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Believe It Or Not, Excellence Takes Effort


To say that Derek and Julianne Hough’s Move Beyond dance show was an extraordinary experience is an understatement. Not because their dancing was amazing—because it was. Not because they both could also sing really well and were truly generous in their gratitude to be performing—because they could and they were. What was extraordinary was the nonstop level of intensity with which they performed and the insane level of physical strength, ability and stamina required to do it. Here’s a news flash—it takes a whole lot of effort to be that excellent.

For those who aren’t familiar with Derek and Julianne Hough, they are siblings who became famous as professional dance partners teaching and performing ballroom dancing on the TV show Dancing with the Stars. They each won the program’s mirror ball trophy multiple times (Derek won it six times!), and both have gone on to pursue new paths including starring in the live television performances of Grease (Julianne) and Hairspray (Derek). Sure, they have natural talent. But words cannot describe their precision as they moved up and down and all around each other, the backup dancers and the sets. There was no wild body flinging going on. This was pure controlled power.

Obviously, the Houghs are not the only extraordinary talents. You can watch Serena Williams power her way on the tennis court or quarterback Tom Brady perfectly place yet another pass or gymnast Simone Biles defy gravity—they’re all extraordinary…and they all are inspiring. Every little girl watching Simone Biles wishes she could fly through the air…and everyone in the stands would love, for just one moment, to hit that winning shot with Serena’s power and placement.

They can. You can. It just takes an enormous level of commitment, effort and patience. (OK, and—yes—depending on what feat you want to achieve, you may need a little more or less stature and a few less years.) But extraordinary occurs in many shapes and forms—it’s not just about famous artists and athletes. It can be as simple as being an extraordinary parent to your children…an extraordinary spouse or lover…or extraordinary in your commitment to live a healthier lifestyle and beat a diagnosis of heart disease or type 2 diabetes.

I had dinner with an old college friend last week. She has just launched a new product to which she has committed every bit of her being for the past four years. A personal lubricant warmer and dispenser called Pulse. It is exquisite in its design and formulation. She gave my hands a “squirt” at the dinner table, and they felt amazingly soft and smooth. Every element of the Pulse is breakthrough, from the dispenser design to the 100%-hypoallergenic and toxin-free lubricant. But it didn’t just happen. Amy created a team of superstar engineers, designers, manufacturers, formulators, marketers…you name it. She didn’t wake up one day and simply decide to go sell goo. She did her homework…worked her network…researched the industry…found the best people in every category. She committed her life to fulfilling a vision and a dream and then put every ounce of her heart and soul into making that dream come true. No wonder she is on a path to success.

Jerry Rice, one of the greatest NFL receivers of all time, was known not for his natural abilities, but for his work ethic. Even when he was a superstar, Rice would sprint to the end zone after receiving every pass during practice, while other players would catch the ball and jog back to midfield. Fascinating! One of the best in the league, yet he still pushed himself harder than anyone else.

Then again, to me, striving for excellence is simply the way things are done. While the work can be hard and tedious and frightening, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that you have given your all toward success. Mind you, “excellence” is not “perfection.” Notice that with all of the accolades above, I never described the dancing duo or the tennis pro or Jerry Rice as “perfect.” Perfection is an unrealizable standard with no real end point, the pursuit of which literally can drive people crazy. But excellence is achievable by all in any area of life. It simply takes the care and commitment to make it so.

Here’s a place to start…have an excellent day.

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