In fact, I’d like to argue that you embrace being a failure.
Why would I make that argument? Because I think the pursuit of excellence is sitting atop a lie, a fear-driven lie.
The root of this lie is that excellence—striving to be the best, or even merely better—assumes we are gods. Excellence assumes that we are not, in fact, finite creatures with finite resources of time and energy.
Of course, let me add, a lot depends here upon one’s definition of excellence. By excellence I’m pointing to the impulse in our culture where being satisfied with being “average” or “normal” or “good enough” is somehow an admission of defeat or failure, a giving up or a throwing in the towel. By excellence I’m pointing to the neurotic driveness that demands constant improvement, that this year—personally or institutionally—has to be better than last year.
But as should be clear, this is impossible. You can’t get better and better and better. Again, we are not gods with infinite resources. We are finite, limited creatures. We have a top, a limit. Past a certain point, you can’t get better.
That is, unless, you start borrowing—or robbing—from other facets of your life. You can get better at work if you begin to borrow some time or energy from, say, your family. To get better at, say, work you can work longer hours, spending less time elsewhere. Because this is the only way a finite creature can get better. You can’t tap into an infinitely deep reservoir of time and energy. You have to borrow from somewhere to get ahead elsewhere.
This is why I think the idol of excellence is a great lie. Excellence presupposes a false anthropology as it assumes that we are gods and not human beings. Human beings, of necessity, have to be “good enough.” Or, at the very least, excellence entails sacrifices, borrowing from other aspects of life to get ahead in another areas. Sacrifice-free excellence is unavailable to us. We are not gods.