Why You Should Cultivate Excellence In Your Life
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
The greatest accomplishments in life–believe it or not–are made not by the smartest people in the world but by those who didn’t know enough to quit. They were the ones who kept plodding, who kept practicing, who kept investigating until they stumbled onto success. That fact was driven home to me when I was studying in the university. There were two men in my classes who were geniuses. Their IQs were way up there. At the end of a class, they slapped their books shut and didn’t open them. They were smart.
Frankly, I was among those who dug it out. People thought I was really gifted; no, I knew how to work and study. My parents spent hard earned money and sent me to school to study, not party. I knew why I was there and made the most of my opportunity.
Learning to apply myself was something I happened to grow up with, but everybody doesn’t have a dad who cuts off the handles of brooms, making them short enough for a kid to use, or has you work alongside him. But you can learn to work. You can develop discipline yourself. You can set goals and eventually get there.
One of my heroes was a Kiwi from down under, Sir Edmund Hillary, who with his Sherpa guide, Tensing, crested Mount Everest for the first time. Awesome achievement, and that was before a lot of the high-tech gear which climbers use today. When asked how he accomplished this when others had failed, he replied that when he was tempted to turn back, he took just one more step.
William Carey, the father of modern missions, said that his greatest ability was to plod in the face of adversity. When Thomas Edison had tried 10,000 ways to produce an incandescent globe and hadn’t succeeded, he was urged to quit. He responded that he had found 10,000 ways that didn’t work. He would eventually find what would work. He did! I have sometimes wondered how many determined, stubborn individuals we have today with that tenacity.
The foundation of our modern achievements was laid by thousands of unknown individuals who lived in obscurity and died unknown, who faithfully contributed to what has enabled us to send men to the moon, to circle the globe with communication, and to accomplish great and mighty things. They laid the foundation we have built upon through research, hard work, and trial and error. Their strength and energy, like a gradually falling barometer, were meted out in hard work, years of often-unrecognized service, and blood, sweat and tears. But they did not quit. They did not look for something with less work and with more money attached to it.
I have been told that in a European Cathedral, high in the rafters where no one ever goes, are some intricate carvings of exquisite beauty, done by a master craftsman whose name has long since been lost to posterity. Why did he take time to do some of his finest work, using an abutment of wood that will never be seen by the public? He valued excellence. He took seriously the admonition of the Bible that instructs: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Cultivate excellence. Make it a passion. Refuse to let the world and our culture shove you into the mold of mediocrity. Whether or not you reach the top, you are building a foundation, and upon your shoulders someday, someone will reach the top. Thank God for teachers who inspire excellence, for mothers who have the patience to bring the best out of their children, for dads who have the patience to find the tools their little boy left somewhere and show them how to use them. Indeed.
Resource reading: Ecclesiastes 9:1-10.