We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit as Aristotle is famously quoted for.
All those little actions we perform every moment, every day define us. When I think about great leaders who built a life committed to excellence, one person clearly comes to mind—Muhammad Ali—one of my idols.
Suffering from Parkinson's, Muhammad Ali nevertheless wrote the following letter to himself, which I found in the inspiring book "Letters from Leaders" (see below).
The Greater The Obstacle, The More Glorious the Moment of Success
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The time is always right to do what is right." I think most people would agree with that. The tricky part, of course, is knowing "what is right." I wouldn't try to tell others how to decide important matters, but I will share with you how I try work them out.
I have always been interested in what is going around me. I listened, observed, and read, taking the ideas and information that made sense to me and adopting them for my life. I worked hard and then worked some more, trying to be the best I could possibly be at what I was doing. I learned that tough times are a part of our journey in this life, but that challenges make life interesting. Even though it can be painful and frightening at the time, the greater the obstacle, the more glorious the moment of success. I decided not to close the door of opportunity on myself just because I wasn't sure I could do something. Even when I didn't get all the way to my goal, I found that when I tried as hard as I could, I was much further along than I otherwise would have been. And I found that the journey itself was a great adventure.
It is also important to have fun. I enjoyed my life. No matter where I was or what I was doing, I took the positive from the experience and lived in the moment, connecting with the people around me—whoever they were. I tried to make them laugh, if I could.
Most all, I believed in God and the wisdom He has for what my life should be.
Using all of these lessons as my guiding principles, not how much money or power and control over others I could command, I made the decisions I believed in my heart at the time were right. I accepted the consequences of my choices. For me doing "what is right" is everything.
Source: "Letters from Leaders - Personal advice for Tomorrow's Leaders from the World's Most Influential People" - compiled by Henry Dormann.
Photo credit: Historical Wallpapers