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Dr. King Inspired Excellence


Recently, I overheard the comment…it’s not about BEING perfect, but about BECOMING excellent. Reflecting on the comment, I am awed by the potential possibilities inherent in “becoming excellent.” Just imagine, this philosophy enables one to create a personal journey path that focuses on passion, opportunity, and initiative. As I thought about persons who created a life of excellence, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., quickly came to mind.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leadership represented and exuded excellence. With a commitment to excellence and a passion for education, economic equity, and equality, Dr. King forged a journey path that has inspired people all over the world.

On becoming excellent, Dr. King expressed the following three sentiments: The first quote came from a 1956 speech in Montgomery, Alabama: “Sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.’”

In another inspiring quote, Dr. King stated: “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
Similarly, Dr. King’s uplifting words stated, “Whatever your life's work is, do it well. A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.”

I love Dr. King’s thought provoking words because they inspire and motivate me to be more than average, more than mediocre, and not complacent, but EXCELLENT in all I do.  Dr King’s philosophies were relevant in the 1950s and are pertinent today.  So, how does one become excellent as Dr. King might suggest?  I am sure there are many classes, seminars, and books that can teach and guide us.  In fact, one book I am reading right now is called An Attitude of Excellence by Willie Jolley.

My personal prescription to “becoming excellent” is threefold: walk in someone else’s shoes, look through someone else’s lens, and help others to achieve their goals. Several years ago, I participated in the Southwest Airlines’ Walk-A-Mile program.  This program gave Employees from one department the opportunity to spend a few hours in another department to learn about a fellow Employee’s daily activities and job responsibilities.  I spent several hours at our Maintenance Facility learning how to change an airplane tire and check the oil. The experience was far more than learning the intricate mechanical techniques, as I became more sensitive, understanding, and appreciative of the work my Coworkers do to keep the Company operating. While, I experienced first hand the work our Southwest Airlines Maintenance Department does, I also became more aware of their far-reaching commitment, enthusiasm, and care to provide excellent service to our passengers and Southwest Airline communities.  Much like Dr. King preached, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

My point is that EXCELLENCE should be part of our daily lives at home, work, church, and our community. Dr. King’s philosophies remind me of this.  Dr. King challenged us years ago to answer the following question on the journey to become EXCELLENT.  “Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'”  --Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  How would you answer Dr. King’s question?