(Editor’s Note: Enjoy writer Isaac Peterson’s best advice to kick off the new year in this must-read article. Here’s to excellence! Thank you, Isaac! KT)

So, we can finally put 2018 is behind us, and we can now only view it in the rear view mirror. I say finally not because it was a bad year, but because it just seemed like it would never end.

How’s everybody doing with their New Year’s resolutions? I’m doing great on that score since I don’t really make resolutions. But there is one deal I made with myself: to be excellent; not a resolution, but a promise and a commitment.

I use excellent instead of perfect for one reason: perfection is a place that is pretty much impossible to reach. I’ve been called both a perfect gentleman and a perfect idiot, but those are just figures of speech.  I do try to be an excellent gentleman when I can, though, an idiot, not so much.

Excellence is attainable; one of the ways to get there, in my mind, is to always try my best–that way I can’t help but get better all the time. If something is worth doing, why not be excellent at it?

I don’t usually start out being excellent, but I do try hard to get there.

There is no shame in not being perfect, but being excellent is something to definitely be proud of. If you don’t achieve a goal you’ve set, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it just means you need to keep working on it or that you need to set a more realistic, attainable goal. I know traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors have plenty of goals–chief among them is to get past having a TBI. That may or may not be realistic since lots of brain injury survivors have the injury for years or decades, and there’s not much that can be done about that.

However dealing with life with a determination to make the best of it, is indeed possible.

If you can do that, it will set you apart from a lot of survivors who choose to wallow in self pity and stay stuck. But if you decide to constantly identify areas where you can improve, it won’t make you perfect, but it will make you an excellent role model for others and your quality of life can improve incrementally.

That would be most excellent, wouldn’t it?  Just not giving up and giving in will make you an excellent role model.

Learn from your setbacks and use what you learned from it. Keep doing that and you will be excellent by just making the conscious effort and not giving up.

So what does excellence mean? The team that loses the Superbowl aren’t losers. I mean, there are 32 teams and they came in number two out of 32 teams for the season. They weren’t perfect: they didn’t win, but they are excellent.  If you look at it that way, you can be excellent at things you do too: you don’t have to be the best but you can be excellent.

There is no shame in losing the 100 meter dash in the Olympics; it doesn’t mean someone is a loser.  If they weren’t excellent they wouldn’t have made it onto the Olympic team.

On a personal level, when I was in junior high school I came in second in a regional spelling contest. I misspelled a word or two, but I was still an excellent speller. Other people thought so and still think so–I still get asked how to spell words by other people.

Myself, I always try to be as excellent at writing as I can. Unfortunately that’s an area that I’m not able to judge. We can be our own harshest critic; it’s difficult to see ourselves as we are or the way the world sees us. When we get feedback we don’t want to hear, though, we have a perfect opportunity to be excellent. Someone just gave us an area where maybe we could work on to get better.

One way to know when you reach excellence is when others notice, and when they notice, they will tell you. What you need to do then is work on staying excellent, and not beat yourself up for not being perfect. Why waste your time and energy on something you likely not ever be able to, no matter how hard you try?

I hope you will try to be excellent at life. If you have a TBI, the deficiencies you suddenly have shouldn’t keep you from excellence in anything you choose to do. You’ve already come a long way; there are people who don’t survive the experience, but you did. In that way, you are already excellent.

Now just live your life the best way you are able, and you will be excellent at life.

One more thing: you are already excellent at something else–since everyone is a unique individual that means you can already do something no one else can, and that’s being yourself. You already excel at that. If you’re like me, you can always be better at something, always find areas you need to work on, but still be an excellent you.

Let’s all go out there and be excellent. What do you say?

Isaac Peterson performing. (courtesy photo).

Isaac Peterson grew up on an Air Force base near  Cheyenne, Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, he embarked on a career as an award-winning investigative journalist and as a semi-professional musician in the Twin Cities, the place he called home on and off for 35 years. He also doesn’t mind it at all if someone offers to pick up his restaurant tab. Peterson also welcomes reader comments. Email him at isaac3rd@gmail.com.

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