The woman with the long blonde hair had a radiance as she floated over the ice, a radiance that middle-age has not dimmed.
"Who was that?" observer in the stands commented. "I couldn't take my eyes off her."
The lady was JoJo Starbuck, who those over 50 will remember as one of the best-known ice skaters of her generation. She did not win any Olympic medals, but did win gold in pairs three times from 1970 through 1972 in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
But for one summer session, she taught my group of eight or so adults who were trying for greater ease and skill in the world in which most our age are not trying spins and jumps while wearing a pair of boots that have strips of metal screwed to the bottom.
We will not become JoJo at our age. But we can aspire to improve and do better, each within our capabilities. Maybe we won't do triple axels, but a double toe loop? Possible.
When I am exposed to people like JoJo, I always get to the question of what makes champions. But more importantly, I also ponder how we can get people in our more mundane business arena to aspire to excellence.
Closer to home, I had a chance to spend a morning up close with business guru David Maister, who was lecturing to a bunch of suits who made more money than I ever will. I consider these kinds of sessions my own continuing education, and if you spend any time in the trade show circuit, you can get a great education from all the business leaders and motivational speakers who are called in to whip up some enthusiasm for the troops.
Just as dining at fine restaurants on the business circuit can dim your view of your friends' favorite local eatery, exposure to excellence stimulates its own kind of appetite. I find it addictive.
It has led me to believe that excellence is a habit (and so is mediocrity). It's not that any of us achieves it all the time. But as much fun as I make of the endless line of motivational speakers at conferences, hearing from people who are high-caliber thinkers wears off on most of us, even if only a little. Most of us who have been exposed to Doug Burgum through his years at Great Plains and Microsoft realize how lucky we are to have been part of his era. Hopefully, some of that has stuck to all of us.
Excellence has its limit. You can't let perfectionism bring business processes to a halt. Nor should excellence be a club for beating others. It needs to be an example to spur emulation.
So many people spend life aiming low and being surprised at what they hit. Why not aim higher? You might be equally surprised.
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