Making Excellence the Norm

July 15, 2014

As Aristotle says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

When I was at Stanford University I was surrounded by incredible people in every field. Tiger had just turned pro. My freshman advisor was Pulitzer Prize winning constitutional historian, Dr. Jack Rakove. Condoleezza Rice was our Provost and Chelsea Clinton and I were classmates. Everywhere you looked there were people who had done amazing things, were in the process of doing amazing things, or were still going to do amazing things. It was an atmosphere and a culture of excellence. Excellence didn’t seem hard or impossible it was just what everyone did. It became normal. Everyone had permission to shine, and most of us did! Excellence didn’t mean any of us were perfect. We were far from it, in fact. We simply tried to always do our best and held ourselves to the highest standard that were humanly possible. Of course, Stanford is a unique and special place that I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to attend, but I don’t think you have to go to Stanford to seek out excellence and make it your default setting!

You can create a culture of excellence in your family, in your office, or on your team. Sometimes all it takes is one or two leaders who set examples of excellence and encourage others to do the same for themselves. Sometimes I think back to how much I trained as a young swimmer, and it is difficult to believe that I did it. However, at the time it didn’t seem so extraordinary. It seemed normal. That is just what I did. I swam 18-22 hours each week. I remember it being hard at first, but after a while it was just something that I did like eating breakfast. I didn’t think twice about eating breakfast, and I didn’t think twice about going to morning practice, working as hard as I could and then going back after school and doing it again.

If you want to be successful, make excellence the norm for yourself and the groups you are involved in. You will be amazed by what you will be able to accomplish because of it.