I remember the first time my eyes gazed upon this statement. I was in a room with 200 other people at 7:30am, breathlessly awaiting the arrival of our coach to enlighten us with the truth.

I recall sitting on my seat having all sorts of mental conversations with myself. Thoughts were coming to me from everywhere and I had this fuzzy warm feeling inside about the depth and sincerity of the statement. I kept telling myself that I would remember and treasure it and add it to my ever-increasing list of proverbs.

I don’t know why, but at that time, collecting sayings was such a big part of my life and so important to me. I still have that trap in me; the trap of collecting sayings and even sometimes placing them on beautiful plaques so everybody can admire them. The unfortunate thing for me was that the purpose of the sayings went no further than being beautiful and fuzzy. I even remember that I did not know the meaning of the word mediocrity. But I did know that because it was written on a big white note pad in the middle of the stage; it had to be important.

I truly believe that being mediocre is a default value in all humans. What I mean by default is that it lies inside all of us and operates without our awareness. I also believe that all default values are changeable. Maturity is the ability to take responsibility for the way we think and act. Animals mature by a natural process, but humans mature by questioning the default values and points of reference that are inside us all.

After studying the lives of a few successful people whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, I am beginning to see that these people have positively transformed their mediocrity by (1) having goals, (2) constantly measuring progress towards their goals, (3) subordinating their moods to their honor (i.e., putting their needs before their wants) and (4) following the Japanese concept of Kaizan, which means constant and never-ending improvement.

My questions to you are:

Have you set a goal to become a Black Belt? Please remember that becoming a Black Belt has nothing to do with having a Black Belt. There are students who wear a Black Belt without having the qualities of one, and there are students who have the qualities of a Black Belt who are still working towards wearing one.

Are you constantly measuring your progress towards your Black Belt? One way to do this is being consistent and on time with your belt testing and exams. Asking for feedback from your instructors is another way to measure progress.

Are you giving up your moods and feelings to your honor and doing the right thing? So many times I have given in to my mediocrity. In doing so, I sometimes gave up on my dreams. I know now that the way I feel about working out on a regular basis has nothing to do with the way I feel (usually my defaults talking) at that particular time. I work out because it is the right thing to do.

Are you constantly working on making small improvements? I remember this saying I saw a while ago which read: "Practice makes Perfect." I used to really believe in that until I saw another one that read: "Practice does not make Perfect; Perfect Practice makes Perfect." That saying remained my belief system until I saw this one: "Practice does not make Perfect. Perfect Practice does not make Perfect. Practice makes improvements, and improvements lead towards Excellence."

Excellence is a progressive process. It isn’t obtained in an instant, but takes time and consistency. However, excellence is permanent when you finally attain it. Good enough, isn’t.