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You can’t be excellent or exceptional if you aren’t even active.

Now you all may be reading my title and thinking “what?”

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m still very much a proponent of excellence and exceptionality. But if there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of teaching and assessing it’s this: We have to start somewhere.

So many of us are stifled by the paralysis of analysis. We spend so much time contemplating the thing we want to do, struggling so hard to find the best way to get the job done that we never actually start doing it!

You can’t be excellent or exceptional if you aren’t even active.
I’ve spent the bulk of my professional career as an educator and education administrator. Much of that work consisted of instructing, mentoring and advocating for “at-risk” students. Many of these students were never expected to achieve much in life. College, careers and positive community impact were far-fetched goals for many of my students. But one of my greatest gifts in life was being able to witness these “subpar” students, professionals and human beings do what was supposedly impossible for them.

Many of my kids are now college students and college graduates; some with honors. Many have gone on to graduate degrees. Thought the products of broken, dysfunctional, impoverished homes many are happily married with children, and quite financially fruitful. Some of these students became teachers, others were called to ministry, and one specifically became a political leader in his old neighborhood to help change policies to better serve the youth.

Interestingly, when I met most of these kids they were functioning illiterates. Their spirits and hopes we’re as tattered and worn as many of their clothes. Their hopes we’re dashed. They feared change because every change they’d ever known had disappointed and then discarded them.

But they started.

Despite their low expectations, poor self-esteem and misplaced self-perceptions they agreed to start. One student confided In me that they agreed to try harder and push further because they knew I cared, they knew I served a team that cared, they knew when the time came for me to create my own team that I’d create one that cares. 

It’s true what they say, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Another interesting thing about that is, though I’ve been acknowledged as a master teacher in the years since the, at the time I’d never taught. Care was all I had. But, like my students, I was willing to start.

It’s the care and the start that lead to excellence, exceptionalism and mastery. Caring gives us the initiative and propulsion to try. And doing it, namely doing it REPEATEDLY, allows us to develop and hone our skill until it becomes second nature; until doing it is almost as natural as breathing. 

Being average doesn’t have to be the goal, but it’s better than not striving toward anything. Doing something – even doing it not so well but with a great heart – is better than not doing anything at all. Starting something and seeing it through -or having average outcomes still puts you in an extraordinary category, a category many insist they belong to or will belong to one day, but rarely make it into…the category of doers.

So, once again to the likely chagrin of my Reebok-loving cousin, I urge you: Just Do It!

First, ask yourself: What do I care about? Who do I care about? What kinds of things are important to me? What kinds of things do I wanna do to make in difference?


As always, good luck and God bless. I look forward to seeing what this year brings. Until next time.