What Is Excellence To You?

by John Spence on · 15 comments

Sev­eral years ago a client asked me to deliver a speech on “The Essence of Excel­lence.” I won’t drag you through the entire process, but I spent weeks re-reading books from my library, call­ing CEOs and college/university Pres­i­dents and ask­ing every­one I could get to talk to: What is excel­lence to you?

In the end it came down to three key watchwords…

FOCUS: To be truly excel­lent at any­thing you must have an incred­i­bly clear def­i­n­i­tion of what excel­lence is to you, what it will look like in your life and how you will mea­sure it. I call this your “Per­sonal Phi­los­o­phy of Excel­lence.” Once you have thought­fully cre­ated your own per­sonal phi­los­o­phy of excel­lence you must then focus on it intensely, day in and day out, always keep­ing a clear pic­ture of specif­i­cally what you must do to achieve the level of excel­lence you hon­estly want in your life.

DISCIPLINE: Once you have deter­mined what excel­lence looks like to you and cre­ated a plan to move your life in that direc­tion, you must then exhibit a level of dis­ci­pline that most peo­ple are unwill­ing to put forth. Lots of peo­ple talk about excel­lence, many say they want to be more effec­tive, suc­cess­ful, hap­pier, more joy­ful… but is the rare per­son who applies con­sis­tent dis­ci­pline in order to turn their plan… into reality.

ACTION: The amount of suc­cess you achieve in your life is directly pro­por­tional to the amount of action you apply to stay­ing dis­ci­plined around your per­sonal phi­los­o­phy of excel­lence. Not quite clear on what excel­lence and suc­cess looks like to you? Or, you know exactly what you want but you’re not very dis­ci­plined about pur­su­ing it? Or per­haps you really under­stand what level of excel­lence you want to achieve, and you’re very dis­ci­plined, but you just don’t apply much action to your phi­los­o­phy? The out­come is medi­oc­rity, and we have a say­ing in my firm: ” The minute you start accept­ing medi­oc­rity in your life, you become a mag­net for medi­oc­rity in your life.”

The truth is; the process to achieve excel­lence is not that com­pli­cated if you sim­ply apply focus, dis­ci­pline and mas­sive action. Of course, the same could be said for win­ning an Olympic gold medal in the 100 yard dash; Run really fast — faster than every­one else!


by John Spence

John Spence is the author of “Awe­somely Sim­ple — Essen­tial Busi­ness Strate­gies for Turn­ing Ideas into Action.” He is an award-winning pro­fes­sional speaker and cor­po­rate trainer, and has been rec­og­nized as one of the Top 100 Busi­ness Thought Lead­ers in America.
John Spence
View all posts by John Spence

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Noel January 7, 2012 at 8:52 am

Hi John, that’s very brilliant to boil down the secrets of excellence/success to 3 main ingredients – focus, discipline and action. No complicated rocket science philosophy blah blah blah… but just focus your goal and go all out for it. Love it!
Noel´s Last Fabulous Post ..Motivational Quotes For Women To Move OnMy Profile

Reply

sheila January 8, 2012 at 6:45 am

Gosh! This is so true. And good! The whole quote about medi­oc­rity… wow. That’s dead on. Love this post. Love.
sheila´s Last Fabulous Post ..Hey! Keep Your Stinking Negative Energy Out of My Space!My Profile

Reply

Jean Sampson January 8, 2012 at 7:45 am

Hi John. That is a brilliant reply and dead on. To expand on the process, though, I think you have to have a lot of ways to support yourself when whatever you do does not work or, at least, does not lead to the result you were expecting or aiming for. I guess this would come under the heading of discipline—-to not give up when things do not go as expected, but keep on re-evaluating, thinking, talking to others who are ahead of you on the path. Try many things and keep thinking, stay out of negative self-talk. Surround yourself with examples of people who “failed” many times on the path to success. I teach a painting class in which the main lesson is to never give up, to count each “failure” as the underpainting that will enhance the final painting. I tell the students that the only way they can fail my class is if they throw their canvas into the dumpster!

Reply

Steven | The Emotion Machine January 8, 2012 at 10:55 am

Very simple and down-to-earth summary of excellence. I agree with your break-down, although I may add “Values” in there somewhere, because I think a lot of people make a huge mistake by not reflecting on what really matters to them.
Steven | The Emotion Machine´s Last Fabulous Post ..Unschooling: Rekindling the Desire to LearnMy Profile

Reply

Tim January 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Hi John:

Nice post…I liked the key watch words you provided here. They are good guideposts for us to focus on as we conduct ourselves both personally and professionally. Related to your post (but separate), Tom Peters just put together a huge slide presentation and new website about excellence and I know that Tom co-wrote a book more than 20 years ago on the topic. But I really like how you boil this excellence down to three words. Thanks for sharing your insights!
Tim´s Last Fabulous Post ..Leaving the Past (Year) BehindMy Profile

Reply

Emilia January 9, 2012 at 6:49 am

Some people seem to achive excelence without any efforts (this is at least what we see/think/believe seeing them from the outside), but the truth is that they do work on it a h*ll of a lot too. On the other han, the level of excelence can vary between people too, some strive higher than others. Great, thought-provoking post!

Reply

Cathy | Treatment Talk January 9, 2012 at 8:05 am

Hi John,

Great definition of excellence – focus, disciple and action. It is an individual concept, as it is difficult to be excellent at everything. Putting in 100% effort makes a difference, hours of practice and hard work. Not giving up comes into play as well. We all can get discouraged, but continuing on can lead to excellence.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s Last Fabulous Post ..Treatment Talk Monthly Message – December 2011My Profile

Reply

Cindy January 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Such a nice summary of the excellence! And I totally agree, it is one thing to define the excellence, but it is another thing to reach it! And it is the hardest way…
Cindy´s Last Fabulous Post ..Problems with wisdom teethMy Profile

Reply

Be January 10, 2012 at 3:22 am

A great post John .. concise and to the point. I think excellence is so much more attainable as a concept for people than perfection – which is impossible. Thank you for sharing
Be´s Last Fabulous Post ..Why do you turn me on then just leave me?My Profile

Reply

Jen January 21, 2012 at 10:57 am

An excellent post!!

I love the three ingredients, and haven’t seen them put together in that way. So true about what we expect, we get. For myself, I will strive more for mixing up those ingredients to choose and achieve the excellence I expect in certain areas of my life…all the while keeping it real:)
Thanks John!
Jen´s Last Fabulous Post ..LOLMy Profile

Reply

Andrew Walker March 8, 2012 at 10:29 am

Hi John. Thanks a lot for sharing this. I think for me, excellence is like when you can get something you really wanted, with a very hard effort,then you can achieve it in the end.
Andrew Walker´s Last Fabulous Post ..How To Prepare An eCommerce Site to Recover From Google PandaMy Profile

Reply

Rebekah July 13, 2012 at 4:41 am

Excellence is achievable, and is possible and I am determined to practice this principles you’ve itemized here, it is simple and I can do it.

Reply

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge

You will receive an email with any replies to your comment. Check this box only if you want to be notified of ALL follow-up comments. You can also subscribe without commenting.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: