Elite vs Excellent

Hey guys! My name is Drew. Jared is a good friend of mine and an incredible guy. I’m honored that he asked me to hop on this week’s edition of Monday Motivation.

If you follow sports at all, you’ve likely noticed that there is a lot of focus on the “elite:” the best-of-the-best; the people at the very top of their game. Names like Kobe Bryant, Serena Williams, and Michael Phelps come to mind, if you’ve been watching the Olympics reruns like me. This idea goes beyond athletics too: top business leaders, entertainers, and even mega-church pastors live in the spotlight. Our culture praises the best and most famous.

Something we tend to forget is that God’s Word tells us as believers and followers of Jesus to be great at what we do! One of my favorite passages of scripture comes from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Not only are we to pray and read the Bible with all our heart, we should do business and work and exercise with all our heart too. Despite what a casual church culture might say, being great at what you do is what followers of Jesus are made for.

If we know that God asks us to be the best we can in all we do, what happens when we try and then fall short? If you’re anything like me, your response is to want to become upset, frustrated, and compare yourself to others. How do you work hard for the Lord and not fall into society’s pattern and obsession with “elite?”

I was on the phone with a friend the other day talking about this very thing. We both came to a realization at the same time, but he phrased it better than I did. He said something like this: “It takes a long time and is often out of your control to become elite. However, what you can do right away is be excellent.”

“Elite” requires comparison. It requires somebody or something else to be better than. “Elite” is a competition. “Excellence”, however, is in your hands. You can take whatever task lies in front of you and commit to yourself that you will accomplish it with your absolute best—nothing less. This is what the author of Colossians has in mind: working for the Lord with all your heart.

When I was rehabbing from a hip surgery last summer (part of the reason Jared and I became friends), I faced this dilemma. I was staring the prospect of 4-6 months of no soccer squarely in the face. Striving for “elite” and working hard at training wouldn’t be an option for a while, and I certainly wouldn’t be able to compare myself to anyone else. Instead, with the encouragement of some close friends and mentors, I chose to be excellent each day of recovery. I determined to start and finish each session with a positive attitude, do at least one extra rep on every exercise, and refuse to quit.

Were there days I fell short, got frustrated, or took shortcuts? Absolutely! We all will because we are human. Don’t use that as an excuse to give less than 100 percent—just know that “off” days are inevitable and determine to get back up each time. 

It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, good or bad. Whether you were excellent from the moment you woke up yesterday, or everything you attempted felt like a failure, your excellence today is a new journey. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s a continuous daily cycle. 

For those of you who are elite, among the best at what you do, that’s great too! Anyone can utilize this mindset. Don’t get the wrong idea; being the best isn’t a bad thing at all. But for most of us, we won’t achieve the brightest spotlight. There will always be someone better or more prominent. But that’s the beauty of excellence: you and I can practice it each day.

How can you be even better at your job than you were yesterday? How can you be the best parent, sibling, partner, or friend you’ve ever been? How can you pray or read God’s Word more earnestly? 

Maybe you need to commit to spending extra time on that project for work to make it polished. Maybe you need to put in that extra work on the field, court, or weight room this afternoon to take your game to the next level. Maybe you need to set aside 15 more minutes of your day to spend intentional time with a loved one.

Don’t sit around after reading this waiting for the “right time” to be excellent. Let me tell you when the right time is. 

The right time is now.

Take whatever you’re doing and do it with all you’ve got.

Be excellent today.

Much love to you all.

Drew

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