by Tracey C. Jones
The Parable of Talents found in the book of Matthew, Chapter 25, is one of my favorite illustrations of conquering the fear that prevents us from achieving excellence. In the parable, a man gives each of his three servants a bag of property, some say it was gold. The number of bags given was based upon each of the servants' ability. The owner then went on a journey and returned to see what his servants have done with what was entrusted to them.
The first servant, who was given five bags, used his talents to gain five more. The second, who was given two bags, used his talents to also double the owner's initial investment. The third was given one bag. He was afraid and hid his bag in the earth and returned it to the master crying, "See, you still have what is yours." The owner cursed him as slothful, and even wicked, for not working with what he was given. The third servant's rationale was, "I kept exactly what was given to me secure. Hence, there was no loss, so what's the problem?"
This, "no harm, no foul" mentality gets us into trouble. The third servant didn't fail because he did not multiply what was left in his care; he failed because he was too afraid to even try. The path to excellence is not measured in job titles, educational degrees or even bags of money, but in our commitment to living life's continuous journey to its fullest. And the last gentleman, unfortunately, chose to stay put.
The rewards reaped on the path to excellence are never found on the streets of status quo. And by the way, whenever you feel that you've done enough and it's time to rest on your laurels for a bit, remember, there is no such thing as status quo. Time can never be recovered, inflation defeats the worth of currency, and most great opportunities happen only once. Nothing static retains its original value. Decay and depreciation is a fact of life as sure as death and taxes.
So if we're not living the most excellent versions of ourselves, we know exactly whom to blame.
Why should we take on the challenge of excellence? Everyone knows how to do this–work hard, be accountable, be ethical, do the things that no one else wants to do–so why isn't everyone performing to a level of excellence? Because they don't know why they should perform at that level. When we understand this, then we are truly ready to pursue the rewards of excellence.
The first reward is autonomy! When you choose to live a life dedicated to the pursuit of excellence, you get to be your own boss! Never mind what the board of directors says or human resources puts in your personnel file; never mind what the stock market tells you your retirement accounts are worth. You and you alone know what you are worth. And you are evaluated only on what is personally inside of you. It's whatever you are willing to invest in and commit to and actually push yourself to be: the most excellent version of yourself. So no more complaining about the boss…the boss is you!
The second reward of excellence is contentedness. You are comfortable in your own skin. You don't have to tune out or stress out; you are truly actualized with the progress you've made. Albert Einstein once said, "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." In our quest for excellence, we know we're going to be ridiculed, judged, and opposed in many hurtful ways. But that's okay! It's called growing pains. There is no growth without the pain. We wear our battle scars with pride because we know we are engaged in triumphant warfare! And we are content in the face of adversity because it's all a natural and necessary part of separating from the pack. The reward of excellence is that you are content with all events that transpire and you wouldn't have it any other way.
The third reward of excellence is wisdom. My father told me that when we have a communication problem, it isn't between the mouth and the ear; it's between the heart and the head. When you pursue and achieve excellence, you fail. That's right; someone who's successfully pursues excellence fails countless times by virtue of the number of challenges and risks undertaken. And those failures give us strength, experience, good judgment, empathy, compassion, and yes, wisdom. Jim Rohn once said, "Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." We become effective livers of life when we have walked a mile in others' shoes.
So here's to stepping out from behind the curtains and into the spotlight of your life. If the world's a stage, don't you want to make your own story a legacy?