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Reach for the Sky



You encounter the “E” word pretty early in academic report cards. You meet it again in performance evaluations at work. In a vertical list of possibilities, it is on the opposite level of Poor, two notches above Good, and sits smugly on the top spot. The quality of being outstanding or extremely good is how Excellence is defined. It is ascribed to one person or a team’s performance or to a machine’s operating condition. The expression “Excellent!” conveys approval and pleasure.

Rewards and Perks

You learned in Second grade that when you receive excellent marks, you could get that new toy your parents said “No” to last Christmas. In high school, it could mean getting tickets to the season’s most popular concert. Your excellent performance rating at work justifies a raise and possibly a promotion with a permanent parking slot and perhaps signing privileges at the country club. It is easy to see these visible results of reaching excellence. dreamstime.com.royaltyfree

Paving the Way

There are more important intangible outcomes from excellence.  Top marks at school mean that you have successfully grasped the concepts of the subject and are ready to learn further.  You move up to the next grade or could even skip that altogether and get accelerated to a higher level.  If you continue to get excellent marks, a college scholarship is in the horizon.  A work performance appraisal of Excellent means you helped with the departmental goals and are ready to lead a bigger team.  You are viewed as a dependable contributor to the company and are singled out for key positions in the organization.  As you maintain your level of excellence, you secure stability of tenure and a smooth climb on the corporate ladder.

Your Toughest Competitor

It is, however, when you get a low rating that a deeper realization comes.  As you grapple over a completed project that you felt had fallen short of  your standard, it dawns on you that excellence is actually a personal metric and a habit.  It is not so much about competition and wanting to outdo others.  Rather, it is about personal progress and becoming a better version of you.

As you continue to outperform yourself, all other types of competition become irrelevant.

Improved systems and enhanced personal capabilities are inevitable with the following:

  • You truly believe that you have inherent excellence.
  • You consistently set a high standard.  If you miss the target, you will still be above the middle ground.
  • You conscientiously do your tasks – big and small – to meet that standard; no compromising.

With repetition and practice, excellence then becomes second nature.  So, do as Woody said in Toy Story and “Reach for the Sky!”  

The success of the Toy Story franchise is no toying matter.  It set stringent standards as the first CGI animated film and made the Pixar name synonymous to the highest levels of artistic and technical excellence in film animation.  Toy Story 3 became the highest grossing animated film of all time and the 11th highest (I’m running out of superlatives here) grossing film of all time, raking in  over 1 billion US $ worldwide.  The series won multiple creative, technical, acting, and music awards.  They defined a generation’s growing-up years; and brought laughter to viewers of all ages.

Now, that’s what happens when people aim high for excellence.  There is only one higher bar, and that is to follow Buzz Lightyear, “To infinity and beyond!”



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