Peyton Manning may or may not have played his last professional football game, but his performance this season added to his legacy in ways no one can deny. His skill, his leadership, and especially his resilience cemented his place among the best of the best in football history. What Jerry Rice brought to the game physically, Peyton Manning brings to the game mentally. They might both be described as genius in their chosen field.
I am a big believer in finding your sparks, your genius, and tirelessly working to become the very best at them. There are those among us who have taken their passions and pursued them relentlessly, seeking perfection. What do they have that we don’t? Yes, some of them have physical prowess or intellectual ability beyond what most people possess. But those are not the things that set them apart. It is their passion, their drive, and their persistence in the face of obstacles that makes them the best.
Say what you will about Steve Jobs, but there is no one who worked harder to make his vision a reality than he did. The stories of his drive are legendary. Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Steve Jobs, is known to be just as tenacious in his pursuit of perfection. He revises his scripts right up until the moment of shooting.
As troubled as Michael Jackson’s private life might have been, he is at the top of almost every list of the greatest performers of all time. No recording, no stage set, no dance number was ever good enough. He knew there was always room to make it even better.
Why is it that some people set the alarm to go off at 4:04 am every day and climb out bed to finish a run or complete a workout before heading to work? They’ve done more before 7:00 am than many will do all day.
Why is it that some people rehearse dance seven days a week, or practice their instrument for hours on end, or write fifty pages a day, every day? Some people have made a commitment to be the best at what they do.
I’ve wavered on the title of this blog all week. I struggle with the conflict between done and done perfectly. In pursuit of perfection, we are sometimes paralyzed. “In pursuit of excellence” may, in fact, be the better title. The goal is to be the best you can be, not necessarily to be better than everyone else.
None of this is easy. Sleep is easier than waking up early to go for a run in the rain. Sitting on the couch is easier than heading off to the dance studio to practice the same routine for the hundredth time that week. Snapping the quick shot is easier than waiting for hours for the perfect light to get the best possible photograph. This relentless pursuit of perfection takes stamina and persistence and grit. There are some people though who embrace the suck.
I don’t have competition in my top five strengths. (We’ll pause as those who know me best say it must be number six.) But I certainly want to succeed at whatever I do. My sparks are teaching and learning…and writing. I was rejected by my first publisher this week. I submitted a book proposal, and I got a polite email on my birthday that they did not feel the book would be appropriate for their readers. I am undaunted. I will continue to work on the manuscript. I will finish it, and I will revise and revise and revise in a relentless pursuit of perfection.