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March 30, 2015 at 1:38 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

A Friendly Reminder: Be a Good One

By Jeffrey VanWingen M.D. More Blogs by This Author

Is it just me or are we seriously lacking in the "wow factor" these days?

So many aspects of my daily experiences seem to be missing anything above and beyond - much less a reasonable level of quality. Call me a cynic, but I really can't remember the last time I was amazed with any sort of service. Healthcare, my chosen field, is front and center in this lament.

Recently, I've forced myself to look in the mirror and ask myself if I'm falling into line with these disappointing norms. Am I taking the things of my life to the level of outstanding? Why must I do this?

To look forward, I have always found it best to look back, seeking historical wisdom as teacher and counselor...

The Street Sweeper

48 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King stood before the New Covenant Baptist Church and preached on the topic of a complete life. Important in these tenants was the ability to take present gifts and circumstances and making the best of them. In context, this was very important as society experienced the growing pains of civil rights. King urged people to strive for quality in their lives no matter their circumstances. He said: "What I’m saying to you this morning, my friends, even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry; (Go ahead) 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 a real life example of what living by this mantra means, I heard a story once about a remote monastery where people came from miles around to visit. They came not for the beauty of the monetary nor did they come for the wisdom of the senior elders. They came simply for the bread made by a lowly monk who put everything he had into his role as the monastery’s baker. The bread reflected his passion for the task he was given.

Regardless of our circumstances or the power we have over those circumstances, we can achieve excellence.

Be the Proof

We've seen countless times the words of wisdom bestowed by Ghandi, encouraging us to "Be the change you wish to see in the world." The context of these words adds a special angle to the insight, however.

On a particular day in India, Mahatma Ghandi had visited with hundreds of people. Two of those were a mother and her son. The mother asked Ghandi to speak to her son about eating so much sugar. Ghandi pondered and asked her to come back in two weeks. The woman was perplexed, but complied with Ghandi's wish. When they returned, Ghandi spoke wisdom to the child and the child agreed to eat less sugar. The woman asked Ghandi about his request to return at a later date and Ghandi explained to her that on that particular day, he himself had eaten too much sugar and did not feel qualified to inspire the child!

This story is a potent reminder that as we seek to pursue excellence, we need to be vigilant about pursuing excellence from within. There is always self change and betterment that can occur and this commitment can in turn change or inspire others.

Mind the Struggle

Beyond conscious change and improvement, there are often hardships in life. We don't ask for these and they are they stand before us as mountains we're forced to climb. But these hardships have great potential to shape us to be more effective in our pursuits. As a doctor working with so many people who have faced health crises, I have strongly identified with the words of Marianne Williamson: "Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor."

Such people make the turn and have an intense potential to bring vigor to their everyday lives. 

The Marks We Leave

How would your job, marriage or parenting look if you equaled the passion Martin Luther King spoke of? Following Ghandi's advice, what example are you setting? And what of your struggles? Are you tapping into for their transformative potential as Ms. Williamson suggests?

Too many of us look to change our lot in life externally with further education or simply more work.What if this change was evoked through outstanding execution of our given lot? We all have the power to make a difference in our pursuits. With your single run on this earth, will you be a one that everyone talks about?

As much as I use caution with over-quoting, I'm going to cite a final offering of others' words. Abraham Lincoln said, "Whatever you are, be a good one." Rise up and be that standout. Be mindful about the distraction of looking outward, longing for your lot in life to change. Pursue of excellence from within your given pursuit. As you pursue change, be mindful to look inward as outward change is evoked. And finally, recognize the power of the transformative nature of life's struggles. Embrace life and seize its richness!

Live, and live well!

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