Joey rises before dawn to pack his lunch, eager for morning to arrive so he can board the city bus that transports him to his job at a souvenir production facility. From 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Joey applies decals to souvenir collector spoons. Much like an artist applying brush to canvas, Joey peels a self-sticking decal from its wrapper, painstakingly centers it over the base of the spoon and slowly presses it on the metal. If the decal is not perfectly centered, he peels it off and starts over. Joey glows with pride over the racks of completed spoons, ready to be packaged for shipping to retail stores.
Joey has Down Syndrome. Though he will never become the chairman of a Fortune 500 company and it's unlikely he will ever win an Academy Award or a Pulitzer prize, Joey is an outstanding sucess and a source of continual pride and joy to his heavenly Father.
When I think of Joey, I feel shame for all the times when I have given less than my best. I'm also inspired to re-commit myself to the pursuit of excellence in everything that I do.
In the parable of the five talents, Jesus taught the importance of investing our gifts and resources to the best of our ability. Three people received three different amounts of money, "each according to his ability." Later, each was asked to account for what they did with their money.
Two of the three that doubled their money through wise investments were commended by the master, "You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things." The one who buried his money was called a, "wicked and lazy servant." Worse, the master took away what little he had and gave it to one of the faithful servants (Mat. 25:14-28).
To embrace excellence, we must shun mediocrity, despising it as a sinister enemy and guarding against its intrusion into our attitudes and endeavors. As the late Jamie Buckingham wrote, "The risk-free life is a victory-free life. It means lifelong surrender to the mediocre. And that is the worst of all defeats."
Anyone determined to shun mediocrity will, at times, need the courage to stand alone. Many people feel threatened by visionaries; they may intentionally or unintentionally discourage you. They may undermine your dreams. Seek out friends who are also visionaries so you can share mutual encouragement and support.
Another key to shunning mediocrity is to never compare ourselves with others. At the end of my life, I will not be asked, "Why were you not Sara, or Jennifer, or Candace?" I will be asked, "Were you Judy? Were you faithful to be the woman I created you to be."
Know Your Purpose
To achieve excellence, we must clarify our purpose. It's difficult to give our best when we lack vision.
My grades were ho-hum during high school and the first two years of my post-secondary education. I could have achieved honors with minimal effort, but I rarely studied. It wasn't until I discovered my passion - writing - and transferred to journalism studies that I exerted effort and strived for excellence. My grades soared and I achieved honors. Once I discovered my passion, it was easy to give my best.
I'm not trying to excuse my poor study habits -- I admit they reflected laziness and immature character. Nevertheless, discovering your purpose will have a catalytic impact on motivating you to a greater commitment to excellence.
Purpose is often revealed through our passions, for God places desires in our hearts. What excites you? What stirs joy in your heart? What motivates you? What inspires creativity and ideas and vision? The answers to these questions will provide key clues to understanding your purpose. Most important, pray and ask God to help you understand your purpose.
Know Your Source
Embracing excellence means we must know our source. Even before we were born, we were impregnated with the seeds of divine potential. Yet those seeds can remain dormant.
Consider the majestic oak tree. It's hard to believe it all started with a tiny seed. It's even more amazing to realize that seed contained all the genetic material necessary to develop into a mature tree. Still, for that seed to germinate and grow it required the right environmental conditions, including moisture and nutrients from the soil, and sunshine.
Our life purpose operates on a similar principle. Though God places seeds of potential in each one of us, those seeds require the right spiritual environment in order to germinate and grow.
The Bible says, "The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits" (Dan. 11:32)
By far the most important key to excellence and fulfilled potential is to develop a more intimate relationship with God. As we draw closer to Him, we receive clearer vision and understanding of our unique purpose. Vision ignites a passion to fulfill our purpose; from that passion flows the commitment to invest our gifts and resources in serving others.
As God's image-bearers, let's despise mediocrity. Let's seek to be more passionate, creative and excellent in everything we do. Let's refuse the well-travelled path of mediocrity, predictability and conformity; instead choosing the less-travelled path of faith, courage and risk.
Shun mediocrity, discover your purpose and remain connected to your Source - and everything you do will reflect the excellence of our Creator.
Judy Rushfeldt is an author, speaker, and online magazine publisher (http://www.LifeToolsforWomen.com) whose passion is to help women reach their dreams. Her latest book, Making Your Dreams Your Destiny - a woman's guide to awakening your passions and fulfilling your purpose, is available in quality bookstores in Canada and the United States. To read more about this book or to order online, visit http://www.MakingYourDreams.com
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St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert gives pregame speech before his final regular-season game - Newsday
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