by Dr. Terry Jackson
Being successful does not necessarily mean you will be excellent, and being excellent does not necessarily mean you will be successful. Success is attaining or achieving cultural goals, which elevates one’s importance in the society in which he/she lives. Excellence is the pursuit of quality in one’s work and effort, whether the culture recognizes it or not.
Success seeks the external, status, power, prestige, wealth, and privilege. Excellence is internal – seeking satisfaction in having done your best. Success is external – how you have done in comparison to others. Excellence is how you have done in relation to your own potential.
Success grants its rewards to a few, but it is the dream of the multitudes. Excellence is available to all, but is accepted only by a few. Success engenders a fantasy and a compulsive groping for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Excellence brings us down to reality with deep gratitude for the promise of joy when we do our best. Excellence cultivates principles, character, and integrity. Success may be cheap, and you can take shortcuts to get there. You will pay the full price for excellence; it is never discounted. Excellence will always cost you everything, but it is the most lasting and rewarding ideal.
Often when we speak of doing well in life we speak of how “successful” we are or how “successful” someone has been. It is rare that we describe ourselves or someone else as being a person of “excellence.” Success is something we readily accept whereas Excellence is something we rarely strive to achieve. Ex-police officer and newspaper columnist Bob Vernon differentiates between “success versus excellence” as “To succeed is to attain a desired object or desired result. It doesn’t necessarily mean doing one’s best.” He goes on to state; “On the other hand, to excel means to continue to improve or develop. It includes a sense of rightness or goodness.” So while success and excellence have their similarities, the two are different.
Arisotle was quotes as saying “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” What drives you, success or excellence?
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