One evening, in what seems a lifetime ago, I proudly presented my grade for my latest Geography exam to my parents. I was feeling very proud and smug having obtained a grade of 90%. Expecting heaps of praise and congratulations I was exceptionally taken aback when I was asked: “So where’s the other 10%?” I was dazed and confused. I had not received the response I was anticipating. Being a young and ill-quipped teenager I had not seen this coming. I was floored and did not know how to respond. I couldn’t, at that point in my naivety, grasp where this question originated from.
I have pondered on this moment for many years as it had a significant impact on my young life and how I perceived success and accomplishment. So where was the other 10%? In my immaturity the internal dialog I created was one in which I told myself that my best was not good enough until it’s a 100%. How accurate or healthy is this internal dialog? Was this the true message that was being conveyed to me through the question asked?
Many years later I came to understand the message that was being conveyed to me. My parents knew me, and knew me very well. They understood what I was truly capable of. They had great, but yet realistic, expectations for me to realise and rise up to achieve my full potential. So had I obtained a grade that was fully within my reach? The short answer is no. I personally had not yet even begun to think of, or ponder on what potential I have. Had I really applied myself diligently to my studies in preparation for that exam? Again, the short answer is no. In hindsight I realise that my approach to life as a teenager was one of “just enough”. I would do just enough to complete my tasks, hand in my homework and projects, just enough to pass my exams. I was satisfied with the mere completion of the task at hand and had never considered excellence in my execution thereof.
So why excellence? Let me start by saying that excellence is not to be confused with perfection. Striving for excellence in all that we do is showing ourselves respect. When we approach or do anything half-hearted we are disrespecting ourselves. We are telling ourselves that we are not worthy of respect. We may not even be consciously aware of this internal message we are giving ourselves. Excellence does not mean being better than the person next to us. To me it means being the best that I can possibly be. Strive to respect yourself in all that you do. Without self-respect how can we expect anyone else to show us respect?
Every single thing that we undertake in life is a work of art, a self-portrait if you like. Ensure that you autograph your work with excellence.
Yours in lifelong learning,