Be the street sweeper…

“When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.”

George Washington Carver

Upon reading this quote this morning the first thing that rose in my mind was the famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. about the calling of a street sweeper.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King Jr.

This has long been one of my favorite quotes. Strangely enough when I search my blog I see that I haven’t used it as a leadership quote, at least not since I started capturing the quotes via the blog. I will have to rectify that oversight soon!

The second thing that came to mind was the verse from Matthew where Christ said “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Matthew‬ ‭5:41‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Going the extra mile, even on the common job, is what sets one apart from 99.99% of everyone else in the world. Perhaps doing the common thing uncommonly well is even more exceptional in today’s world. In a time and place where so many just focus on the minimum expectation going the second mile is truly what sets one apart.

We should all aspire to have the attitude of the street sweeper that Reverend King references. Take that thing which you are called to be and go the second mile no matter how common you might feel that calling to be…

Invest in excellence…

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” 

Vince Lombardi

This really made me pause and think. The “quality of a person’s life,” not just the quality of their work, or the quality of their specific job, but the quality of their entire life is based on their commitment to excellence. What is your commitment to excellence right now? Are you committed to it fully in any and every role or job that you have? In all aspects of life?

Quality of life = the desired result

Commitment to excellence = the input that delivers the desired result

I put the inputs second because I believe it is critically important to “begin with the end in mind.” Do you have a definition in your head of what “quality of life” means? Once you have that clearly defined in your head then the right question to be asking is, “where do I need to be increasing my investment in excellence in order to achieve the quality of life I desire?

Pursue excellence today…

“Excellence must be pursued, it must be wooed with all of one’s might and every bit of effort that we have each day there’s a new encounter, each week is a new challenge.”

Vince Lombardi

Every morning is a new opportunity to get back up, to attack the world, to strive for excellence with all one’s might and effort. That’s what it takes to win. That’s what it takes to go beyond where we are today and get to where we want to be.

Approaching each day as a new challenge, a new opportunity to strive for excellence allows one to leave whatever happened yesterday, whether it was a success or not, in the past. Excellence is ahead of us and achieving it depends on what we do right now.

What are you going to do today to advance towards excellence? This is not a list of ALL the things you feel you need to do. What is the one thing that you can do differently and WILL DO today?

Excellent attitude…

“Excellence is not a skill, it’s an attitude.”

Ralph Marston

How do you define excellence? Doesn’t the way you define excellence, and your commitment to it, define your attitude? Does that attitude inspire others with your vision of excellence and engender the same ideals in themselves?

What does it mean to you if someone were to describe you as having an “attitude of excellence?” Does that reflect who you are and what you believe?

‘Done’ vs. ‘Excellent’

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.”

Thomas J. Watson

This is convicting when you take the time to step back and really think about it. When you finish a project or a task what matters to you more; is it the fact that you ‘finished it’ or the fact that it was done with excellence?  Sometimes I’ll admit that simply being able to check something off my list and say “done” is more important to me than taking the time to think about how well it was done.  

If it is worth checking off your list, it is worth doing well.  Ask yourself these questions the next time you complete a project or task.  Was this my best work?  If I could have spent more time or energy on this would it have been better?  Should it have been better?  Was this unambiguously excellent?  

 

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