How Pursuing ‘Excellence’ Can Sabotage Your Success | Ep. #24

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What happens when your need for control crushes progress

Intro: Men. We are not simple chest-thumping, rock-smashing, fire-starting barbarians. We have depth. We intensely feel. We are scared, yet brave. We love to have fun. We’re imperfect, and make mistakes. We’re compassionate, and loving. We are multifaceted. Let’s explore the reality of masculinity together.

00:29 Today’s topic is one that far too many men struggle with. Most of us are trapped in this pursuit of something that quite honestly, we can never attain. And I am the first one to say that I am guilty as charged, and we’re going to be diving into some of the things that I have found have been really unproductive and quite frankly, unhealthy. Connected to excellence. Or my perception of excellence. As always, if you have not subscribed, stop what you’re doing right now, and hit the subscribe button. And also, if you found any one of these episodes impactful, or beneficial, do me a favor and leave a review and tell me how this has actually helped you. My heart is to really empower people to understand what healthy masculinity is and the number one way you can help with that, spread the word, is to leave that feedback. It helps all of the podcast algorithms, as well as helps fuel me and encourage me to keep moving forward with this. So let’s go ahead and dive into the ways that excellence can actually inhibit your ability to achieve success.

02:02 Today’s topic is one that I’m unfortunately, all too familiar with. I intimately know the downsides of excellence. And, why you might ask? Well, because I have struggled with using excellence as a really great sounding reason for me to either do something or not do something. When in reality, it’s just masquerading for my need to perform for love, or my fear of not being accepted, or embraced by someone or something. Or my excuse for not launching something. And we’re going to get into all of those, as well as a few other things that you can fall into when it comes to the downside of excellence. I don’t have anything wrong with excellence. I think it’s great to pursue and to have as a core value. The problem is a lot of us use excellence to cover up certain things. And the first one is that whole part of you that feels the need to perform for love.

03:16 Now, what do I mean by “Performing for love?” Essentially, not just being yourself, being afraid of being imperfect, of being yourself. And so you apply this standard of excellence, this measuring stick that you can never actually measure up to. To constantly chase and try to improve who you are in order to be accepted. If you have found acceptance from someone, you feel that you need to pursue excellence in order to maintain that relationship. Essentially, you use excellence as a means of managing your fear of rejection. Meaning if I’m imperfect, if I don’t perform for that love or that acceptance, then I will, all of a sudden be all alone. I will feel pain. I won’t be accepted. I’ll be rejected. All of that starts to play out internally. And so you create this alter ego, this false sense of who you are for the sake of “pursuing excellence.”

04:19 You have to be willing to accept the fact that we’re all imperfect. That none of us have everything altogether all the time. The true you, the essence of you, the authentic you, that is imperfect. It’s beautifully imperfect, but it’s imperfect. And so if you try to apply excellence to that in a distorted way and put the standard of perfection on yourself, you are literally going to drain your energy. You’re going to drain your creative energy. You’re going to drain your overall internal bandwidth. And it’s because you’re not being true to who you are. You’re putting on this facade. In essence, you’re hiding behind excellence. And you’re going to find your strength and your creativity in finding those who are willing to accept your imperfections. Who are willing to yes, champion you on. Yes, challenge you. Yes, call you higher. But not do that with the expectation that you’re going to be perfect.

05:29 Excellence can trap you into a shame based relationship with yourself. Let me give you a great example from my own life. I was in the Marine Corps back from 2000 to 2004. And part of that process, I became an E4, a corporal. And they have what’s called a corporal’s course. It’s not mandatory, but it’s really good to go to. You learn certain leadership skills. You are challenged in certain ways because you’re trusted with more responsibility as a direct result of your rank. And so my unit sent me to corporal’s course, and my goal was, “You know what? I’m going to get the top 10% of my class. I’m going to bring that back to my unit with pride.” And I’ll never forget when they were calling out everyone’s overall score. As in the order that they graduated in. And I got the top 12%, I was essentially out of the entire group. I landed at the 88th percentile.

06:31 And I literally came back to my unit, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. They didn’t even tell me to get the top 10%. I told myself that. And the driver of that internally was- yes, a hundred percent. I want to make myself proud. I want to make my unit proud. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. But the deeper layer of that was, “If I do good enough, if I achieve quote, unquote “excellence”, then I will find acceptance and affirmation and encouragement from my unit.” I bled that into everything that I did throughout my life. I was married for almost 12 years. And what did I do? I essentially found someone, I attracted someone, that carried that same expectation of me to be excellent. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. My ex wife, she expected the best out of me, but the way that I took that was performance-based. The way that I applied that to our marriage and to our relationship was, “I have to constantly do better. I have to be more, I have to give more. I have to achieve more in order to find that acceptance and find that love within our relationship.”

07:56 And because it was something that was deeply rooted in who I was, this whole thing of chasing excellence within my marriage, or really chasing acceptance within my marriage, masquerading as excellence. It was something I could never achieve. Because it was something that was actually unresolved in me. I hadn’t learned how to remove the unhealthy aspects of excellence and learn how to be okay with my own imperfections. To learn how to accept my shortcomings. And to learn how to celebrate my strengths. Now, how does all of this connect to success? How can excellence actually rob you from success? Well, a lot of times when you have that standard of perfection, that looks like excellence. What it does is it requires you to get it right the first time. Which just so you know, it’s impossible.

08:56 It is impossible for you to get something right the first time you’re doing it. Especially if it’s something new. And so one of a few things can happen within that one. It paralyzes your ability to launch. You’re trapped in this whole cycle of either researching, or refining, or tweaking the website, or tweaking the product, or you just you’re essentially in beta mode. And you never really get out of that because you’re quote unquote “pursuing excellence.” When really what it is is you’re pursuing perfectionism, which is impossible to achieve. And so you sabotage your ability to launch in the first place. Now this is not a knock on my own podcast, but if I go back and I look at, or listen to my first few episodes, I almost feel embarrassed. About either the sound quality or what I said. I, if I often look back on websites at the time, I’m thinking, “Oh, that looks great.”

09:55 And then looking back on it, I’m going, “Oh gosh.” And that’s not in the sense of bashing myself. My point is the only way for you to actually launch something is to understand that there’s a difference between excellence and perfectionism. I love one of the mottos of Facebook, which is “move fast, and break things.” Now you can apply that in a lot of different ways, in an unhealthy way, but the principle of it is for them to launch things without it being perfect and essentially find areas that need improving. And you can only do that when you launch in the first place. You actually arrive at excellence by launching something that is not excellent, but it is there, it is your definition of what excellence looks like in that moment. And you refine it, you improve upon it. You essentially grow what it is that you launch into something that is excellent.

10:58 If you think about a baby being born. It’s beautiful, It’s amazing, life in and of itself is such a miracle. But they’re not excellent at anything, except for sleeping and pooping and burping, right? But they grow into, an individual grows into excellence in what they do. And another way that it really sabotages you, is it prevents you from celebrating your own achievements. Like I said, as far as my example, with the Marine Corps. I came back to my unit feeling ashamed rather than celebrating the fact that I did really well. I got in the top 88 percentile of the entire group, which was a very large group of NCOs that were being trained. Another great example, which is just crazy to think about now is when I launched my course jumpstart your life. A few years ago, I had set a target of $25,000 in presales. So before the course ever even launched.

12:02 And there were some people that were helping me that had launched successful platforms before and really had an established brand, as far as public speaking and courses are concerned. And I remember setting that goal for mysel,f and they were kind of like, “Eh, I mean, I think it’s great to want that, but let’s be realistic, you know, at the same time.” And what happened was I made $10,000. I launched the presales. The course wasn’t even completed in the sense of all of the content recorded. And all of a sudden I had $10,000 in orders. And two things happened. One was, it forced me to actually follow through and complete the course and launch it, because I had said that it was going to be available on a certain date. So I put that pressure on myself to launch it, whether it was perfect or not.

13:00 But then at the same time, I was disappointed by only making $10,000 in presales instead of 25,000. And I’ll never forget the look on the couple’s face that was helping me because by this time they had launched six figure income courses, et cetera. And they looked at me and basically said, “Josh, when I launched my first course, I made $600. And that was success at the time.” But I was so caught up in, “Oh, well I need to do everything with excellence.” And because that was applied to my life, and this standard that I couldn’t achieve was applied to my life. Even something that you would want to celebrate instead, you’re not celebrating yourself. You’re not celebrating the growth along the way. And it just takes the wind out of your sails. Internally, it makes it seem like everything that you do is going uphill because it’s never good enough.

14:05 And when it’s never good enough, and what you’re doing is going back to what I said earlier, in the sense of sucking that creativity or that life out of who you are. The good that you can offer people. It’s not available. Because you have learned how to crack the whip on your own back, and set that standard that’s not achievable, and call it excellence. When really all it is is a really good sounding word for you to emotionally abuse yourself, and to chase a standard that you will never achieve. I mean, let’s talk about dating. Or relationships with women. Now, obviously all of us who go on a date the first time you’re doing your hair, your makeup- Well, I guess you’re not doing your makeup if you’re a guy. But you’re doing your hair and you’re getting around, you’re picking out your nice clothes, and you’re putting that best foot forward. There’s nothing wrong with that.

15:05 But when you have this standard of excellence applied to everything, what it can do i,s it can apply this false perception of who you actually are in that relationship. So I don’t know if this has ever happened to you, but you go on one date or two dates or five dates. And then you’ve been dating for a few months. And all of a sudden that relationship starts to spiral. Now there’s a ton of reasons why that could happen. But on your side of things, if you’re someone who says that excellence is one of your standards that you apply to yourself and to the relationship. Well, then what you’ve done is you haven’t put your honest self forward into the relationship. You’ve put that facade of who you should be, that you’ve applied to yourself into that relationship. And that’s not sustainable.

15:58 So when the parts of you that you don’t want others to see begins to show up in that relationship, then essentially you begin to shame yourself. And the woman responds to that. Feeds off of that. Reacts to that. And so ultimately you just sabotage your way right out of a relationship. So then that way you can find another woman to pursue, to put that best foot forward, to have that standard of excellence, to have it all crumbling down all over again. And you’re trapped in that cycle. I mean, in general, all of a sudden excellence becomes more important than the relationship itself. You could apply that to dating. You could apply that to marriage. You know, most people that are married, they call it the honeymoon phase for a reason. You’re in love. You’re excited. It’s something new, it’s something fresh. And that is a beautiful thing.

16:53 But when you try to apply excellence to your marriage, as in, “We are going to do everything right all the time.” Then all of a sudden you’re applying a standard to your own marriage that isn’t sustainable. And it creates this pressure in the relationship where she feels like she can’t be herself. Where she can’t let her guard down. Where she can’t invite you into the areas of her heart, that she’s longing to find healthy masculinity to help. And instead, she feels the obligation to not be true to herself, and to put that front up for her to be accepted. And like I said, it’s not sustainable. Sooner or later, the truth begins to show up in every relationship, if you’re in it long enough. And we’re talking about the internal world that you have for yourself. Well, there’s also an environment that you cultivate around you.

17:55 And so, if you’re someone that is “known for excellence.” Well, more than likely, if it’s unhealthy, your kids aren’t allowed to be able to make messes. Or they feel like they have to walk on eggshells around you. Because if they say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing, then you withdraw your love, or they find punishment. And essentially you’re cultivating an environment where they have to perform for love. They have to be excellent. And I love a sign that my oldest son, he made, I framed it and put it upstairs and it says, “Don’t mind the mess. We’re just making memories.” And I think that’s a beautiful representation for what it looks like to let the relationship be a priority over your need for excellence in everything. If you have the perfect home, that’s clean all the time and there’s a mess that’s not allowed to be made.

18:50 Or if there is one, it has to be cleaned up immediately. Well, what you’re doing is you’re cultivating an environment that is performance for love, rather than excellence in all that you do. Obviously it’s not healthy to live like a pig, and you want to teach your kids standards. I’m not saying to throw that out the window. But what I am saying is don’t let the word excellence be the excuse that you give to yourself as to why you don’t let your children be childlike. I mean, it happened in my own relationship with my kids. I had chores and to-do lists and all these things that they needed to do. But really what it was is, I was not okay with myself internally. I was always chasing this standard. I was feeling like I needed to perform. So what did I do? I essentially put that standard onto my kids.

19:45 Now that’s only one aspect of our relationship. We cultivate honesty, and showing your emotions, et cetera. But I’ve had to apologize. I’ve had to let messes be present and you know what? They’re not quite as high stakes when I’m willing to accept my own imperfections. When I’m willing to give myself grace. When I’m willing to let the reality of excellence be present. Rather than the distorted version of excellence, which is really nothing more than perfection and performance. Excellence in and of itself is good, but performance and perfectionism, those are not so good. So I challenge you to be willing to pursue excellence, while understanding that you’ll never be perfect in that pursuit.

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