What is the Opposite of Excellence?

In his new book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt offers five reasons why we settle for less than excellence:

  1. We run out of time
  2. We don’t have sufficient resources
  3. We have insufficient experience
  4. We acquiesce to the committee
  5. We are afraid

All of these are serious and no doubt we’ve all experienced them all.

Who hasn’t faced compromise in the face of a looming deadline? Who hasn’t struggled to “just get it done” when the resources are short? Who hasn’t sighed and determined to “do the best with what we’ve got” when we realized that we’ve got no clue what we’re doing? Who hasn’t thrown their hands up when the management team makes a call that you don’t understand or doesn’t make sense?

While one through four are all bad enough, the fifth is deadly to our pursuit of excellence. Why?

Because we have too low a view of excellence. I’ve written about this in the past as I interacted with Andreas Köstenberger’s recently released book, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue, but it bears further consideration.

Köstenberger’s work forced me to reexamine my definition of excellence, moving from a subjective view based on my own preferences to one based on the character of God. Platform likewise reminded me that there’s an equally great need to define the opposite of excellence. The opposite isn’t simply being “unexcellent.” Mediocrity doesn’t really sum it up, either. If the fifth item on the list is correct, then there’s only one way to properly define the opposite of excellence: Sin.

We fear excellence because we may fail; it means we may not actually be “excellent” in our own eyes. But more than that, we’re afraid because we don’t measure up to the true standard of excellence. When God is our standard, we see how far short we fall.

So what are we afraid of, really, when we settle for less than excellence?

  • Chris

    No one wants to give everything they have and come up short. But as the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote teaches, it is about the effort given and not the result that defines excellence. Just as in our walk with God – it is about us being faithful and leaving the outcome in God’s hands.