I wish I could get my students to see the wisdom behind
this statement! Unfortunately, though, most of their
role models in life have yet to see the wisdom here, and
their role models are steeped in mediocrity, and they
preach to the younger people the joys of laziness, the
silliness of going all out when they can get by on the
bare minimum, the desirability of not pushing themselves
at all. It's sad to watch, but it is what many, many
young people are learning.
The very meaning of the word "outstanding" is
completely obvious. Yet I have many, many students
who think that they should get an "A" on a paper
just because they turned it in. They think that
turning in every assignment for a class should get them an
"A," too. And unfortunately, since so many
of their peers don't turn in assignments and still get
"C's," young people very often are rewarded with
the highest grade for a minimal amount of work. And
thus begins a set of unrealistic expectations that they
often carry into adulthood with them.
It's not always easy to be outstanding, especially when
something doesn't come naturally to us. Sometimes
it's very frustrating to work hard to be outstanding at
something when it obviously comes easily to others.
But it's not important how easily something comes to
someone else, or how our peers are doing so little work or
such a poor job--all that matters is the quality of the
job that we do, on whatever we do. And if we want to
be outstanding in our field, then we have to do work that
Of course, not everything is worth the extra work.
We don't want or need to be outstanding at
everything. Hence Meredith's first three
words: "If you want." And if you do
wish to be outstanding, there really is only one way to
become so: by making sure that you stand out.