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Are You Perfect, Or Just Excellent?

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

~ Vince Lombardi


As one of the more successful coaches in US professional football, I think Vince Lombardi’s experience as a player and a coach taught him something about perfection. When I saw this quote, I stopped to ponder his words carefully.


The first idea is not new or revolutionary; most of us will readily agree that achieving perfection will not happen. Having said that, he clearly doesn’t dismiss the concept out of hand.

Fioravanti holding a glass of wine
My Dad – Richard Fioravanti


My father had an interesting take on the idea of perfection. I don’t think it originated with him, but I learned about it from him at an early age. It went something like this: “A perfect man is not one who makes no mistakes; rather, he’s the one who makes mistakes, falls flat on his face, picks himself up, dusts himself off, and never quits.”


These are two different ideas about perfection. Vince Lombardi claims that perfection is impossible, but if we chase it or strive for perfection, we’ll end up achieving excellence.


This begs the question, what is excellence? One dictionary I consulted (it’s the teacher in me!) states that excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Both descriptors point to the extreme end of positive performance or quality. That’s a great outcome no matter how you consider it. Personally, I’d love to be considered an excellent writer, or teacher, or parent – who wouldn’t?


My father, Richard Fioravanti, is suggesting that we should understand ‘perfection’ in a different light. His quote states that perfection is attainable – but not in the traditional sense – that of a perfect performance. He sees perfection in effort that is unceasing.


Both men put emphasis on the effort – my dad says we can’t quit. Lombardi talks about the chase and implies that is a constant. In my view, perfection is in the living of our daily lives. Whether we call it ‘perfection’ or ‘excellence’ this type of living requires constant and consistent effort to achieve.


Words to live by…

Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December 2013 and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

6 thoughts on “Are You Perfect, Or Just Excellent?”

  1. It’s an interesting concept – the ancients often saw perfection as an affront to the gods (who were infallible and therefore perfect) and many cultures resisted it, to the point of putting deliberate flaws into their art forms.
    I think the pursuit of excellence is the right course for the sane – we all have off days after all! 😉


    1. This is why I really like the concept of perfection my father shared with me… the perfect man or woman is the one who never quits. I know that I need help sometimes when I fall down, but I need to be willing to be helped to get right back into the fray and try again. Thanks Jan!


  2. John, if this post and the one you did on Helen Keller are signs of what’s to come from your blogs, sign me up! This post really spoke to me. You are right, perfection IS living our daily lives and if we can get thru the struggles and trials of life, we have attained a very special ‘kind’ of perfection…we have perfected the art of surviving. Great job, my friend!


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