It's so easy to be average at something
- anything. And so we see the freeway of life packed with ordinary
performers trying to figure out how they can win life's extraordinary
rewards. But so many will only wonder why they've never won them.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with being average, as long as
that's what one wants. After all, average is in the middle - between
great and insignificant. That's not shabby. But the rewards in the
middle are only average rewards. They aren't the result of excellence,
It seems most people think of excellence as something unattainable
for themselves. Self-excellence, or greatness is beyond their comprehension.
We so often hear, "Oh, I could never do that!" I think
that if every utterance of that phrase - since the beginning of
time - came back as an echo, the decibel level would probably shatter
But in reality, the distance between extraordinary and average isn't
really so much. It's often measured in inches instead of feet, yards,
or miles; in seconds instead of minutes, hours or days; in small
percentage points instead of huge numbers.
For example, consider the young, hot-shot baseball player from whom
management expects a base hit once in every three times
at bat. For this performance he'll be paid several million dollars,
and very possibly the same or more for the next several seasons.
In comparison, the average big leaguer's salary is between $200,000
and $500,000 (depending on many variables).
Let's assume the young hot-shot's salary is $3 million annually
(not out of the ordinary today) and the average player's is $300,000.
That would mean the hot-shot's performance, with his one hit in
three times at bat, should be ten times better
than the average player's. Yet, statistics show that the average
player gets a hit every four times at bat. The actual
difference, then, is nowhere near a factor of times ten!
Thus, we can conclude that in baseball, the rewards for "just
a little better than average" are enormous!
So it is in life. Rewards come to us in proportion to how well we
live our lives and do our work. However, the distance that separates
exceptional and mediocre performance is often deceptively small.
For a salesperson, the difference could be one or two extra calls
each day, or doing some research on a potential client's needs.
For a student, it could be reading a chapter twice, or gaining a
more in-depth perspective on a subject by reading an extra book
or paper, or checking for mistakes before handing in a paper or
exam. For a government worker, it could be taking on the extra project
that nobody wants. For anyone past school age, maybe it's keeping
skills at cutting-edge by attending specific classes on weekends
or on weekday evenings.
In career management, the difference between excellent and average
could be the "hoper and floater" syndrome. What's a hoper
and floater?" That's someone who does only what's expected
and nothing more; who doesn't go out of his or her way to help anyone
else, or do anything extra. "Hopers and floaters" just
hope they'll get promoted, hope they'll get a raise
and simply float through their careers and lives, wondering
why the big rewards haven't come their way. These folks haven't
taken charge of their lives or careers by adding extra value to
their endeavors. But, just as with baseball, this often requires
so little extra effort, thought or time.
In our neighborhoods, have we taken the time to hold out a hand
to those truly in need - indeed, have we even looked for or at them?
Have we involved ourselves in our schools, or have we let someone
else do that? Have we mentored parentless kids, helped in a civic
project, or joined a community rebuilding project. This kind of
excellence may not bring monetary rewards, but it sure feels good
inside. And in the end, isn't that what really counts?
When spread over a semester, a career, or a lifetime, these little
things we can do, these little "extras" can make an enormous
difference, not only in terms of worldly rewards, but also in how
we view ourselves - how we feel about ourselves and our lives.
Of course, I'd be remiss if, within this mix of ideas, I didn't
discuss passion and talent. It's often one's intense interests that
cause the development of innate talent, which can contribute greatly
to excellence. Why? Because if we enjoy something (passion), we're
probably pretty good at it (talent), and we're likely to put the
extra time and effort into doing it well - since it's fun and not
work. Thus, in the case of our baseball hot-shot, his passion may
have caused the development of his talent, which may have contributed
significantly to his success. That is, since he loved the sport,
he may have spent every spare hour practicing his hitting technique
- a great way to create excellence! The lesson here is for each
of us to look for and follow our passions, and to let no one tell
us to do otherwise, since intense interest and a developed talent
can foster extraordinary results.
So, performance excellence can be measured in many ways. Often that
measure is financial, but also it can be in how satisfied we are
in what we've done or accomplished in our lives, in our careers
and for others. Have we listened to our inner passions, developed
our talents, "gone the extra mile" and made the world
a better place for ourselves, our co-workers and our neighbors?
It takes so little to move average to excellent - and it's so worth
the time and effort!