It is about doing the best you can and seeking excellence no matter what you do in life.
The story of Darin Pritchett is an example. Chances are you’ve never heard of Darin, or will ever hear him on the radio. He’s not famous nationally, or regionally, or in his state. It doesn’t matter. He seeks excellence in all that he does. Darin hosts a nightly radio talk show known as “Weekday SportsBeat” on News Talk 960 radio in South Bend, IN where I live. I tune in when I can, and am always impressed with the professionalism of the show. One time I had finished delivering a positive attitude seminar for an organization when a corporate businessman came up to me and said, “Charlie, I listen to that Darin Pritchett. I’ve listened to him for years. I have never heard him say ‘Uh’ or ‘Um’ or ‘you know’ or anything like that. Ever!”
“Really?” I answered, with a surprised look on my face. I had never really thought about it, but surely Darin had an ‘Uh’ in there once or twice! After all, he was on the air 2 hours a night, 5 nights a week.
I called Darin and asked him about the “Uh” situation. “Well, Charlie,” he answered in a humble manner, “I don’t believe I have ever said “uh” on air. When I decided to go into this profession I made a commitment to speak the English language in a very professional manner. I decided that if I ever did have to pause for thought I would do just that – pause for thought. I studied people like Bob Costas and other high achievers that had excellent control of their speech.”
Ever since then I have listened to Darin, intently waiting for an ‘Uh.’ I’m still waiting.
THAT is excellence! He does it night in and night out on a fairly small radio station in northern Indiana. He doesn’t set a standard for excellence because he is on a national radio show. He does it because it is the thing to do, regardless of the magnitude of the show. Darin and his highly respected co host Rick Carter have a large sized, loyal audience in their area because their program is built on consistently being excellent.
Could Darin work for national radio audiences? Absolutely? Does he? No. His wife is from the South Bend area and that’s where he they want to raise their family.
Just be excellence (this slogan could be a cousin to the Nike slogan . . . ) wherever you are. The nationally known people aren’t always the best.
Peak Performers don’t settle. They don’t necessarily have to work unreal hours every day and live unbalanced lives, but they get to where they can’t do anything but get better day after day. They relish new challenges. Former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz used to say, “If what you did yesterday seems important, you haven’t done anything today.”
That’s a good one. Of course, if you got married yesterday, you’d have a hard time topping that the next day! Peak Performers simply will not allow themselves to get caught up in the excellent work they constantly produce. They have an intangible that’s hard to put a finger on, but basically it’s like every time they do something, they’re doing it for the first time. Just because they did it great in the past doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to do it great the next time. They’re confident, don’t get me wrong, but they don’t take their performance for granted.
I watched a Biography of comedian and actor Steve Martin. He said he was born with no noticeable gifts. The point was that he worked his tail off to accomplish the things he has done in his career. I recently watched a Biography show on songwriter Paul Simon. He made the comment that even though his father worked a lot and wasn’t at home a lot, a comment he made impacted Paul’s life significantly. He was in his room singing when his father happened to hear him and walk in. He sincerely told his son that he was very good at it. That comment made a lasting impact.
I’m often asked who was the most impressive athlete I ever interviewed during my broadcasting days. That would be Vanessa Pruzinsky. When I say her name people look at me like, “Who’s that?”
Vanessa carried a perfect 4.0 grade point average her entire time at Notre Dame in CHEMICAL ENGINEERING! How hard is that? She was only the third person in the University’s history to do that, and the first female ever. At the same time she was also a starter on the powerhouse soccer team. Vanessa was the Rookie of the Year in the Big East Conference in 1999. She was a key player on a team that was consistently ranked in the top five in the nation, and that has won 3 national championships over the past 15 years.
She achieved excellence as a student and as an athlete. Vanessa was committed and determined. She had one brutally tough class that led her to tears. The librarian would often have to wake her up at 2 in the morning so that she could go back to her room for some sleep. As an athlete she had to have ankle surgery one season, but came back to lead a defense that allowed just 5 goals in one 19 game stretch.
She was excellence. Not excellent, excellence. It was her state of being. She was as close to perfection as any high achiever I ever covered in my broadcasting career.
Vanessa’s perfect grade point average in a brutally challenging major is an inspiration because it is up there in the “perfect” range. While she was able to persevere, that can of pace can take its toll on many of us. As Peak Performers you have to be careful to cut yourselves a break from time to time. I’m not talking about settling, but about understanding that seeking perfection can be damaging. No matter how well you do at something, you tend to harp on the one area where you came up a little short. It’s that “perfectionist thing.”
Then I read a quote by Dr. Harriet Braiker: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”
She’s on the mark there, I believe. Striving for perfection is noble and this world would be in a whole lot better shape if everyone was in tune with that, but striving for perfection can demoralize you. Seeking excellence, however, is motivating. I truly believe it can be a state of being. Peak Performers strive for excellence as a habit and way of life. They care deeply, as I wrote about earlier, and take it hard when things go wrong, but they keep moving on because excellence is their way of life. Be excellence. I did a one hour interview with Pat Riley, who is the President of the Miami Heat and former head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He summed it up best when he said…
“Charlie, excellence is the gradual result of always trying to do better.” – Coach Pat Riley
Hey, I received a lot of positive feedback on last Tuesday’s newsletter on Allison Hayes Freeze, who is giving back after an overwhelming amount of people helped her and her young daughter when Allison’s husband was killed in a car accident in 2012. Rob was just 37.
—Charlie Adams is the author of 4 books on positive attitude and peak performance, including 2013′s “How to Build a Positive Attitude and KEEP the Darn Thing!!” and “Stoke the Fire Within.” His books and motivational keynotes and seminars are designed to make sure events reach their objectives and to help create winning cultures. Email him at:Charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.