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Strive for competency, and greatness will follow

In our society it feels like there’s an ever-increasing emphasis on greatness.

High school and college graduates this month are told to strive for it. Commercials tell us to be great. Athletes are judged, in some cases, solely on whether they won championships or not instead of pointing out their other remarkable accomplishments.

It’s a high ideal, but for most of us it’s not a realistic one. Our talents, our drive, our life circumstances will only allow us to go so far. Somebody is always better and more driven. Someone with more resources will be able to devote more attention and energy to solving a problem.

Therefore, we should strive for something different in life — to be consistently good and competent at what we do.

Greatness and perfection should, of course, be the goal in some professions. Engineers and doctors better be on the ball. But for most of us the occasional mistake is part of life.

The best hitters in baseball make an out 65 or 70 percent of the time. Almost every NFL starting quarterback last season threw an incompletion on four of every 10 passes. The best NBA shooters make about half of their shots. Tom Brady has won six Super Bowls but lost three others.

What those athletes have done, however, is put themselves in a position to succeed and be great by first being consistently good. Call it the three C’s — consistency, confidence and competency.

Consistency breeds confidence, which in turn breeds competency. When you are good at what you do, it’s easier to shake off the occasional mistake. You can analyze why you did something wrong and correct it. It is extremely difficult to achieve greatness on a regular basis, but if on your worst day you are in the top 75 or 80 percent of your field then you will occasionally ascend to that next level.

This isn’t saying to settle for mediocrity. You should always work to get better. Refine your skills. Find a new edge. Don’t let the world pass you by.

What this is saying, is to set a baseline. Striving for greatness comes with pressure and expectations that often prevent it from happening. We should strive instead for competency. Set a level of expectations for yourself for what kind of performance is acceptable or not, and then try to surpass it as often as you can. If you do that, greatness will follow — not every day, but often enough to keep you satisfied.

And, when that happens, it’s a pretty great feeling.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor at The Vicksburg Post. He can reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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