October 21. “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” (Vince Lombardi)
I grew up a Boy Scout. I went to weekly meetings, camped, earned Merit Badges, and all. One of the things I cherish most about my time as a Scout and later as a Leader, is that it helped engrain a code of ethics into my being. I am a different person because of what I learned in Scouting.
One year I took the highest level training course for adult leaders. It was a difficult training experience, and we all were expected to study and perform well. Not everyone who started this particular training would reach the end and earn the coveted beads. It was intentionally difficult, and the instructors spared us nothing. We met for 3 camping weekends, and had to get together between those trips. In addition, we had to write out a personal contract for ourselves and spend upwards of a year working on our personal goals.
At the end of it all, after completing the requirements and passing a review, many of us gathered for an annual breakfast. At this breakfast we were given our awards and joined the ranks of those who had succeeded before us. As part of the morning’s festivities, an older Scouter stood to address us. He talked about his time as a leader and what it had meant in his life, and the lives of those around us. He knew what we’d been through to earn this award, and he told us he wanted us all to stand. When we stood he told us to hold up the Scout sign, and to begin the Scout Oath. With one voice we started
On my honor, I will do my best…
STOP! He called to us. We waited for a long pause. Then he said “that’s all you need to do.”
Doing my best is about being honest with myself, and it is about pushing myself to excellence. Wherever I find myself in life, I have a choice to make. I can swim along with everyone and be average. Sometimes that can even be a fairly comfortable place to be. Or, I can choose to be excellent, I can choose to do my best.
When I choose to do my best, and then execute on that choice, my quality of life does go up. It may not change by the measure of wealth or power, but it will change in the most important measure – how I feel about myself. When I am doing my best, my head is held high, and my chest is out. I walk confidently knowing that I am putting forth the best effort I can. I may not always succeed when I am doing my best, but when I do fail I know that is because I played it out as hard as I can.
For me there is no greater sense of defeat than when I fail and I know that I didn’t go all in.
Back in the 1990s I was involved as a lead volunteer for a Church festival. One year I was given the task to sell advertising in our main tent. The idea we had was to string signs from pole to pole that advertised sponsors of our event. The vision we had was that we would have enough sales revenue to pay for the tent, and then some.
I am not a sales person. I procrastinated the job, and didn’t put my best effort into it. When the time came we had some signs, but nothing like what was envisioned. I fell short on the goal, but more importantly I fell short on the commitment. A good friend confronted me on this during the weekend, she bluntly told me that this was not a Bobby-C performance, and that she expected better. I protested about things like the economy, and how much time I had to do the job, and so on. I was making excuses. The bottom line is she was right, and I hated her for being so right. I didn’t speak to her for a long time after that incident. It took me finally realizing just how right she was for me to stop making excuses for the effort. We talked it out later, and are still great friends today.
The lesson from that incident for me is this, when I give it all I have I never need an excuse.
Today my reflection is on my own personal excellence, and whether I am living up to the first line of the Scout Oath.