This I Believe

Keri - Danvers, Massachusetts
Entered on January 2, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
Themes: work

‘Good enough’ is not enough

I believe in never settling for mediocrity. Definitions of mediocrity can vary amongst different people. My understanding of mediocrity is my personal average. Excellence for me may be sub-par to someone else. I believe in settling for nothing less than my best.

I carry this philosophy with me every day. In all I do, I always know that I can do better. I would rather surpass my standard than meet it. For me, living with this philosophy means hard work and persistence are absolutely necessary. Without persistence and hard work, it is easy for me to settle for ‘good enough’ even if ‘good enough’ is not my best. A simple thing as running is no exception to my philosophy. For many years, I ran the mile around the track in eight and a half minutes or more. I never thought to improve this time since around eight minutes was average. I told myself I was just not made to run long distance. Two summers ago, I decided that in September I would not settle for an average time when it came to running the mile for soccer tryouts.

I ran every other day that summer and kept track of the time it took me to run a mile every Friday afternoon. By the end of the summer I had succeeded in taking a minute and a half off my mile time, bringing it to seven minutes flat. Though this time was not perfect, it was my best rather than average.

For me, mediocrity is unexciting because it is what is expected. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with the program Young Neighbors In Action from my church. Our purpose was to help the less fortunate at the CCNV, the largest homeless shelter in the country. Our first mission was to cut down all these bushes, shrubs, and small trees along one side of the building. We were solely expected to use the given tools to cut down the plants and leave the stems. But we took the job another step; we dug out the roots and stumps to leave a level strip of dirt. I took part in this step, as I, like others, was eager to do better. With only a few worn shovels, a few others and I dug up the stubborn roots until our arms and backs ached in the July heat. Jim Burton, the director of the shelter, was surprised to come back and find a flat strip of dirt since all he expected to find was a stump-ridden pathway. Even though a stump-ridden pathway would have been acceptable, level ground was even better. I also carry this belief with me to school. For me, succeeding is exceeding my capabilities. This past year, I chose to switch instruments in band. Though this seems trivial, the decision kept me from normality. I switched from a reed instrument to a brass instrument, an instrument with over fifteen keys to an instrument with only three. I practiced all summer trying to master an instrument some had had years to learn. Despite doubts, I was able to learn how to play it better than I imagined. Even though I had been comfortable playing the woodwind, I was restless to do better than average by learning an instrument that only four others had dared to try.

Without striving for excellence, I may never exceed my best. For this I believe in refusing to settle for mediocrity.