On Defining Excellence

by Lee Buford on June 14, 2011

Excellence is difficult to define, if not impossible. And if we could define it, your definition would be different from mine. I think that’s ok.

The reason is this: Excellence (to me) is a process and/or manner by which we live our daily lives…not an end result or “thing” to be achieved. You don’t get to a point where you can boast in excellence achieved. You can master certain areas or things in your life, but not to the point of total excellence as a definitive destination (and that in itself can only be attributed to God’s grace rather than human accomplishment). As a result, excellence take on a different meaning for each of us along the way.

Tom Peters wrote one of the most-read, defining books on the subject way back in 1982, and In Search of Excellence remains a classic go-to-book to this day. More recently he published The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue EXCELLENCE (you definitely should own it), in which he includes the following:

Excellence is…

Excellence is the best defense.
Excellence is the best offense.
Excellence is the answer in good times.
Excellence is the answer in tough times.
(Excellence is the answer in tough times.)
Excellence is about the big things.
Excellence is about the little things.
Excellence is a relationship.
Excellence is a philosophy.
Excellence is an aspiration.
Excellence is immoderate.
Excellence is a pragmatic standard.
Excellence is execution.
Excellence is selfish.
Excellence is selfless.
Excellence is what keeps you awake.
Excellence is what lets you sleep well.
Excellence is a moving target.
Excellence is that which … knows no bounds.

EXCELLENCE. Always.
If not EXCELLENCE, what?
If not EXCELLENCE now, when?

EXCELLENCE is not an “aspiration.”
EXCELLENCE is the next five minutes.


How do you define excellence and, more importantly, how is your definition impacting your journey?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Roger L April 28, 2013 at 7:00 am

Excellence is the desire, the strive to become better than what you can do. No one can reach perfection, but excellence means you are trying damn hard to do so.

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