of those still in the game."
Do you give up easily, or do you have the inner strength to keep going when things get tough? Does adversity deter you, or does it motivate you and make you more determined?
Excellence is a quest all of us can and should undertake. In the journey toward excellence, we find potential within ourselves we did not know existed. It is a never-ending journey that provides meaning in our lives. It is a noble pursuit that just happens to be valued and rewarded. But more than anything, excellence is a mindset that applies to any and every endeavor, regardless of who you are or what you do.
So how do you work toward excellence? By identifying, practicing, and developing the eight values in this article. This is your game plan. After identifying the values, start practicing them. After practicing the values, start developing them. After developing the values, start mastering them. And after mastering the values, start teaching them. Does this guarantee you will achieve excellence? No. Excellence is never guaranteed. But if you always work toward it, your will unlock great potential within you, and you will not have any regrets.


Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Stumbleupon Favorites More