There is something in each of us that gravitates toward high standards of performance in some area of our lives. We may not be functioning at that level, but it does gnaw at the back of our minds when we are not delivering our best. Additionally, we expect excellence from those who impact our lives, especially if we give our support. I questioned students about their academic performance. I asked all straight “A” students to raise their hands. No one raised their hands. I stared in disbelief and finally one student slowly raised her hand. I could tell she was reluctant, but she was being prodded by her teacher. Ironically, she looked timid and apologetic for her excellent grades.
I congratulated her on her excellent performance. The straight “A’s” meant she had the courage and the discipline to focus on her schoolwork, even when others did not. I thanked her for staying true to her standards. I recognized that it was very difficult to study when others around her were not as dedicated. She was true to her purpose and validated the sacrifices of her parents, ancestors and those who made her opportunity possible. I asked everyone in the class to applaud her for her achievement. The students gave her a rousing ovation. I marveled at the look of pride and appreciation on her face, as everyone looked at her and clapped for her. This validation was good for her self-confidence.
I asked all of the “B” students to raise their hands. Most of the classroom raised their hands. I thanked them for working hard at their studies and realized it was not an easy task to perform. I suggested that they had one higher step to take. There was one individual with straight A’s who was really lonely at the top. Because of their excellence, dedication and discipline I congratulated them for their achievement. I suggested that everyone in the class give them a hearty ovation. The class was very excited and enthusiastic. The clapping was louder because more of the students were among the group receiving the praise.
I continued the exercise with the “C” students in the classroom. Six students raised their hands. I stopped and stared at each of them. I said, “Now you know you can do better than that don’t you?” They broke eye contact and nodded in agreement. I asked them if they had done their best work. They acknowledged that they could do better. I told them that it was very important for them to move up to the “B” and then to the “A” level. Many people were counting on them to give their best. The students had not seen their best work. “You may be bashful or hesitant for people to see your best work. But it is unacceptable for you to go through life and not see your best work. It is inexcusable to not know how good you are and how strong you can become.” They gave their commitment to work harder and improve their grades. They nodded in agreement that they understood me. I continued by saying, “I will not reward you for a “C” however I will applaud your commitment to work for a higher grade.” The class gave them a thunderous ovation.
Our value of high standards is very evident in our support of organizations and athletic teams. We are downright intolerant of teams that we feel could be better. People, are agitated at the poor performance of their favorite sports teams. If someone is having a bad game someone has to pick up the slack and pull the team out of the funk. They all seem to go into a funk and tank together. Too often people hold back their best performance because of the opinions of lower performers. We had students in school who are disliked because they are known as the curve busters. They performed so much higher than others that if the teacher graded on an average, they would inflate the average. Companies tolerate employees who are not pulling their weight and hurting the department or the team. These individuals should be held accountable and replaced if they do not elevate their desire and execute their assignments.
People were asked the following questions, “What irritates you about your favorite team or some of the players? What do they do or not do that really gets on your nerves? What are some of your frustrations as a spectator?” Here are a few of their responses;
- They don’t give their best effort
- They don’t earn their money or your support
- They make costly mental mistakes
- They play to the level of their competition
- They don’t play together as a team
- They are not physically in shape
- They become overconfident and under-estimate their competition
Some were asked to think about their performance in their classes or on the job. Could someone make some of the same comments about their performance? Could they be accused of not giving their best effort? Did they make many mental mistakes and consistently played to the level of their competition? Were they a team player? Were they physically and mentally in shape and humble?
Excellence is unpopular in some situations. There are sports teams, such as the New England Patriots National Football League team, who are accused of running up the score. They play their best games even if it meant the score would get out of hand. They are committed to excellence and played the game to reach their best performance. Many teams insert their second string and the second team plays to the level of their skills, not to the score of the game.
Ironically, there is an unwritten rule of sportsmanship, a gentleman’s agreement; that says when the score is out of reach, the other opponent is to slow down the game. They are to play half as hard, so as not to further embarrass the other team. Ironically, this is also the mindset that leads to injuries because they are playing without the same level of focus and concentration.
We have to set and adhere to high standards, as a way of thinking, acting and as an overall way of living. We have to scrimmage with the best to hone our skills. We should model excellence and unapologetically strive to reach our goals and improve the overall performance of everyone. There are ways to stress excellence and sportsmanship without abandoning the practice of delivering your best.
Copyright © 2012 Orlando Ceaser