Common Things


“Do the common things uncommonly well.” Tom Torkelson

Tom Torkelson, CEO and Founder of the IDEA Public School System, which currently has seventy-nine charter schools – primarily in Texas said the above quote while speaking about his story at the Sewell Leadership Event last week.  He was 22 years old when he decided to become a teacher. He was nearing college graduation and wondering what to do next. He decided to apply the lessons he had learned from teaching underprivileged elementary-aged students, who had excelled under his teaching, to creating an amazing charter school system that is recognized as one of the best in the United States.  How did he accomplish so much so fast?

Do the common things uncommonly well.” 

Oh, how often we neglect the common, ordinary, not-so-fun fundamentals.  Think for a moment. What are the common things associated with your life or business? How often do you focus on doing them with excellence? How often to you do them just to get them over with

What happens when you do the common things with excellence?  I believe that if you do the common things with excellence, you will achieve of high level of success in everything you do.  For example, The United States military is the top military in the world.  As a veteran of the United States Air Force, I constantly heard the importance of paying attention to detail.  In basic training, if I could not make my bed to the level of excellence my drill instructor demanded, why would I ever be trusted to work on multi-million dollar jet aircraft? 

For the veterans reading this, you are nodding in agreement because you, too, were held to a higher standard of excellence and it started with common everyday activities like shining your boots, wearing your uniform correctly and making your bed perfectly.  Common activities done with uncommon excellence.  

Excellence is a value that comes from a mindset within us.  It is a commitment we make that should drive us.  It’s more than a great phrase to have on your business website and front office posters.  It’s a burning desire from within to make an impact on those around you.  No matter how common the task, remember what my drill instructor said, “If I can’t trust you to do ______________ well, then how can I trust you with ____________.”  How many times did you hear your parents say to you that if something was worth doing, then it was worth doing right?   

To be uncommon, you must do the common things well.  You must be consistent, persistent and intentionally act with excellence daily, all of which starts with an “excellence” mindset. 

Looking for excellence?

Start with the common tasks you do every day and focus on doing them better than anyone else.


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