By Sunday Adelaja
Many people dream of getting promoted in their jobs. They long for a dream job. Most people I know aspire to be the best where they are. In all areas of life, people have a dream of becoming the best and reaching the pinnacle of their professions. Unfortunately, most of the people who aspire to reach the height of their professions want this just to get more money. In actual fact, excellence should be our motivation.
When we aspire for promotion and desire elevation at our places of work, for the sake of excellence rather than for money, we become better people. Unfortunately, getting more money seems to be the greatest driving force for most people. When you are at the top of your profession just for the money, it does not always mean you are the best you could be.
“Coach said. “The quality of a man’s life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavour.” ― Sherman Alexie
When we are driven by the desire to be the best we could be, then excellence becomes the natural fruit of our efforts. Excellence is equal to self-perfection. The desire for excellence therefore is one of the strongest gifts an individual could give to himself. It is better than the gift of money. It supersedes the reward of a salary. In the case of a salary, you may have a fatter wallet but that does not necessarily result in a greater personality. But when you pursue excellence, your capacity is always enhanced. You become better professionally and at a personal level, you become better qualified and skilled and eventually this will affect your income.
“I hope you will simply do what you can do in the best way you know. If you do so, you will witness miracles come to pass.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley
The striving for excellence is one of the most important aspects of professionalism. No one can truly become professional in his or her chosen area without the striving for excellence. When you go after excellence, your focus is not on the salary or finances, even though that must be expected too. Your focus is on putting quality in everything you do. A man of excellence tends to dedicate himself to giving his best into whatever he does. He sees his work as his signature. He puts a stamp of excellence by his integrity into whatever he does.
This is a major game changer between people who strive to attain promotion for money and those who strive for elevation through excellence. When you have excellence as your focus, you become an achiever sooner or later. When you become as good as you hope to be, in perfecting excellence, you will make rapid strides in your career growth. Moreover, you will leave behind all others who are in it just for the money.
“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” ― Vince Lombardi
There can be no doubt that excellence demands that you step out of your comfort zone which not too many people are willing to do. It is the unwillingness to step out of one’s comfort zone that keeps most people mediocre. It is that same unwillingness that reduces people to only want to make the money without the excellence. That is why people want to attain position without paying the price of excellence. Any kind of success attained this way will be short lived. A promotion attained through excellence though, endures for generations and generations to come. In the long run, it makes better sense to pay the price of discomfort and attain the height of excellence rather than maintaining the status quo without leaving your comfort zone.
“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” ― Aristotle
Yes, you could occupy the position, make the money, but you would not leave an enduring legacy. In most cases you would still have to leave that comfort zone at a time you least expect it and at a cost you are not willing to pay. Anyhow you look at it, paying the temporary price of discomfort and getting the reward of excellence is always better than enjoying the status quo of a comfort zone which you will eventually lose anyway.
Apart from bringing you out of your comfort zone, excellence demands from you preparation and training. Nobody attains excellence without the necessary process of preparation and training. That is what you do when nobody sees you. It is the rigors of self-education that you go through while others play. It is the pain of self-preparation that you engage in while others are partying. Preparation and training are those things you do in the solitude of your studies when others are basking in the sun on the beach.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no excellence without preparation and training. It is what you do in secret that determines your public manifestation. Those hours of preparation are never in vain. They will be a handsome reward to you sometime in the future. When your training and preparation is constant enough to lead to excellence, one day, excellence will elevate you. Excellence will crown your efforts. Excellence will bring about your celebration. Excellence will lay a table before you, in the presence of your colleagues, after they come back from their sun bathing.
“To become successful, do the little extra things that ordinary people refuse to do. The little extra hard work, little extra practice, little extra studying and the little extra positive attitude.” ― Archibald Marwizi
Another thing that excellence will require of you is the ability to endure. For you to attain excellence in anything, you need stamina to keep on going. This is because excellence is not attained overnight. True excellence takes time. It takes perseverance. True excellence takes endurance. For true excellence, you need some stamina.
I remember when I had just arrived in the former USSR to study journalism, a general requirement for students those days was that they had to first study the Russian language in their first year. Unfortunately for me, I was late to school by about two weeks. At that time, my fellow students had started speaking a bit of the Russian language. At least they had all learned the alphabet and could read the language at that time. By the time I arrived, I was in all kinds of trouble. I was so much behind that my professor could not help but confess that if I ever spoke the language, even though he was a communist and an atheist, he would gladly go and put a candle in the church, because at my level he thought there was no way I would be able to speak the language.
After this extremely damning verdict, I was only left with two options; God and the library. First, I spoke to God about it and decided to stand on his promise in Deut. 28:13
“And he Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.”
I made a deal with God that according to His word I would end up being the head in that school, the first and not the last. The other side of that agreement was that I would put in my best effort in the library.
“Roll-up those sleeves and work until you see the fruit of your labor. It takes Passion, Resolve and a Productive Work Ethic, meeting with Opportunity, for you to succeed.” ― Archibald Marwizi
Ladies and gentlemen, if you have ever spent some considerable time in the library, you would have to agree with me that the topic of stamina and endurance comes in handy here. I remember the first few weeks in the library, after studying for some time, I would look at my wristwatch trying to reassure myself that I had spent at least 4 of the 6 hours that I had intended to spend daily. To my amazement however, when I expected to see 4 hours, I saw that I had only spent 30 minutes in actual fact. So I resumed my studies with a renewed determination to go longer.
When I was sure that the 6 hours were over, when I looked at my wristwatch I realized that I had spent only 2 hours. But that is the only way you build stamina. After doing this for about 6 years, I eventually graduated as the best graduating student with first class honors from that university. There is no excellence without stamina. Excellence demands endurance. You need to persevere before you can have the testimony of excellence.
“Excellence is not a success but a persistent pursuit of perfection.” ― Debasish Mridha
When we started our church, I soon discovered that the same quality is equally needed in building a mega church. At that time, I was determined to pray 6 hours every day. My experience brought me back to the years in the library as a student. Each time I thought I had prayed for about 2 hours, my wristwatch would inform me that I had only prayed for about 20 minutes. But once I passed the exams of perseverance, excellence began to work for me. We ended up building the largest and one of the most powerful evangelical churches in Europe, when I was only in my early thirties.
“You must succeed! Not by accident, but deliberately! You are able to succeed – now you must be willing to succeed and this must reflect in the way you spend your life.” ― Archibald Marwizi
Another very trying aspect of excellence is that in most cases, excellence will take you through the path of trials and tribulations. People of excellence are often misunderstood. They often go through a lot of trials, attacks and tribulations. My own story in the Ukraine attests to this truth. As a black man pastoring a church of 99% white Europeans, I have had to endure a lot of misunderstanding and trials. It is one thing for you to do that in your own country or a country where you are a citizen. It is an entirely different thing for you to do the same thing when you hold a Nigerian Passport.
It is worse still, if you are a black man from Africa. For example over the last 20 years of our ministry, I have had to endure over 20 criminal charges. I have endured countless amounts of deportation attempts, hundreds of lawsuits and the list goes on and on. The beautiful thing about excellence is that despite the trials and the tribulations, excellence has a way of distinguishing you.
As I write this article, I am still a persona non grata in Russia. The reason is because the excellence we have attained in the Ukraine has made so much noise on our behalf that now Russia cannot imagine us coming to do the same thing in her territory. Yet, the beauty of excellence is that, excellence will make a way for you even when you are under prohibition.
“Dominate the market with your products of self-control; no matter how many temptations produced by the devil, you will still overcome with profits of excellence.” ― Israelmore Ayivor
Despite the ban, we have at least a hundred churches prospering right in the heart of Russia. Excellence knows how to operate in impossible circumstances. You will only have a testimony of the exploits of excellence if you are not afraid to go through the trials and tribulations.
Let me touch on another prerequisite for excellence. The beauty that excellence brings to those who have acquired it does not come without a history of previous failures. Excellence, as any other progress, is often built upon the foundations of inevitable failures. There is no one who has ever attained true greatness without having failed or fallen a number of times. King Solomon put it beautifully:
“For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again…” Prov. 24:16a.
Another person whose life best exemplifies this truth is Thomas Edison. He said “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
As a young 19 year old Christian, I remember I always got agitated and troubled each time I heard stories of great men, especially Christian leaders who had some failures or failings. I could not wrap my mind around it. I was always thinking, it is one thing for ordinary Christians to have failures, but how come great men fall? I never could have thought that actually, excellence is inconceivable without failure – you ask Thomas Edison. Maybe you want to ask the Apostle Paul or Moses. Maybe you want to ask King David or King Solomon. Do you want to ask The Apostle Peter?
Remember my bewilderment and amazement, on how great men could have failures when I was a young believer of 19 years old? Now I am almost 50 years old and you can be sure that my opinions are slightly different now. I have had my own share of failures, despite all the excellence. I can testify that as with all great men, true excellence is impossible without your share of failings.
As I ponder on this paradox, I am reminded of the life of The Apostle Paul. He had the same dilemma. God’s answer to him was profound.
“And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2Cor. 12: 9
When you walk in a level of excellence, it indeed does not make sense for you to remain infallible because if you do, you risk being idolized. Can you imagine if someone is excellent and then perfect? He would be misconstrued to be almost equal to God. That is why God in His infinite wisdom allows some dents in the sculpture of nature. In God’s wisdom, excellence must go through trials. In God’s wisdom, excellence must survive tribulations. In God’s wisdom, excellence must have a form of weakness. In God’s wisdom, excellence must pass through failures and fallings.
“The worst to ever happen to a person who aims at the sky is to fall on the tallest mountain; the best that can happen to a person who aims at the ceiling of his room is to fall on the carpet of his floor.” ― Israelmore Ayivor.
Despite all these seemingly paradoxical characteristics of excellence, it is thanks to them that excellence is possible. Excellence endures and is sustained because of them. These characteristics make a man of excellence to be humble enough, to keep on perfecting himself. They make someone striving for excellence to keep on learning as a result of which their performances soar.
My journey as a student of excellence began in the book of all beginnings. It is called the book of Genesis, chapter one. To me, this chapter teaches us more than anything about the lesson of excellence. What is more compelling about this chapter is that, God positions Himself as a God of excellence. He opens our eyes to see that even though a perfect God, yet He does not always do things perfectly from the first attempt.
“Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” Gen. 1:3-5
The first thing God said was “let there be light” and there was light. After God’s first attempt of creation, God did not allow Himself to be overly confident or assume that His first attempt was His best attempt. His drive for excellence pushed Him to reexamine His product despite the fact that He is God. In verse 4 “And God saw the light that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” I see a progression in excellence in this passage. After God’s due process of examination of His product:
He discovered that the light He created was good.
Despite the fact that the light was good, excellence demanded that God looked for a point of improvement on His product.
God saw the need for the light to be improved on.
The point of improvement was that, God noticed that every light carries a form of darkness in it or shadow.
Since light and shadow go together it is clear what the next point of excellence should be.
The light has to be separated from the darkness.
God has already done a great job through the spirit of excellence in this story. But because excellence has become automated in the nature of God, He could not afford to rest on His laurels. So despite the fact that He had already separated the light from the darkness, the nature of excellence demanded that He began to improve on His best effort. His next action was, to give an identity to the light and an identity to the darkness. Hence he called the light Day and the darkness Night. That is a totally different product entirely.
God goes beyond this. The Spirit of excellence does not leave you satisfied. It keeps on pushing you to become better, to improve yourself until you push yourself to the limit. From the Day and the Night, God created yet another product called Evening and Morning. Leading us to yet another product, the First Day of the Week.
If you continue to read this chapter one of Genesis, you will be exposed to a lot of truths about the qualities of God in regards to excellence. Even God could not do without excellence. He had to put Himself through all the rigours that excellence demands. Listen friends, even God could not escape the requirements and the demands of excellence. That is why, the conditions of excellence are universal to every profession and in every human endeavour.
If you can pay the price of excellence in any given area of life then you will be able to produce the same performance almost everywhere you go. The request and requirements of excellence are almost the same in all spheres of life. Let’s pursue excellence, not minding what it will cost us. The rewards of it are much more glorious than the price you pay for it.
Excellence has a way of distinguishing you later in life. Excellence has a way of elevating, like nothing else does. Excellence promotes. Excellence decorates. Excellence puts an ointment upon your head. Ladies and gentlemen let us dedicate ourselves to a life of excellence.
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