Defining Excellence

Dana LaMon

C’mon, admit it –  you believe the dictionary definition that states, “excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.”

You’ve believed it, and then pushed your belief beyond it, because somehow, being extremely good came to be equated with perfection, with being the best.

But do we do disservice to ourselves and our role models by insisting that equation is true? What if it’s NOT?

What if excellence is not so much a being as it is a doing?

I had the pleasure of hearing Dan LaMon – the 1992 World Champion of Public Speaking – at a Toastmaster’s Conference last weekend.  He had some  provocative things to say about excellence, starting with his belief that excellence is not perfection but rather, a process to reaching perfection. The first of his 104 Principles for Living and Working states:

“To excel is to do better today than you did yesterday.”

Compare your performance today with yesterday’s results.
If you improved or advanced, you excelled.
If you see room for more improvement, you are looking at tomorrow’s opportunity to excel.

Now, Dana LaMon knows a thing or two about doing better one day at a time.

He’s a retired Administrative Law Judge for the California Department of Social Services, a graduate of Yale University, and the author of four books for inspiration and personal development. He has given motivational speeches in Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Africa, and 31 states of the United States to audiences as diverse as corporate executives to kindergarten students and religious congregations to prison inmates.

Oh, one more thing – he’s been blind since he was four years old, and is very clear in stating that there were plenty of folks throughout his life who said, “But you are blind, you can’t…”  Thankfully for us, he knew better. A friend gave him the experience of driving a car, and he learned to hit a 3-point shot on the basketball court thanks to that same friend.

Yes, he knows a few things about doing better one day at a time.

Here are his 8 Points Regarding Excellence:

  • Improvement: Do you give each day and each task your very best effort?
  • Development: Are you using your talents and abilities to your greatest advantage?
  • Movement: Excellence welcomes change. Do you?
  • Tenacity: In the face of opposition, a commitment to excellence pushes you to work harder.
  • Adjustments: What excuses do you make? If you are committed to excellence, you make adjustments, not excuses.
  • Possibilities: (I think this is my favorite quote of all) The realm of possibility and the field of uncertainty occupy the same space.
  • Teamwork: Teams require a “what’s in it for US” mentality, not “what’s in it for ME.”
  • Love: Quality can be controlled, Time can be managed, but people need to be loved, and that is the connector.

So what do you think? Is excellence about being perfect, being the best, or as Dana LaMon says, being better today than you were yesterday?