Excellence or Perfection? I think that only one gets to sit in the driver’s seat. Which is it for you? I think that perfection should be your goal, even though you know that you will never achieve it. Why? Because in the the pursuit of perfection you will discover excellence. And living with excellence is a good thing. What does this look like?
Ground Hog Day was this past Saturday. Did anyone notice? According to news reports, thousands gathered in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania to see whether the famous groundhog would see his shadow. Legend has it that if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow on Feb. 2, winter will last six more weeks. If he doesn’t see his shadow, spring will come early. This year he did not see his shadow. (BTW – He isn’t always right! Whatever!) However…
I thought about the somewhat corny, but very effective movie called Ground Hog Day that starred Bill Murray as Phil. He begins as a scrooge-type, somewhat cynical fellow who is angry that he has to be stuck another two days in a small Pennsylvania town due to inclement weather. However, he awakens the following day only to realize that he is at the beginning of the day before and has to live the day over again.
Each day that he awakens he discovers that he is caught in a virtual time loop (I suppose you could call it). After enough time passes he realizes that he can choose to live his life in the day allotted to him, or, rather, he begins to live the life he never lived before. At first he chooses selfishly to use the people around him for his own gain. Eventually he makes the change and learns to appreciate being loved for who he is and learns to value others as fellow human beings. Love and compassion eventually break through. To me what is so powerful about Groundhog Day is the way it lets us experience what it would be like to make a breakthrough like this in our own lives.
In his book The White House Years, Henry Kissinger tells the story about a colleague at Harvard with whom he taught before joining the Nixon staff. Apparently, this professor gave an assignment, the students handed in their papers, and some days later the papers were returned.
One student looked over his paper searching in vain for some helpful comment or even a grade. The paper had no marks on it except for a question at the end of the last page: “Is this the best you can do?”
The student pondered the question and concluded the paper had not represented his best work; so he took it home and worked it over. He returned the paper to the teacher and received it back a few days later in exactly the same condition—no comments, no grade, only the haunting question at the end: “Is this the best you can do?”
“Well,” thought the student, “It’s a whole lot better than the first one, but I can pump up the bibliography a bit, throw in a few more quotes, and even make it two or three pages longer.” So he did. Receiving the paper back the third time, he found exactly what he had seen twice before: “Is this the best you can do?”
As Kissinger tells the story, this went on ten times. Ten times the student handed the paper in; ten times the professor handed it back with exactly the same question. Finally, in exasperation the student approached the professor’s desk, threw the paper down, and said in no uncertain terms, “Yes. This is the best I can do!” “Fine,” responded the professor, “now I’ll read it.”
Talk about a real life Groundhog Day! I actually am intrigued by the idea of being able to improve my life by reliving one day at a time until I “get it right.” But we are told that “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Live and lead with Excellence and don’t worry with perfection.
It is easy, I think, to confuse excellence with perfection, but they are different concepts. In living the Christian life and serving the Lord, excellence simply means doing the very best you can with the resources he has given in any given moment.
Live and lead well where you are, and love those you are with. That’s the deal. – Dan