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Excellence vs. Perfection

Sep 06, 2020

“Perfectionism is focused on ‘doing the thing right’, how things APPEAR, and if OTHERS think it’s done right.  Excellence is about ‘doing the right thing’. It is focused on the REASON for a task, and the RESULTS for it to be a success.”

                                                                                                          - Marc Winn


Question:  "What's our goal?"


Answer:  "Black Belt Excellence, sir!"


For the past two decades, I have ended every martial arts class I have taught; whether it was with a group of White Belt kids or a class of seasoned adult Black Belt instructors with the question and subsequent response above. 


"What's our goal?......"Black Belt Excellence, sir!"   


On numerous occasions, I have explained to students the meaning and importance of this question and refrain. 


Although we may seek perfection in our professions, our relationships, our school studies and our martial arts training, it is really the quest for excellence that we desire and serves us best.


I came to this realization well into my adulthood. 


For most of my life, I had striven for perfection in everything that I did.  I set my sights on being the perfect student, the perfect athlete, the perfect son, the perfect husband, the perfect father, the perfect martial artist. 


What I soon realized is that while this frame of mind had served me in many ways, it was also the cause of great disappointment, anxiety and unhappiness in my life. 


This came present either from the deep disappointment that resulted when I did not hit my self-established and unrealistic goals or when I actually avoided taking risks and really going for what I desired because I was so afraid of failure.


As we grow older, I am always amazed on how the wisdom of our parents can continue to have profound impact in our lives, even in adulthood. 


Several years ago, I was on the phone with my amazing mom, Marianne.  I was complaining about all of the difficulties I was encountering launching my new professional speaking career (yes, even Mr. Positive needs to vent sometimes :)).  


The conversation suddenly shifted as a result of the following exchange.


Mom:  "So, you want to be one of those motivational speaker people?"


Me:  "Yes, I do!"  I responded emphatically.


Mom:  "Do you think anyone is going to want to listen to you if everything in your life is perfect and you've never had any struggles?"


Me: Dead silence (as I let her profound wisdom sink in)


It suddenly became very clear to me that the joys of success and the ability to inspire others through my story wasn’t because I hit every desired goal with ease and perfection, but rather in the striving for excellence in overcoming challenge, even when failure had become part of the experience.


In fact, when I got honest with myself, the times I cherished most in my life were not the times when things went perfectly, but rather the times when challenges arose and I dedicated myself to excellence, regardless of the result.



This week I challenge all of us to look at our lives and see where we may be limiting ourselves by attempting to be the perfect in all that we do and, as a result, hold ourselves back from really going for it because we fear the perceived failure of not being perfect. 


In working with a coaching client this week, who was hesitating in taking action because he might fail, I reminded him of the words of the legendary hockey great Wayne Gretzky, who said,


“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.”


Rather keep yourself from taking action because of fear of failure, change your perspective to achieving excellence and accepting both your victories and defeats with grace and appreciation by focusing on the following three areas.


1) Strive for your best but find joy in the process - not just in the result. – We have all heard it is about the journey and not the destination.  Make sure whatever endeavor you pursue, that you don’t just focus on the end result, but actually find joy in bringing excellence into the process.  Find satisfaction in the “mini-victories” along the way as you see yourself improve and expand your level of excellence.


2) Accept your short comings not as marks against who you are as a person, but as opportunities for you to grow and expand. – It is said the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement.  Get excited about your opportunities to improve and bring enthusiasm and passion in bringing excellence to your new areas of growth and expansion.


3) Take time to celebrate your successes along the way. – This, for me, is my greatest opportunity.  What if we (I) brought excellence to celebrating our victories (no matter how small) along the way to our desired goals?  It is my belief that we would not only experience much more joy during the process, but we would create better results, as well.


Who knows, you might even have some fun and enjoy yourself as you become the most excellent version of you?


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching

PS:  If you have finally decided to get moving and experience a BREAKTHROUGH in your life, check out my new program, the Mind of a Champion Breakthroughs Mini-Course.  


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