I made this statement yesterday, in texting with a friend in Dubai. As soon as I made an absolute statement, my mind worked feverishly to disprove the absolute. Surely there must be a form of excellence that prefers anonymity. But with each category of excellence that I was able to produce, I continued to respond in my mind with where the audience comes into play.
The chef wants guests to appreciate their recipes and gorgeous plating. The artist wants spectators, regardless of which art form they are working within. The writer wants readers, the athlete seeks fans, etc.
So that made me ponder… why is this? The first blush response was ego. Anyone that has advanced to the status of excellence, whether athlete, scholar, professional or artist, wants a validation for the incredible hard work and sacrifices that they have made in pursuing that excellence. Further, beyond the obvious ego strokes, comes a satisfaction of a job well done and having that satisfaction stem from a qualified party whom the person appreciates, catapults that desire to achieve excellence to ever greater heights.
Witness the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, Masters, Academy Awards, Grammys and much more…. The excellence in our world is perpetually put on display and is used as stimuli to motivate others to find their internal compass to build their own personal brands of achievement.
So then my next thought was… why does excellence require audience? Is it validation? Approval? Or an opportunity to discover where one stands in the spectrum of accomplishments in whatever field of excellence one has attained? My mom is one of the most talented artists whom I have ever met. Her work in jewelry is exquisite (InnerDivaStudio on ETSY). Long into her 80’s, mom would set up her craft booth at craft festivals and sit patiently while customers would parade through, cooing over her latest designs. It was very clear to me that mom was continuing to do all of this (in part) as a means of enjoying the verbal strokes that came from admirers of her work.
Does that mean that we as artists are doing all of it just so that another party can find appreciation in what we do and comment on that? I would say that is certainly a piece of the puzzle. Many of us work on these kinds of projects so that we can prove to ourselves that we continue to improve on a daily basis. That personal besting quality is unquestionably the variable that keeps me in the zone of whatever I have opted to pursue. Continually surveying what I have done prior and working diligently to improve upon that and post, yet another, personal best for my efforts that particular day.
I think the single biggest factor in excellence seeking audience is pride. When we give something our all, we are beaming inside with joy (and in many cases, relief). When my son, Chris, survives another semester and stays Magna Cum Laude in his schooling, he is first to call and share that he did it again. I can hear in his voice the pride, relief, joy and validation that comes with having prevailed yet again.
I close today with this thought…. We all seek a form of validation. Whether we believe we do or not, it is part of our being. We take on the trials and tribulations of life with everything we’ve got. We put heart and soul into a quest. We pass through the many challenges that threaten to make our quest fail and then, one day, we prevail. When that happens, we have a surge of pride that seeks someone to share it with. A communal feeling of appreciation and acceptance and understanding comes from that moment. So, when someone goes out of their way to share their excellence with you… a great meal, a work of art, a well-crafted or well-designed document, a great performance in a sport or anything else… recognize that you are providing that great feedback that the other party is subconsciously craving.
I was so fortunate to grow up attending live theater my entire life. We have had our tickets at the Mark Taper Forum for so many years as patrons, that my seats are now front row center. When a performer or performers put on a play that is spectacular, I am first in the room to leap to my feet and give them a standing ovation, hoping everyone in the theater follows my lead. I do this, because I can see the depth of work these people have put in so that I may have an evening of enjoyment. I am very appreciative of what they have given me that evening, and I make it a point to be a great audience (when deserved) and fully demonstrate my gratitude. Standing front row, I can see it in their eyes how much that means. And as we are on the last preview night before the play goes live for full audiences, we are providing that last wave of validation before it is game time!
Reward excellence in life with your audience. Somewhere, that person is just like you.. dreams, hopes, fears, ambitions, and more than anything else… courage to have worked so hard to achieve that excellence…. Make sure to be a great audience and let them know how proud of them you are or how much you truly appreciate what they have done for you. A genuine compliment from the heart costs so little, but means so much.
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