African Americans are accustomed to the notion that we must work twice as hard and be twice as good as other ethnic groups to achieve success in the United States. The fairness of this notion is what’s in question here. We can approach this notion from a different perspective. The underlying principle behind the concept of working twice as hard and being twice as good offers a message that has lasting value. The message can also be received as an encouragement to set a standard of excellence. Not to appease anyone else, but because it’s intrinsically the right thing to do. Granted there will always be obstacles, but that should never stand in the way of striving for excellence.
Setting a standard of excellence represents a mindset. It’s an individual decision that says settling for mediocrity is not acceptable. Excellence doesn’t mean perfection, it’s the striving for continuous improvement both personally and professionally. Excellence means committing to mastering your craft whatever your chosen profession happens to be. It means knowing yourself, your values, beliefs, and acting in accordance. It represents cultivating your gifts and talents, discovering your passions, and being clear on your life purpose.
Many of us remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s statement: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” It doesn’t matter what your task is, Dr. Kings message is do it to the best of your ability. In other words, set a standard of excellence.
I encourage you to strive for excellence in whatever you do. Don’t be the person who does just enough to get by. Excellence does not come easily. it requires work both mentally and physically; the successful differentiate themselves by doing the work.
Setting a standard of excellence is not reserved for a select few or the privileged, it’s a choice that any of us can make.