July 21, 2014 Douglas Shaw & Associates

Over the years a lot has been written about excellence. In fact, if you type excellence into Amazon they’ll identify over 120,000 items of which 20,000+ are books. Tom Peters became a household name when he co-wrote the book: “In Search of Excellence.”

Frankly, more than 30 years later, we’re still searching for excellence. In the business of advertising and communications, a couple of my personal heroes stand out:

Leo Burnett is often noted saying: “When you reach for the stars you might not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

Or David Ogilvy who said: “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark. Aim for the company of immortals.”

I really like that. They’re not suggesting that every time you’re going to succeed but that our goal should be to reach out for excellence. But perhaps I like what Michael J. Fox said about it:

“I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.”

That quote really frames what our perspective should be — there’s a difference between excellence and perfection. We should strive for what we can achieve — excellence — rather than being frustrated by never reaching perfection and settling for mediocre.

So where do you fit?

Are you satisfied to just get by or are you striving for excellence? I must admit that there are some times when I’ve been so beaten down or overwhelmed with life that I just get by. I’m too exhausted to reach for excellence. But …

… at the end of the day I only end up hurting myself.

I miss out on the opportunity to get better. In his book, Beyond the Summit, mountain climber Todd Skinner writes:

Goals with the most rewards are often the most difficult to achieve. We pick challenging mountains not because they are hard, but because we have the most to gain there. We are trying to become people with the ability to accomplish remarkable things, and for maximum gain we must seek ultimate mountains.

That’s what our pursuit of excellence does. It prepares us for the increasing challenges that we are going to be facing daily. You only need to look back at how our lives and organizations have had to change in the last few years.

I hope you’ll join me on this pursuit of excellence. With so many lives that hang in the balance, it’s our only hope.

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