Excellence – It’s such an uncommon thing these days that when we encounter it, we are awestruck.  Think about it.  When was the last time you came across a truly excellent work?  In fact, if you recently encountered a truly excellent work, there’s a pretty good chance that it was actually performed a very long time ago.  Literature, art, movies, music, philosophy… most of the stuff we encounter today is just a mediocre replication of the classics.

This creates a dilemma for us.  If there are so few who do their jobs with excellence and the expectations of society as a whole have deteriorated, where is our motivation to perform with excellence? 

I’m not suggesting that you need to go out do something better than Da Vinci, Beethoven, Newton, or even George Lucas.  I am suggesting that you go out and do something better than you usually do.  But I’m not an artist/musician/philosopher/writer/scientist you say.  It doesn’t matter.

Booker T. Washington said that excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way.  I think doing the regular, everyday things with excellence takes even more motivation and can have just as profound an impact on those who witness it. 

My wife and I were in Napa Valley a month ago.  We had dinner one night at Don Giovanni’s.  Our server there was one of, if not the best I’ve ever had.  It wasn’t that he was particularly fast or the most attentive, but his presence actually enhanced our meal.  He was very engaging, had a wonderful personality, and gave us the impression that he really cared about us and our dining experience.

Here was a guy truly doing a common thing in an uncommon way.  I watched him as he worked the room – how he had various ongoing conversations with other tables and how he interacted with the hostess, the kitchen, and the manager.  No matter who he was with, you could visually witness them cheer up and become happier as a result of their interaction with him.

Needless to say, he got a great tip.  Maybe it was just part of his show to get tips, but I don’t think so.  He seemed authentic in his desire to make people happier through his service.  He performed his job with excellence.

So whether you’re an executive, a server in a restaurant, a stay-at-home parent, a volunteer, or a student – seek to do the common things in an uncommon way.  You’ll amaze people when you do.