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Adams: How to Achieve Excellence

While people like Herb Brooks gain international recognition in their quest to achieve excellence, most of us are not famous but we still try to do our very best each time out.

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, Indiana. I tune in when I can, and am always impressed with the professionalism of the show.

One time I was at a Retreat Center 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 90 minutes a night, five 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 excellent (this slogan could be a cousin to the Nike slogan . . . ) wherever you are. The nationally known people aren’t always the best.

I once interviewed Pat Riley, now President of the Miami Heat, about excellence and he said, “Charlie, excellence is the gradual result of always striving to be better.” Former Notre Dame Football coach Lou Holtz told me one that “if what you did yesterday seems important, you haven’t done anything today.”

Coach Herb Brooks would tell the players trying to make the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team that if they gave him 99 percent effort they would make his job easy to cut them. What he was saying was that he wanted 100 percent effort. Even Brooks realized perfection wouldn’t happen on the ice, but excellence was reachable. Dr. Harriet Braiker says this: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.”

As you go through this week, think of the “uhs” and “ums” and “you knows” of your craft that you could eliminate in that ongoing quest to either reach or maintain excellence.

Charlie-Adams-e1378206959986-150x150Born in Oxford and educated at Ole Miss, Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker who specializes in sharing the fascinating back story of Lake Placid and the Miracle on Ice. His 90 minute to 2-hour presentation is filled with patriotism, the American dream, and the power of team. It is delivered to corporate, educational and church audiences. He can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com.

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