When I was in public school, my personal standard for academic success was merely a passing grade on my report card. That is to say, 50% was the target of my achievement. One problem with setting a goal of 50% was that if I didn’t quite hit my goal, even by 1 mark, the result was a failing grade. There was no “wiggle room”. As I entered High School, where I began to take more seriously the questions of my career path and life direction, I began to recognize that in a more competitive environment, I was a small fish in a big pond and others set their sights much higher than I was accustomed to.
So with some encouraging mentors and compassionate classmates, I began to demand more of myself. I began to expect better results. Rather quickly, I figured out that with increased commitment, hard work, and practice, I could raise my own standard beyond what my instructors expected from me. This was a valuable lesson in the classroom but could this principle apply in the real world?
In the award winning book Launching a Leadership Revolution, best selling authors Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady illustrate this thought beautifully by quoting Edmund Burke who wrote; “The only way for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.” My natural tendency as a youth was to do nothing that required risk or supported a major cause. When I started to read some of the books written by Top 30 Leadership Expert Orrin Woodward and had the privilege to hear him speak from stage at a TEAM Leadership event, I heard him share his mission of developing 1 million leaders who pursue excellence in their lives. He himself demonstrates these principles by relentlessly pursuing truth and wisdom, continuously learning from others who have success, and holding the bar higher for himself than for others. This is what a leader does. They apply strict law on their own actions and extreme grace on others.
But what is wrong with doing nothing? I live in a country where I have the freedom to do what I want, right? Let me be clear, there is no freedom without sacrifice. And if enough of us exercise our right to be mediocre, we will eventually lose that freedom! To paraphrase Edmund Burke, all we need to do is….nothing. Doing something takes effort. Doing something takes vision. Doing something attracts criticism from those who do nothing. That’s why excellence must be pursued.
As Gil Bailie wrote; “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Orrin Woodward and the leadership development organization called TEAM has developed a systematic way to develop ones self through education and application in the real world. This, in my opinion, is playing a significant role in helping people come alive today. Not just having a pulse, but really living intentionally for excellence, creating their vision for a better future, and preventing evil from flourishing. Who needs it? We all do.