How To Build A Life Of Excellence

by: Jeff Thompson | April 17, 2017

Recently, men’s and women’s college basketball has dominated the television screen. As a member of the male species, when I think of the phrase, “March Madness,” it conjures up wonderful thoughts of lots of basketball games in a short amount of time culminating in 2 champions (men’s and women’s) being crowned. If you were to ask my wife, on the other hand, “March Madness” stirs her emotions differently. She would probably think of it as that “maddening” time of the year when all that’s ever on television is basketball games. If you are familiar with the term, “March Madness,” today’s post is for you.

The University of Connecticut (UConn) women’s basketball team has been a model of excellence for over two decades. Historically, very few other women’s basketball programs have had the influence and the excellence as those teams. They reeled off 111 wins in a row, and most experts assumed it would be 113 in a row ending with a national championship in 2017. Several weeks ago, they unexpectedly lost an overtime game, ending their streak at 111 games in a row won.

How do you build a basketball program to achieve excellence like that? How do you build a church to achieve excellence like that? How do you build a life to achieve excellence like that? There are some traits that are common to the UConn Women’s basketball team that we can all learn a lesson from.

Excellence will:

1) Require Vision
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.”

The UConn Women’s Basketball program did not excel historically without having a coach that set a vision. One of coach Geno Auriemma’s famous quotes is, “I don’t hire good coaches. I hire good people. If they turn out to be good coaches, that’s a plus.”

The lesson for each of us in our daily walk is that—surround yourself with good people. Assess the character and integrity of those you call your closest friends. Those are the people that will help you become a winner in life. Make sure you are surrounding yourself with the best people you know.

2) Strive for Excellence
II Corinthians 8:7 declares, “But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

Is there a difference between success and excellence? I believe there is. In the book, “Rising Above the Crowd,” Brian Harbour tackles this issue: “Success means being the best. Excellence means being your best. Success, to many, means being better than everyone else. Excellence means being better tomorrow than you were yesterday. Success means exceeding the achievements of other people. Excellence means matching your practice with your potential.”

We as a church…. we as individuals……owe it to ourselves, and owe it to the One who created us to excel in all we do. Be your best! Be better tomorrow than we were today! Practice in such a way as to reach our potential!

3) Demonstrate Leadership Qualities
In 2016, UConn Head Coach Geno Auriemma held a press conference (link attached) in which he discussed the premium that their coaching staff places on body language. Being a leader is so much more than just what you say. Coach Auriemma emphasized that he even goes back and watches game film to see what was happening on the bench of his team. Were players:

a. Engaged in the game?
b. Cheering for their teammates?
c. Did the body language display they were a part of the team?

What does our body language say about excellence? As a leader in the church, does my body language reflect a pastor that cares and loves and wants to see transformation, or does the body language say something different? Each one of us, whether in the work place, or here at church, should do an ongoing inventory of ourselves and ask that key question, “What does my body language say about me?” Am I engaged at church? Am I cheering for others? Am I a part of what’s going on?

*Full 3-minute press conference clip on this topic available by clicking here.

4) Develop New Leaders
Prior to the 2017 Women’s Basketball season, the UConn Women’s team was embarking on a new era. They had a team that lost three significant players from a four-time national champion. Breanna Stewart was one of the great players in program history, Moriah Jefferson was their best point guard, Morgan Tuck was a skilled player and one of the best all-around talents in the nation. So much of what they did offensively and defensively focused on those three players.
This year, there were many questions and so much was unknown. With five new players — three freshmen, two transfers who are not eligible to compete in games — things had been different than a year ago.

One of the most important ideas we can embrace as a church is developing new leaders. Who can I mentor? Who would be best served by learning from me so that they can be turned loose to serve soon? Look around you and the answer may be as close as the seat beside you in church.

UConn did not win a basketball championship this year. However, they displayed some key lessons we all should embrace:

STRIVE for Excellence
DEVELOP New Leaders

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