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Level Up to Excellence - January 2019

A Spark from ARC

January 24, 2019

Level Up to Excellence

“Most people fail in life not because they aim too high and miss, but because they aim too low and hit.”

– Les Brown

Are we demanding enough from ourselves and our students?  High expectations are critical to our success and the success of our students.  What is success?  Success is typically defined as the accomplishment of one’s goals.  To attain success, we must have the ability to move from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

Behind every successful organization you will find:

  1. A clear and compelling mission/vision;
  2. A strong culture of excellence;
  3. Passionate and intrinsically motivated employees full of courage, commitment, compassion, confidence and capacity;
  4. Intolerance for excuses;
  5. Strong collaboration and teamwork;
  6. Data-driven decision making.

If you want to achieve excellence, you can’t be afraid to fail.  Overcoming failure is essential to achieving excellence.  Although you may not remember, your past has been full of moments of failure.  You fell down the first time you tried to walk.  You failed many times before you learned to ride a bike.  Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat?  Failure was necessary to achieve excellence.

If you want to swing for the fences, you have to be willing to strike out.  Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot.  Hank Aaron struck out more times than over 90% of the professional baseball players who ever entered the major leagues through 1991.  However, most of us don’t think of Hank Aaron as a failure.  Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 home runs.  In 1923, he held the record for most home runs in a season, the highest batting average, and he also struck out more times than any other player in Major League Baseball.  Do we think of him as a failure?  Ty Cobb was thrown out trying to steal bases more than any runner in the history of professional baseball.  Most of us do not think of Ty Cobb as a failure.

Most people also don’t think of Vince Lombardi as a failure.  As head coach, he led the Green Bay Packers to five NFL championships in seven years.  Yet when he was 44 years old, he was still a line coach at Fordham University.  Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, yet everyone knows how the legend persisted and went on to have a great professional basketball career.

There are countless non-athletic examples of building success from failure.  Certainly Albert Einstein was not a failure, but he did fail a course in math.  Walt Disney went bankrupt seven times and had a nervous breakdown before he made it big.  Thomas Edison failed in over 1,000 experiments before he invented a light bulb that would last.  R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York became profitable and expanded to a national chain.  English novelist John Creasey received 753 rejection slips before he published 564 books.

All these people failed repeatedly, but they learned something tremendously important.  They learned that the only difference between a “big shot” and a “little shot” is that the “big shot” is a “little shot” that kept on shooting.  They also learned that you have to Persevere Until Success Happens (PUSH principle). 

We have not attained our goal for academic excellence; however, we must not give up.  We must stay committed to excellence.  Failure is an event, not a person, a detour, not a dead-end street, a stepping stone, not a stopping stone, a teacher, not an undertaker.  You really don’t fail unless you stop trying.  Keep in mind this message, inspired by Aristotle:

“Excellence is never an accident;

it is the result of high intention,

sincere effort,

intelligent direction,

skillful execution

and the vision to see

obstacles as opportunities.”

Nobody can consistently perform in a manner that is inconsistent with the way they see themselves.  Therefore, it is imperative that you see yourself as a winner and a person with the capacity to achieve excellence.  Don’t be concerned about failure.  Think about the successes you missed simply because you didn’t try or persist.  Keep excellence as your target and persevere until you reach it.  Our students deserve your best.

I encourage you to watch this video called “Don’t Be Afraid to Fail” to further inspire you:


Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent