We all remember those times when we used to do our home works in the best possible handwriting, only to get an ‘excellent’ from our teacher. Good used to be satisfactory, very good was little better and excellent was the best! Getting an excellent in our notebooks with a ‘star’ made along with it used to be the most coveted goal in life. Even our report cards measured our hard work in excellent, good or poor. Whenever a person achieves 10 on 10, we say “excellent”. Whenever we are asked to comment on a person’s beautiful piece of art, we say, “excellent”. Excellent is such a famous word, used frequently by everyone. But ever wondered as to what ‘excellence’ means? Or who is an ‘excellent’ person? Ponder over it and you will realize that it is very difficult to frame a universally applicable definition of being ‘excellent’. It’s just not possible.
Who is an excellent person? If I compliment that boy by saying that he is ‘excellent’, what did I see in him that made me say that? If my teacher says to me, “excellent work”, what does it mean? Different people can have different perceptions about what is excellence. I may say that because that boy scored 95% in his exams, he is surely excellent. It is difficult for people to score such a high percentage. Because he has done something unusual, yes he is excellent. By this we can conclude that anyone who does something unusual and difficult should be called an excellent person. Does that mean that if my brother decides to jump of the roof and prove that he is an acrobat, he is excellent? Obviously not. Then who is an excellent person? What is excellence? Most of us have a wrong perception of what excellence actually means. Talking out of personal experience, my parents, my relatives, most of the people in my school have somewhat the same perception of excellence. For them, if a person excels academically, he is surely an excellent person. If I score full marks in my exams, I am supposed to be excellent. And if friend didn’t get 8 instead of 10, she will be given a ‘good’ and not the prestigious ‘excellent’. There could be a possibility that she was probably unwell and thus couldn’t prepare for the exam well. There can also be a possibility that she worked harder than me but at the last moment she forgot the answer and thus she scored less. But these possibilities just don’t exist for people around me. They just don’t make an effort to find out reasons behind something. What is visible superficially is the ultimate truth for them. And this is just not my story. All of us face such situations in life because academics is something that everyone is interested in.
So what does that mean? Is it only an academically bright student who should be termed as ‘excellent’? Should only an academically bright student be given the first preference in all educational institutions? How are we so sure that if I am the topper of the class, I am also the most intelligent student out of all? Is academic excellence synonymous to intelligence? There is a possibility that a ‘not so academically bright’ student be the actual brain of the class. There is a possibility that he is much sharper, much active and much more intelligent than the person who topped the class? But we tend to ignore all such possibilities. What is the guarantee that the person who topped the class had actually understood the text and had not gone for rote learning? What is the guarantee that this person whom we are giving all the privileges would actually do something for the society later in life? If he doesn’t have a strong IQ and a sharp brain, how will he able to present himself in corporate meeting? If he is not confident about his public speaking skills, how will he be able to stand interviews? Obviously we would fail in life eventually? So how can we call such a person excellent? Also, is it always academic brilliance that matters? What about those who are not at all good at learning the textbooks but are winners in fields of dance, music or sports? Why don’t we give preferences to such people? Is gaining good marks the only goal in life? What if a person is interested in lawn tennis and is a gold medalist at it? Why can’t such a person be termed as excellent? After all he has also excelled at something. If learning 30 chapters and getting 100 % success in the exams was the only important thing in life then probably we would have seen no Usain Bolt, no Sachin Tendulkar, no Adele and even no Meryl Streep ever on the face of this earth!
I am not saying that academic success is not at all important. Obviously it is needed to build a strong foundation, to build a strong career. But it is not the end of the world. Career is not only built by scholars. It is also build by great musicians, dancers and athletes. You don’t need to be always academically bright to be called an ‘excellent’ being. If you have the ability to analyze things around you, the ability to raise new questions and find answers, you are excellent. If you have the ability to understand what is given in your books and write it in your own words rather than copying the bookish language, you are excellent. And if you have the ability to find out where your interest lies and you have the courage to pursue it no matter what the world says, you are definitely excellent!