Becoming Excellent

Excellence is a blessing and a curse. It’s always a noble pursuit. But it can be intimidating as well. With so much information and many high profile examples of what excellence looks like, how can we contribute in a significant way?

Regardless of what you aspire to do, excellence is a worthy goal. But it probably won’t be your starting point. So how do you get there? Try this.

Is it Worth It?

This may be a new idea for you, but you can do anything you want. You just can’t do everything you want. There are always limits to time and resources. That means you’ll have to make some tough choices along the way.

If you could be excellent at your current endeavor, would it be worth doing? Or is it simply a means to another end? Invest yourself accordingly. Don’t bet the pot on side projects. Go big when it counts.

Don’t Compare

Dave Ramsey likes to say that 15 minutes of fame can take a lifetime to attain. Unless you are a prodigy, someone else’s proven track record of excellence will far outshine your humble beginnings. Don’t let that stop you. Their first attempts probably weren’t excellent either. If you have something to contribute, be willing to contribute your best effort now with the understanding that it will improve over time.

Pick Something You Have a Passion For

Dale Carnegie loved performing as an actor – but he wasn’t very good at it. He also wasn’t a great salesman. But when he discovered a complete lack of public speaking and communications training in his market, a match was made in heaven. He quickly develop a training program that turned shy and timid professionals into confident performers in their everyday roles. That training program still exists 100 years later. When you love what you do, it’s much easier to become excellent. If you don’t love it, wouldn’t you be doing everyone a favor by investing in something else? Possess a passion that keeps you moving.

Harness a Commitment for Growth

Individualism is the American way, but it will kill your chances to go from good to great. “But I prefer to do things my way.” “I have a special system.” That’s great. But if the best still invest in coaches, teachers, additional training and more practice, you certainly should as well. Best practices aren’t always set in stone for all-time (otherwise how would best practices change?). But you need to know the “rules” before you break the them. And once you do, maintain a healthy appetite for continuous improvement through growth. Don’t let a taste of excellence deter you from reaching new heights.


I asked a musician friend of mine once how he wrote so many great songs. He said that he wrote one new song a week. Were they all good? No, some were terrible. But others weren’t. That’s when it clicked. Excellence is more about perseverance than genius.

Zig Ziglar put it this way, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”


Start where you are. Start with what you have. Just start.

Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, trainer and thought leader.  Receive his new ebook Trusted Leadership Advisor by subscribing to his website  or follow him on Twitter.

Nathan Magnuson is an executive leadership consultant, speaker and author of the books Stand Out! and Ignite Your Leadership Expertise. Click to see the exciting ways Nathan is helping organizations and teams become more effective with Leadership-in-a-Box.