“Don’t strive to be perfect. Strive for excellence.” — Victoria Principal

As Sean of Writer Dad says, “Life is better with the right words.”  I have to agree.  And sometimes one word really says it all.

Recently, one of my most insightful mentors gave me just such a word.  That word is … “Arete.”

Arete is Excellence

In a nutshell, it’s “excellence.”   And I am a fan of excellence in action.

By choosing the path of Arete, while remembering that we’re human, fallible, and with feet of clay, we create an arena to be our best, in our own way.

Live Up to Your Full Potential

Here is what Wikipedia says on Arete:

“Arete in its basic sense, means excellence of any kind. In its earliest appearance in Greek, this notion of excellence was ultimately bound up with the notion of the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one’s full potential. Arete in ancient Greek culture was courage and strength in the face of adversity and it was to what all people aspired.”

Count Time by Heart Throbs

Along those lines, I like these words from Philip James Bailey:

“We live in deeds, not years: In thoughts not breaths; In feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs. He most lives Who thinks most, feels the noblest, acts the best.”

Make Excellence in Others Your Own Property

Whenever I think of excellence, people like Bruce Lee, Tony Robbins, Edward de Bono, Guy Kawasaki, John Wooden, John Maxwell, Leonardo da Vinci, and Rick Kirschner come to mind.  It’s people that push their own limits while helping the world see what’s possible.

I also think of Alik Levin, Andy Eunson, Blessing Sibanyoni, Bryan Thompson, David Meltzer, Diggy, Donald Latumahina, Dragos Roua, Drew Gude, Evelyn Lim, Farnoosh, Hilary Melton-Butcher, Ivana Sendecka, Jannie Funster, Jeff Fryling, Jimmy May, JK Allen, John deVadoss, Karl Staib, Lance Ekum,  Lynn, Mark Curphey, Mark Rogers, Melody Fletcher, Michael Kropp, Mike Walker, Nadia, Patricia, Per Vonge Nielson, Rathi Ranjan Dasgupta, Rick Maguire, Rob White, Roy Sharples, Sandra, Scott Hanselman, Sibyl, Tina Su, Tobin Titus, Vered, and many others all around us.   People who live life on their terms, live their values, and show others what’s possible.

People of excellence are all around you.  And what does Voltaire say? … “By appreciation, we make excellence in others our own property.”

Excellence is a Journey

“Excellence” has strength and the key to remember is that it’s a journey, not a destination.

And it’s a journey of trials and triumphs.

Do What Makes Your Soul Sing

If the call of Arete makes your soul sing, welcome the challenge to be YOUR best.  Not to prove anything to anybody else, but do it for you.  If that means being the best finger painter you can be, go for it.

You are a lion, now let’s hear you roar.

Photo by Robert Bejil Photography.


  1. JD,
    Love the words you shared by Philip James Bailey – so true in how our life is (even when we may not be living it that way). And that’s a great thing to remember, as we each journey more fully toward our own arete (and thanks for the introduction to that word and for including me here).

  2. Hiya JD,
    this is such a great point! When we strive for perfection, we compare ourselves to others and often come up short (it’s never going to be a fair comparison in our minds). But when we strive for excellence, or Arete (love the new word, so adopting it), we compare ourselves only to ourselves. It makes the playing field a lot more fair. 🙂
    And thanks for the shout out!


  3. Top notch post JD Sir! I’d never heard of the phrase before and you add a rich tapestry of inspiration of calling us to strive for our own excellence. I firmly feel we all have brilliance as a birthright sewn into our spirit and only we can activate it. We don’t all have to climb unconquered mountains or cure disease, baking the best bread or helping children cross the road is excellence in evidence and action. Excellence is open to all mankind so thank you for encouraging it right here. The ‘x’ spot is in our excellence.

  4. Hey J.D.

    Excellence is a lot better to aim for than perfection.
    Perfection tends to paralyze while striving for excellence pushing you to try and improve.

    Which is the only way to reach perfection.

  5. “fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to one’s full potential”
    Whoa! That’s pretty cool Greek folks gave it a name – Arete.

    “Hey, how was your week?” – “Arete”
    “So, how’s life?” – “Arete”


  6. My problem is that there are so many things that at which I want to be excellent. I want to be a great musician, a great doctor, a great father, a great husband, in great shape, a great writer, a great researcher, a great everything.

    It’s hard to focus on one thing.

  7. Quite an inspiring post here. I like how you list some of the role models of this for you as a personal touch. I’ll try this out though I do have to be care not to confuse this with the French, “Arrêtez” which mean “Stop” as this would be more of “Go go go.” Course I am still finding what is my purpose in life and thus I continue on my journey with a new tool in my toolbox and a little spring in my step today.


  8. @ Lance — Such power and precision … and what a sticky way to measure your day … “count time by heart throbs.”

    @ Melody — Beautiful point on how we can level the playing field.

    @ John — Here’s to activating our brilliance!

    @ Daniel — I like your distinction between the drive for excellence and the paralysis of perfection.

    @ Alik — I love it when a powerful concept has such a choice word. It’s sticky too.

    @ Graham — I’m a fan of having a portfolio of passions. Whatever paths you choose, you can bake excellence into the journey.

    @ JB — Spring with excellence!

  9. Hi JD, excellent post;) And interesting too.

    It’s inspiring to see all those excellent people who surround us, especially because so many of them like Rob, Sandra and you are real people I feel as if I know through blogging.

    But the problem is all that excellence makes me think I’m coming up short. Ridiculous isn’t it?

    So love that you remind us to just do stuff for ourselves. I’m enjoying roaring for the pleasure of roaring:) And so happy to be part of this wonderful pride of blogging lions!

  10. Yesterday I was just paralyzed by perfectionism and I could not write a thing – it was so discouraging and overwhelming – I finally gave up and watched a video on the computer and brushed the puppy.

    Today is just as overwhelming, but I just wanted to do my best – I pulled out Sean Platt’s writing a post exercise and got 2 posts written in an hour. I worked on my WISE EARS clients for 1 hour and made money, and I taught myself how to sign up for a newsletter program.

    I spent money on another IT Person and Davina’s editing services and saved time and energy. I got excellence in what I paid for.

    I am working your results time schedule…and have divided it in half day increments, because I need to clean and cook and get ready to excellently receive my guests from Denmark and focus on them and their needs.
    Thank you for including my name on your list….I felt honored
    Thank you for the new word and for all your excellence 🙂

    I have a question for you: You were searching your area for the most excellent hamburger you could find – Did you succeed?

  11. When I think of the pursuit of excellence, at work and in life, I think of you JD! You are relentless in your quest for excellence.

    it is truly humbling to be called out in your post JD. I am just an ordinary guy. You are the master; both in living and in sharing.

  12. @ Annabel — Thank you.

    I love the fact so many people model the way, set new bars, and show me what’s possible beyond my imagination. I stay grounded with the one-liner mantra — be YOUR best.

    @ Patricia — Yes, I have succeeded. Here’s the ranking:
    1. Pearl in Bellevue
    2. Cheesecake Factory
    3. 520 Grill in Bellevue

    … and now I would add Charlie’s Flame Broiled Burgers in Kirkland, in a class of its own.

    @ John — Thank you.

    For ordinary, you sure have a knack for the extraordinary. The continuous learner in you is strong … and naturally follows and flows with Arete.

  13. Hi JD .. you’ve done it again .. I’ve been so tied up with Lenny and his fest and other things .. that I’m just getting back to blogs and here I am mentioned again .. you have totally shocked me – especially being included with those other very special bloggers and people who have words of wisdom to pass on.

    I feel extremely humbled as I think you describe my life perfectly … I am doing: “People who live life on their terms, live their values, and show others what’s possible” … I do what I can within the bounds of being with my mother, while ensuring my own health isn’t compromised, and looking to my future … and it has most definitely been a journey of trials and triumphs – a journey of many stories and the ups and downs of life.

    To be thought of this way by you is definitely a triumphal day .. I thank you from the bottom of my heart .. upliftment and acknowledgement within the blogging world is wonderful – let alone the education we can find in all disciplines from blogging still amazes me and fires me up.

    Thank you so much .. really appreciated – Hilary

  14. Hi JD,
    I absolutely love this. I’m always looking for new empowering words and Arete is perfect. Often times the limits of the English language cause philosophical nuances to become lost. “Excellence” does not do justice to the inner journey of realizing our own unique capacity for marvelousness

  15. I’ve never heard of Arete J.D. And I’m surely glad to have learned this lesson on it. I surely appreciate being mentioned in this post…especially considering the subject!

  16. @ Hilary — You always make the most of what you’ve got, and that’s the best that anybody can do. My favorite saying along these lines is, “It’s not what’s on your plate, it’s how you eat it.”

    @ Rob –Beautiful way to define Arete — “our own unique capacity for marvelousness.”

    @ Jk — The way of Arete is the way to be — you’re on path.

  17. A very interesting concept. Will have to research it some more. I like the idea of choosing excellence over perfection. Thank you for including me in the list!

  18. Hi JD .. many thanks .. I’m doing what I can .. but am so grateful to you for letting me post your happiness blog list .. but people were assuming they were mine – problem with a long post, I guess – so I’ve now changed it in large letters to JD’s happiness lists … bit late – but still edited to improve! Cheers and have a good weekend .. Hilary

  19. @ Vered — I like that excellence feels within our grasp, while perfection feels more like a fleeting ideal.

    @ Hilary — It sounds like more people are enjoying the gift of happiness and that’s a good thing.

    @ Jannie — It’s all Greek to me 😉

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