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Whether it’s athletes, entrepreneurs or artists: We admire people who excel at their craft. Excellence is awe-inspiring and makes us wish we were at the same level. 

But excellence isn’t reserved for those with extraordinary talent. It’s something available to you right now. You can choose to be excellent today and every day after that. 

When you choose excellence, you’ll feel empowered to tackle any challenge and inspire the people around you to become excellent as well. 

In this episode, you’ll find out how to choose excellence to become the best version of you possible. 

Want to excel and inspire everyone around you? Listen now! 

Show highlights include:

  • How a college class on rhetorical history can teach you how to put excellence on autopilot (0:58)
  • The counterintuitive way a short-ter daily habit can turn into monumental long-term success (4:08)
  • What Kobe Bryant’s trainer can teach you about becoming unstoppable (even if your goals have nothing to do with sports) (8:37)
  • How being totally exhausted can fill you with immeasurable joy. (13:01)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thanks so much for listening today. I want to discuss excellence and the quality of being outstanding, being extremely good in everything you do, from the simple, from the routine to the extraordinary, the quality of being outstanding. Aristotle once said you are what you repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. I want to unpack Aristotle. [00:53.5]

One of the classes that I loved teaching at Texas A&M University was a class called rhetorical theory. The students weren't thrilled with it, but I loved it. It was 2,500 years of learning about all the philosophers and all the theorists that shaped the westernized rhetorical tradition.

My students could never remember who came first. Was it Plato? Was it Socrates? So, I took the first letter of their names in the order that they historically appear on the scene and created the acronym SPA. I called them the SPA brothers. Socrates had a student named Plato, who had a student named Aristotle. I used to love to refer to Aristotle as the Big A. I want to pack what the Big A said when he stated once you are what you repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. [01:54.1]

Daily routines are vital to success. They build consistency and that's the heart of Aristotle’s message. You are what you repeatedly do. Daily routines build consistency. Consistency builds habits. Habits reinforce basics. Basics help us to reach our goals.

Often, on stage these days, I will challenge audience members to set goals that scare them. I will say, if your goal doesn't scare you, tear your goal up, and that comes from personal experience. It wasn't too long ago that I weighed over 400 pounds and I set a goal to weigh 220, and I'm halfway there and that's really exciting for me, but that's not the point.

Here's the point. At 288 pounds now, not 404, but at 288 with still 60 pounds or so to go, I have to every day, refocus and reset my short-term goals for that particular day, what I call basics. I have to reset my short-term basics every day if I want to reach my long-term goal. [03:12.5]

That's really, really important. Friends, if you're not working every day to reach a long-term goal, you're likely not going to reach it, so resetting these objectives that I call basics, it’s, for me, basic training, if you will, and they're very simple.

Each and every day, as an example, I drink as much water as I possibly can. I'm moving on an hourly basis. There's some type of daily exercise. Today it will be swimming. I'm eating more sources from plants and proteins. I’ve significantly decreased processed foods. I control my environment whenever possible. I'm learning to cope better with emotional food triggers. I'm learning to decrease anxiety and increase my peace. I'm meditating more. I look for opportunities throughout the day to be silent, to be quiet. [04:08.0]

I am a firm believer that you will never, ever, ever reach any long-term goal, unless you first commit to daily short-term objectives. Aristotle said it best. You are what you repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. I learned at a young age from my parents, the power of basics. I can remember a fundamental lesson from my father saying, “Son, execute the basics every day better than anybody else and you'll grow your capacity for that which you want.” What I'm attempting to do is execute basics, short-term objectives, every single day, that will eventually grow my capacity for better health. [04:58.3]

This is important. Basics don't execute themselves. You’ve got to do something. Basics don't just execute all by themselves. You've got to push yourself through pain, push yourself through feeling, and that's really important. You even have to push yourself past justifications and reasonings as to why you're not going to eat a certain way that particular day. Basics. I really believe that, basics.

I really believe this. Basics represent the blueprint for any kind of long-term excellence that you'll ever achieve. Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach, Chuck Noll, put it this way. “Champions are champions not because they do extraordinary things, but because they do ordinary things better than anybody else.”

Oh, that's the quote worth requoting for the day. “Champions are champions not because they do extraordinary things, but because they do ordinary things better than anybody else.” [06:01.8]

Friends, when you execute basics as a way of arriving toward excellence, your focus becomes more aspirational. It's no longer a matter of “can't” and “won't.” It's no longer a matter of “I’ll never.” The mindset shifts to what might be to what could be to what will be.

I love what experts say about the power of a mindset, like how we can go from scarcity to abundance by changing our thinking. Bottom line, let's have an abundance mindset, a mindset that says, I'm going to go for it regardless. I'm not going to focus on what I don't have.

What did you say, Arthur Ashe, that legendary tennis great? The late Arthur Ashe said on one occasion, “Start where you are, use what you have” to get what you need. I just love that. I love the basics, that basic mindset that produced those basics in the life of Arthur Ashe. [07:09.2]

Aristotle said, one more time, you are what you repeatedly do. The word “do”, that suggests that excellence is a process, not an outcome. Friends, we live in an outcome-oriented society, so it's all about achieving excellence. But what about the process? What about going through the process and finding joy and happiness in the everyday grind that it takes to get to your particular goal?

Excellence is a process. Excellence requires movement, proactive movement, not just empty promises. Excellence is a space not occupied by those who love to pose, who love to talk, who love to procrastinate or to pretend. Excellence is a proactive mindset that manifests itself in every single thing that we do. [08:07.4]

Excellence involves action, not just words, not just empty promises, not just slogans. You’ve got to do something. Oh, baby. This is being reinforced to me by a book. I both hate this book and I love this book at the very same time, and I promise you, it's the tension that those two polar opposites create that I'm experiencing tremendous growth by.

The book is by elite fitness trainer, Tim Grover. The title is Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable. I hate this book because Grover makes a hash of passion and motivation. I believe in passion. I'm a firm believer in motivation. But keep listening. Grover says, at the end of the day, you’ve got to do something. You’ve got to accomplish something. You’ve got to move past just words and get something done. [09:12.7]

Friends, he tells a great story in his book about the late Kobe Bryant. Kobe was playing for the Lakers at the time. He gets fouled on a play. He gets fouled hard. He goes to the ground, grimacing in pain. As the people come out, the trainers and others, to check, he waves off the other players, waves off the training staff. He would later learn that he tore his Achilles tendon. That's a season-ending injury, sometimes a career-ending injury.

Without any assistance, he gingerly gets to his feet. He was fouled on the play. Watch this. Kobe hobbles, limps, to the free-throw line, has two shots, and makes them both. Then, without assistance, waving off people, he limps unassisted to the locker room. Grover said that's a perfect example of being relentless. Ho-ho, baby. [10:12.3]

Friends, surprisingly, excellence is not always found in victory. Excellence is born in doing your best, in giving your all, in victory or defeat, whether playing with injury or pain, pushing past feeling, pushing past negative emotions, pushing past expectations. I love that.

I remember a great story about legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi. The story is retold by David Maraniss in his wonderful book titled, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi.

Lombardi's love affair with the maximum pursuit of passion and excellence did not begin during his illustrious coaching days in Green Bay. Nor did it begin with his stellar career at Fordham University, where Lombardi, along with six other linemen, gained legendary fame as the Seven Blocks of Granite. [11:18.5]

Oh no, you've got to go all the way back to high school. It was those football years in high school where things changed for Lombardi. This is where the beginnings of his pursuit of excellence had the roots. In high school, Lombardi played at St. Francis Prep. At the time, St. Francis Prep was the oldest Catholic school in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Now, according to Maraniss, the most telling moment in his high school season came at the conclusion of an early game against powerful Erasmus Hall, a public high school, then in the midst of a long winning streak. [12:02.8]

“Led by the golden arm of … quarterback, Sid Luckman, Erasmus shut out St. Francis, 13-0. Yet Lombardi, who smacked Luckman with a few good licks on defense, felt like anything but a loser when it was over. He experienced what he later described as a locker room epiphany. As he sat slumped on the bench in his grass-stained red and blue uniform, he was overcome by joy, a rare feeling for him. Nothing on the sandlots felt quite like this. He understood that he was not a great player, but he had fought hard, given his best and discovered that no one on the field intimidated him, no matter how big or fast. He was confident, convinced that he could compete, puzzled why other players did not put out as much as he had. He felt fatigue, soreness, competitive yearning, accomplishment—and all of this, he said later, left him surprisingly elated.”
End quote. [13:13.5]

Friends, that overwhelming feeling of joy from knowing that you gave every ounce of energy as you pursued the highest degree of excellence, it changed Lombardi's life. The feeling in that high school locker room never left the great Vince Lombardi.

Regardless of the endeavor, regardless of how difficult a task, regardless of whether you succeed or fail, even regardless of pain and injury, you will never truly be excellent until you first discover the joy found in the journey, even if that journey includes coming back from a torn Achilles tendon. [13:56.5]

My favorite Lombardi quote comes from his very first day as head coach of the Green Bay Packers. The year before, which would be 1958, the Packers weren't very good. They didn't win very much. Now it's 1959 and Lombardi is looking out at his players and he realizes there are a number of great players, many of them like Ray Nitschke and Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer would eventually go to football's Hall Of Fame.

He opens up the very first team meeting in 1959 with this statement. Gentleman, we shall relentlessly pursue perfection, knowing full well will never catch perfection, but we shall relentlessly pursue perfection, and in the process, we'll catch excellence.

Friends, I’ve got to tell you that statement has its roots in high school in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Vinny Lombardi in the locker room, experiencing the joy of giving his best, of being his best and doing his best.Yep, you'll never truly be excellent until you first discover the joy found in the journey. [15:22.5]

Lombardi reminds me of someone else. This guy wasn't legendary. He wasn't a celebrity. In fact, he was rarely known outside his community. He was in fact, in my opinion, the wisest man I’ve ever met in my life, my daddy, Roger Rigsby. He would go around the house quoting Michelangelo, really paraphrasing him. He would say, “Ricky, I'm not going to have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I'm going to have a real issue if you aim low and hit.” [15:53.4]

You see, my dad simply and unwittingly taught me the very same lesson Lombardi had learned on that high school field that the joy of excellence is found in the heartache and in the struggle of doing something the right way all the time. “Son,” he would say, “if you're going to do a job, do it right,” and I know grammatically it ought to be “do it well,” but I like the way my dad used to say it. When he would work, whether it was painting or yard work or working on the car, he was always humming. He was always whistling. There was a joy associated with doing a job the right way.

I'm thinking of my dad a lot these days, because at the [time of the] recording of this particular podcast episode is the same week that my dad would have turned 102 years old. He was born in 1920. I can remember, my father was just a simple cook and he worked at California Maritime Academy in Vallejo, Calif. This was a college that would train men and women still to this day to go into the maritime industry. [17:04.8]

Sometimes the academy would have special functions, requiring cooks to assist in food preparation, and it would always be fun because sometimes these special functions would occur on the weekends and we could go with our dad, and he would assign us random jobs.

I remember one day, I was probably about 10 years old, my job was to peel the potatoes, and so I'm peeling and peeling and peeling and my father comes over and he says, “Son, that's just not good enough. If you're going to do this job, you need to do it the right way,” and, all of a sudden, I don't want to peel potatoes anymore. I want to go outside of the commissary, outside of the galley. I want to watch the sailboat sail on the San Francisco Bay. I want to do anything but peel potatoes, but I stayed at it because he told me that was my task. [17:51.5]

Friends, here's the point. I will never forget the feeling of pride reflected on my father's face when I accomplished the task with excellence. That feeling that I got from looking at his expression of approval has never left me. I'm thinking about my dad's simple drive to do things the right way to really enjoy the journey of excellence and to pass that along to his children.

I will close this podcast episode by saying, Dad, I get it now. And, Dad, happy birthday. Your son is still aiming high and enjoying every second of the journey.

That's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how ya livin’? [18:48.3]

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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