when it pays to opt out of pursuing excellence

Pursuing Excellence

Motivational speakers talk about the bane of mediocrity. High school principals espouse being outstanding. Companies founded by people like Steve Jobs are established on principles of going beyond even what currently exists. And we’re paying attention–maybe too much attention.

We look at others who are outstandingly successful and hold them up as examples of the de facto way of being. We read, share, Tweet and ‘like’ articles that tell us to rise up again and again, no matter how tired we are. We lap up the glorification of going all the way especially when we feel too tired to continue on. Especially then.

The downside of pursuing excellence

But there’s a sneaky down-side to pursuing excellence, and it happens to most of us.

it happens when we pursue the excellence of others.

Which, frankly, is most of the time.

I spent a decade going after someone else’s dream. At fifteen I decided to become a magazine editor-in-chief. I dreamt of a corner office with a view of a rampantly busy downtown, decorated with all-white leather furniture and a glass desk. Razor sharp. Sleek. Modern. Mine.

I’d be the lofty go-to for everything, filled in and in-the-know, on top of it all and with the ‘work ethic’ to prove it. I’d be the first one there and the last to leave. It would be great.

At twenty-five, eight months after I started at the first magazine that hired me, I was promoted to assistant editor of three of their publications. I had made it. And I was miserable. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, my anxiety and stress were through the roof and my energy level was way down. So that was fun.

Other people’s dreams

Here was the problem. I’d been pursuing the excellence of others. I didn’t really dream of a life where handbags were high priority, and health was low. I didn’t really dream of being out most nights of the week, nibbling on canapes instead of eating dinner while making surface conversation with people eyeing the room for their next conquest. I didn’t dream of sitting all day or hustling all the time to make deadline after deadline after deadline.

That was someone else’s dream, and someone else’s definition of excellence. i.e. You’ve made it once everyone thinks you’ve made it. And everyone thinks you’ve made it when you’ve got the title, the corner office, and people all over North America rushing to fill your requests.

When it pays to opt out of pursuing excellence

Sometimes we need to quiet down everyone else’s voices so we can hear our own. And when it comes to our dream and what we’re meant to do, that time is now.

What’s right for you?
What feels easy and breezy? What feels like waking up on vacation–thrilled and happy to be there–except it’s another day working? What doesn’t feel like work but gets you paid?

What everyone else thinks of these things is irrelevant.

In the pursuit of your excellence, there’s no compromise of the self.

In the pursuit of your excellence, there’s room for rest, fun and downtime. In the pursuit of your excellence there’s challenging your own inner fears but letting other people deal with theirs on their own–as Byron Katie would say, it’s not your business.

And in the pursuit of your excellence, there’s a voice within that will guide you towards the choices that ignite success. Just listen.

Big love,


Jun 6, 2013 · Comment

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