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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? 


Explorer C
What an excellent post Karen!! Even more is the question you ask to every person "What am I doing for others?". As for me, I begin with prayer asking God to help me to be His conduit of encouragement, joy, compassion and hope. Then He puts me in places where a smile, hug, 'how you doing' and actually waiting for an answer, sharing of my testimony and showing love when others said one was unworthy makes the difference. Does this make me special? Not at all. I am just a servant trying to do my part to make this world a better place based upon old fashioned love and belief in greatness, mercy and grace. As His reward to me, He allows me to bask in the presence of history like the Original Tuskegee Airmen working side by side to educate children young and old. He blesses me to be in ownership of a great company partnering with tens of thousands others to make the LUV airline as none other. He partners me with people like you who give me vision to opportunities to help others around this nation. For all that He allows, I am truly the blessed one. I may not go to prison 29 times, win a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album, be named Time Person of the Year or be awarded at least 50 honorary degrees like Dr. Martin Luther King. But I will press with the spirit of giving for all to have the right to a better life using my faith in all God has ordained for me to accomplish to finish His great work just like Dr. King did! When it is all said and done, I too will the victory from the mountain top all those lives which have been changed simply by the surrender of us all to do good will toward others.
Explorer C
Karen, Bravo!!! I love your blog post today especially, your personal prescription to “becoming excellent” being threefold: walk in someone else’s shoes, look through someone else’s lens, and help others to achieve their goals." Great job!!!
Karen, you're post is so inspiring! What a great day and great month to open your mind to inspiration. Everything you say here reminds me of one of my favorite quotes which I saw on a billboard outside a little church one day: "It's never crowded on the extra mile." Sounds cheesy, but when you're questioning should I keep working so hard, trying, pushing then the answer is yes....few people do it. Thanks for making my day!
Explorer C
Karen, Bravo my friend!!!!! Thank you so much for sharing such a profound message! I love this quote: “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." - Dr. King
Explorer C
Karen, excellent as always!!! Thank you for sharing these inspiring words, from such an inspirational man. Go forth and continue your pursuit of excellence! - Rob
Explorer C
His legacy is a reminder to all PEOPLE that "We as individuals have a purpose in life"., regardless of our circumstances.
Explorer C
Karen, this was an awesome message and is always needed to be shared everyday of life that we have the opportunity to live. My coworker and I just finished reading this and help this discussion at work with others. Thanks for your inspiration.
Explorer C
Thank you Karen for very thoughtful and challenging words. Ones we can come back to each and every day. Sue Tebb