Change the APPROACH: EXCUSE your MEDIOCRITY and EMBRACE EXCELLENCE!
It is my sincere desire that young people will heed the call of excellence in spite of the prevailing mediocrity around them today. Regardless of the culture of underperformance that is being celebrated and dignified today, they must make a personal commitment to stretch the limits of their commitment, the quality of life they live and work they produce.
Excellence is not an attitude that can be turned on and off. Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore an habit, not an act.” If we reason along this line, is it not true by the long history of mediocrity in Nigeria that we have an ingrained habit?
A lackluster approach to life, politics, work and business has prevailed long enough that excellence though unconsciously desired, is likely to come across as shocking. Because mediocrity flourishes, we are accustomed to making little demands of ourselves and of others and we roll out drums for underachievers.
In Nigeria, Politics is characterized by half-hearted commitment to development and at best, cosmetic projects and policies. At work, competence and quality crumbles under the weight of nepotism, superficiality and cheap office politics.
Our educational system is such that students can get by with superficial knowledge and their lecturers cannot challenge them to excellence because most are themselves gold standards of mediocrity. Businesses treat innovation and excellent Customer Service as burdens because they have been able to reap huge profits over the years while doing just the minimum requirement.
Let us face this truth – WE CAN CHANGE. In the absence of institutional frameworks that foster excellence or leadership that exemplifies it, we must demand excellence of ourselves and carry out a personal crusade against mediocrity. And this we must do. This is because even though we are potentially equal, life is designed to separate people and nations over time along the divide of excellence or mediocrity.
Our global competitiveness as young people lies in our response to excellence. Our best must regularly prevail in all that we do. You can be good in a Nigerian system that allows for mediocrity but you can never be great in the context of a global economy and social system where meritocracy is the determinant of relevance. The implication of my thought here is that those who scorn excellence will always live to regret it.
Another way to arrest this culture is a lifelong dedication to growth and learning, whether we are out of school or not. Failure in our attempt at the school system should not define our efforts in other critical avenues of learning in life. Young people must be trained in the fundamental field of knowledge acquisition and application. They must embrace the strength of mind and character needed for this undertaking. They must learn to embrace mental exertion. The brain must get into the habit of sweating through rigorous use, for that is how it will grow to heights of productivity and depths of insight.
This is your personal responsibility! Our survival as young people and as a nation is in a paradigm of EXCESS, a bold and countercurrent swim against the tides of mediocrity. We need excellent students, doctors, business men, teachers, lawyers, engineers, consultants and artisans.
Excellence will start when we begin to ask ourselves these questions – Am I performing at the highest level possible? Is this the best I can give?
Now, because we may not always be clear at any given time what our best is, it is safe to listen to Oscar Wilde’s challenge – “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.”