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Excellence is one of the most aspired characteristic concepts, yet it is arguably one of the hardest ideals to achieve.

'Excellent' is an adjective, something or someone can be excellent, but it suggests a singularity of the event. Particular ideas or actions can be excellent, but does it extend to more than just one time? Can a student write an excellent paper without being an excellent student? Of course. Maybe it was a topic they were passionate about. However, an excellent student will consistently perform well. Similarly, athletes can have outstanding performances, but the best athletes are those who consistently perform to the highest level. Same goes for businesses. One can have a particularly outstanding service or product but miss the mark on other aspects. They have something that is excellent however they lack having achieved a status or state of excellence.

'Excellence' is a noun. It’s something that, with great difficulty, can be achieved. Excellence is no longer being described as something, but rather being something. Excellence is the state of being excellent, something achieved once consistent performance has proven worthy of this recognition. It’s no longer an occurrence but a level attained. Excellence is distinctive with high merit. Not every company in a particular field can be marked with excellence because not every company can be the best of their field, that would make the definition of ‘the best’ no longer true or valid. There are those that rise above and surpass their competitors and that ought to be worth something.

Often there will be leading brands or people that are used to define excellence which makes for a selected definition. It seems that excellence is a label or title decided upon by a general public and it almost appears to be obvious and indisputable. There are those who just blatantly surpass their competition. Interestingly enough, the word ‘excellence’ comes from the Latin word ‘excellere’ meaning “to surpass”. But let’s think about that idea stated before — it almost seems that a person or company becomes the top of their field, and it’s as if nothing can or will change it.

For example, what business computing software is most commonly used? Microsoft Office. Hands down. What is the second option after that? Most wouldn’t even know. To be honest, I had no clue until one of my college professors brought it up. (FYI- it’s macOS after that, and then Linux.)

How can one achieve this standard of excellence, especially when it’s extremely competitive? Below we’ll explore together 4 ways on how to foster excellence.

Create positive and influential habits.

Excellence cannot occur overnight. This famous quote by Aristotle highlights that idea: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit”. It’s not a costume we can put on and pretend to be; excellence is a habit. Habits are created by thoughts that turned into desires, that turned into words that turned into actions. And repeated actions make habits. Studies show that on average it takes 66 days to form a new habit, but it can range anywhere from 2-8 months. Whether it’s waking up an hour earlier to listen or read books relating to your field, or being better about completing tasks before moving on to the next one, start today.

Be focused and disciplined.

John Spence in an article shared that he earlier was asked to speak about excellence. He read up in books he had and called those in the top of their field in order to obtain a good poll on the definition of what excellence is. Two of the key words he discovered it boiled down to were ‘focus’ and ‘discipline’.

Focus is crucial because efforts need to be concentrated. Michael Phelps didn’t win medals by aimlessly flailing his arms and legs in water, hoping to be propelled forward. His strokes and efforts were streamlined- there was clear direction and intentional action. Years and years of practice allowed him to perform as such.

It’s the same with business. All efforts need to be consolidated by one driving focus and then work and work until it is finished. Spence states that it is rare that a person “applies consistent discipline in order to turn their plan… into reality”. This is why being ‘the best’ has limited space. most aren’t willing to put in the effort in order to get there.

Continue to push the limits. Be flexible. Be innovative.

Once you have created an outstanding product or service, you can’t stop there. In the real world you’re either progressing or digressing, there no such thing as steady ground.

For example, Michael Jordan is the example of excellence in the basketball realm. He became identified that way over time, after being one of the top performers years and years on end. He didn’t get drafted into the NBA and plateau. He proceeded to grow and compete against everyone else and himself, he continued to push the limits.

Push the envelope, moving to the edges of our capacities is when we discover growth that wasn’t previously anticipated. In an article by Forbes Magazine they emphasize that leaders are constantly refining and “in today’s hyper-fast world, excellence requires building flexible, nimble organizations that can quickly adapt to rapidly changing markets”.

It’s a competitive world, and those that don’t adapt don’t survive.

Build from the ground up.

Emphasize the vision. Remind yourself and employees what the vision is and how each job and individual attributes to that. Show gratitude and appreciation for each person. I think gratitude is a quality that is often overlooked. You can’t get very far moving up if you don’t raise the level around you. A ladder can keep extending up, but it can’t just keep extending upward unless there’s a back support or something to lean it on. Gratitude and building those that surround and invest in you is a crucial element of excellence. It’s excelling and raising the bar, inspiring excellence in those around you. That’s when true excellence is achieved, in creating an environment in which you and others are inspired to do and become the best possible versions of themselves.

Excellence doesn’t just happen. It’s intentionally created.

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