“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle

Academic Excellence

If you are a student, I wish you best of luck. But you and I both know that it’s going to take a lot more than luck to get the most out of your education. The world is becoming ever more competitive, many jobs are becoming automated or extinct, and the population is rapidly expanding. The days of average are over. In order to be competitive in the marketplace today and in the future, you are going to need to be able to fill a need or solve a problem. In short, you are going to need to add value to those people that you serve. And the best way to add value is by becoming more valuable as a person.

Question: How does one become more valuable as a person? Answer: By developing and cultivating the skills and abilities that are used in the service of others, and then by applying these skills. So how do we start developing these abilities? The first step is going to be a sound education. Having the knowledge and background understanding of your industry is the prerequisite to being able to add value to that industry.

Your academic performance is your personal track record. It is what employers look at when they decide whether or not they want to hire you. They want to determine whether or not you are an asset to their business or company. By becoming an asset you guarantee yourself success. Therefore, being a student puts you at a distinct advantage. You are at the beginning. The slate is relatively clean. You get to control the structure of your future life. Many people look at their educations and see the present and short-term future as being a long tedious task that one must “get through”. Instead, you should look at your education as the platform with which you develop the knowledge, skills, and abilities that make you an asset to the industry you choose. So instead of just trying to “get through” schooling or “be done with it”, you should embrace it and go at it with 100% vigor and enthusiasm. You are laying the groundwork, the foundation of all the days, months, and years to come. This is quite literally the best time of your life. The dividends are well worth the investment.

I will give you a real-life example. I graduated medical school in the top of my class. I scored so high on the United States Medical Licensing Examination that my score was literally off the chart of the score report. Similarly, I scored amongst the highest in the nation during my surgical specialty training. I continued this track record through my surgical critical care subspecialty training. How did this benefit me? Other than giving me extreme levels of confidence and the ability to increase the quality of the service I rendered my patients, it greatly broadened my options. I found no difficulty in applying for a job. I found that I became highly sought after. That gave me increased flexibility in my life. It allowed me to choose where I want to locate in the country as opposed to getting stuck in a place that I would have to tolerate. This increased flexibility increase the quality of my life simply by virtue of the fact that I felt that I was more in control of my life. It also made my family happier. I was more self-actualizing and able to determine my own destiny. I tell you this not to impress you, but rather, to impress upon you the importance of establishing solid foundation of knowledge and skills during your academic years. I cannot overemphasize the importance of learning. I attest that the pay off is well worth the investment. Was it hard at times? Certainly. But anything that is worthwhile is going to be challenging. That is a rule of life. The key is to embrace the challenge, commit to consistently being your best, and then rise to the occasion.

Work Excellence

Earl Nightingale said, “The money you’re paid by the company you work for will always be in direct ratio to the need for what you do, your ability to do it, and the degree of difficulty involved in replacing you.”

We all want more rewards from life. Whether the rewards are financial, intangible, or both, we value success and happiness. But in order earn these rewards, we have to first become valuable persons and provide a service or product that in commensurate with the rewards we are seeking. Having said that, anything less than excellent will not suffice. Excellent is not being perfect, it is trying our absolute best. None of us are perfect and we all make mistakes. Mistakes are in evitable part of our lives. The question is not whether or not you will make a mistake, the question is: What are the costs of your mistakes?

Consider this. If you happen to make a mistake at your job, what will be the cost of that mistake? The answer depends largely on what you do for a living. It could cost you or your company money, or it could lead to negative sequelae to people, animals, or the environment. Here is a real-life example. If I make a mistake at my job, it has the potential to kill people. There are an estimated 440,000 deaths every year due to health care related errors. Because of this significant consequence, a commitment to excellence is imminent. As a Trauma Surgeon, I must put forth my full effort in taking care of critically injured patients. I must do so because their lives depend on it, literally. We must strive to put it 100% of ourselves each and every day without any sense of hesitancy. No holding back! We have to continue moving forward and put forth the maximal amount of effort if we want to reap the maximum amount of rewards from life. As Les Brown says, “Keep your mind fixed on your dream. See it accomplished, and go after it as if your life depends upon it – because it does.”

What is a simple way to commit to excellence on the job? Perform your duty in the way in which you wish it was performed for you. For example, whenever I am treating patients and dealing with their family members, I treat them in the way in which I wish my doctor would treat me. In other words, I act as if I were my own doctor. Apply the same principle to your job whether it be in marketing, sales, cooking, cleaning, writing, gardening, or whatever it is that you do.

Excellent Relationships

Our career and education are certainly very important aspects of our lives, but it’s not the only aspect. The relationships we cultivate with others determines to a large extent our circle of influence and our quality of life. Therefore, it is important that we become acutely aware of the roles we play with regard to other people. We must then fill that role to the best extent of our ability.

This means if you are a wife or husband, mother or father, son or daughter, brother or sister, friend or neighbor, it is important that you commit to being excellent in that role. This is distinctly different than your role in your career. Being good at one role and not the other does not constitute complete success. It is important not to lose focus of this fact and remember that we all play multiple roles simultaneously. Our responsibilities and interactions are different with each role. We don’t speak to our spouse the same way we speak to our children, and we don’t speak to our parents in the same when we speak to our colleagues.

It is important that we recognize this fact and ask ourselves the question: Am I being the best mother/father/brother/sister/friend/neighbor/etc. that I can be?

If you do not feel you are at your best in any of your roles, how can you improve in your role? The simple answer is this: be the person you would want to be if the role was reversed. Be the mother/father/brother/sister friend/neighbor that you wish you had.

Excellent Health and Well-Being

Keep in the forefront of your mind something that is commonly overlooked. It is your own personal health and well-being. An increasing proportion of the population is becoming overweight and obese and our busy and demanding lifestyles are not always conducive to healthy eating and exercise habits. There is also a high degree of daily stress that is detrimental to our health.

It is absolutely essential to have our health as our priority. Everything else runs on our health. Without our health we have nothing. Our external conditions are irrelevant compared to our health. If we lose our health we lose our vitality.

If we commit to being in the best shape of our lives, our quality of life goes up drastically. It gives us more energy and vitality and it breeds happiness. It will strengthen our relationship with ourselves with those who we love and care about. It will even improve our performance academically and in the workplace.

Your call to action: In everything you do ask yourself: “Am I doing this to the best of my ability?” If not, enhance your effort, persevere, give more of yourself, and don’t ever give up. Increase your value as a person by cultivating the skills and abilities you need to serve better. Commit to excellence. By so doing, you are guaranteeing yourself success and happiness, and the rewards of life will start pouring in.