Career Success versus Excellence

Success in any situation can be hard to define. In fact, it can have virtually unlimited definitions, depending on who you are and how you choose to view–and measure–it. In terms of career success, for example, it can vary from gaining a coveted promotion (such as a more exalted position in your company) to making a significantly higher salary than you had before to achieving industry recognition as an influencer or expert who stands out from your peers.

Obviously, then, you can encounter disagreement on what constitutes success. Some people will share your view, while others might adopt one that’s diametrically opposite to it. A possibly more meaningful concept is that of excellence. Let’s see how that might play out.

How Would You Define Excellence?

One definition is “the state or quality of excelling or being exceptionally good; extreme merit; superiority.” Another is: “the quality of being outstanding or extremely good.” As background: the word comes from the Latin verb excellere, which meant to surpass. I’m sure you can see a common theme here. The concept of mediocrity or being average obviously doesn’t cut it!

Clearly, if you want to achieve excellence in terms of your career, you need to consider what it will take for you to be much better than good at whatever it is you do or want to do. You will need to hold yourself to a high standard with regard to all the key aspects of your career, including the norm that would be expected in your career field or profession and in your industry as a whole. Meeting that norm is only the first step to achieving excellence, and it will not make you stand out from the crowd. Through research, observation and clear thinking, you will be striving to get a clear picture of how far you have to go to reach excellence and the critical steps required to attain it.

Excellence or Success–Is it an Either/Or Choice?

A recent blog post by Jon Gordon, titled “Excellence or Success,” makes the distinction that “success is often measured by comparison to others. Excellence, on the other hand, is all about being the best we can be and maximizing our gifts, talents and abilities to perform at our highest potential.” In that sense, it appears to be an either/or choice–in other words, you can’t have both. This viewpoint definitely has some validity, and Gordon provides examples from sports (coach John Wooden and pro golfer Jack Nicklaus) and from business (Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad products).

On the other hand, if you define success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” versus “the attainment of popularity or profit,” you might be able to achieve both excellence and success, depending on what your aim or purpose is. For example, if your aim as a Senior Marketing Manager is to recruit, train and inspire a marketing team to position your company and its products as #1 in its market-space, and you/your team achieve that goal by communicating the quality and benefits of the company’s products in a compelling way, you can rightfully claim a combination of excellence and success for your efforts.

A Key Point about Career Success versus Excellence

Remember that success depends on how you define it. Before you can achieve both excellence and success in your career, you need to pin that definition down.

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