I read a quote yesterday by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that was different from any other that I have ever read. Yes, he was one of the most quotable people on the planet and I have had the pleasure of reading several of his books. But when I think of the treasury of “King “quotes, I think of freedom, equality, courage, and a grand dream for a great life and country. This quote was different. Without further ado:
“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well…A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better. If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music…”
Do you get it?!
It doesn’t matter what you choose to do, but you should work to be the best at whatever you do.
How can you be the best doctor, student, parent, writer, nurse, spouse or whatever?
The first—and probably the most important—step is that you must decide to the best. You must be committed to being the best, dedicate yourself to greatness in your chosen field or profession.
I think that this what Dr. King was talking about in the quote. Do it better than “the living, the dead and the unborn.” That’s a tall order, a huge decision. That’s the best. To be compared to Michelangelo or the Bard means that you are on a level that changes the world. That might not be the best but it’s close; it’s very close.
Other steps to be the best:
- Work hard. I mean that you should work very, very hard. Malcolm Gladwell discusses the amount of work that it takes to be great: 10,000 hours. He admits that a person can become really good at whatever they want by working fewer than 10,000 hours but you can not become great without working extremely hard. And that means 10,000 hours of focused, committed work. Be prepared to work hard. Savor the opportunity to do so.
- Make your own choices. Do you want to be a street sweeper? Fine. You must make your own choices about your life. Do you want to be a chef, novelist or nanny? Great. Do you want to be a house cleaner, actor or entrepreneur? Go for it. Be the best!
- Reject the urge to be “good.” Now, we’re getting a bit revolutionary. The desire to be good can be a start and that is fine for a hobby or any activity that you do merely for enjoyment. However, for your life goal, the desire for “good” is simply not good enough. Aim higher. Set your sights higher and bigger. You deserve to be “great” at whatever you dedicate your life to doing. Decide to be a great street sweeper. It’s the “great” part that really matters.
- Know that this is bigger than you. I think Dr. King’s quote hints at this goal. Michelangelo changed the world with his paintings. Shakespeare changed the world with his poetry and sonnets. Steve Jobs changed the world with Apple products. Dr. King changed the world with his vision, work and speeches. When you work to be the best at whatever you do, it makes the world into a better place—and it inspires others to be the best that they can be. It’s a win/win.
Dr. Martin Luther King was a great example of how to be the best. He certainly talked the talk, walked the walk (and marched the march).
Can you be “the best”?
Do you want to be “the best”?
It is your decision and your life. And it’s within your power.
At Meta-Inspired, we’re gonna be more than good, we want gonna be great!