Excellent performance is what separates an average business person from men and women of honor and acclaim. Those who have distinguished themselves with accolades of distinction have had bold ideas and great plans to achieve them. They have worked with energy, passion and perseverance to exceed anticipated results. They have overcome every barrier and climbed around every obstacle to meet their lofty goals. They have become the best at what they do and have thereby achieved greatness.

Eminent business builders are second to no one. They have gone beyond what is expected and have become winners on the award podium of business endeavors.

When asked what motivates their superlative performance, some note the appeal of prestige, the honors of men, fame, glory and wealth. Others describe inner rewards of fulfillment and personal satisfaction.

Many who have achieved success were encouraged to go beyond the mark by others. Mentors, parents, spouses, teachers and coaches had given them words of encouragement or friendly challenges to be outstanding. Expectations were set to climb as high, as far and as fast as they could; and that's what they have done.

On the other hand, we often see individuals who didn't need a push in the back to move forward. They already had a fire in their bellies to pursue with intensity and vigor their dreams of launching a future award-winning business. In many cases, these individuals have been overachievers, building not just one company but many. A few more have gone on to create whole new industries.

It appears that excellence is an attitude, followed by noteworthy execution. Those who rise above the masses have it. The rest of us work for these winners. What's wrong with us? Why are we still sitting in the same cubicle, year after year? Why are we so passive, so lazy? Why are we content to be average or common? Why haven't we achieved greatness and acclaim? What holds us back from our true potential?

Perhaps we lack confidence. Perhaps we have failed in the past. Perhaps we have felt a lack of support and encouragement. Maybe the passion we once had has been extinguished; the drive has vanished.

This week a discouraged young businessman who was looking for help, any help, approached me. He spoke of disappointment, of humiliation and despair. His dreams of greatness had disappeared. He had tried over and over to achieve a modicum of success without results. "What can I do?" he implored. "You know me. Why am I failing? I see my peers, my fellow classmates winning awards and building brilliant careers. Why can't I? What's wrong with me?"

I am afraid this young man is not alone. Discouragement is a common emotion among many of today's workers.

May I suggest a plan of action to restore our confidence to achieve personal excellence at work and in life?

First, know that we can achieve excellence. It is within us. It may be dormant, but it is there. Our fire just needs more fuel — the kind to create a blaze. Fuel that inspires, motivates, encourages and impels us to act. Consider watching a great movie, reading a powerful novel, listening to world-class music, a walk through a forest, and the birth of a child. There is beauty all around us to inspire and lift our eyes upward. Such moments fill us with awe and recognition that we, too, are capable of excellence. We should eliminate every thing from our lives that is dark and negative. Let us pile on cords of positive fuel.

Second, know we can be excellent in something today, no matter what it is, even if it's just brushing our teeth well. Use what we do well as a linear stepping-stone to develop greatness in the next task, and so on. After a while we will find we are outstanding in many areas.

Third, be patient as we pursue our dreams. Keep in mind it takes time — lots of time — to be great in anything. Rewards will come if we remain calm and hopeful. Decide now to be steady, consistent and to not falter.

Fourth, keep in mind failure isn't bad. We shouldn't look at it as a death knoll. It can be a great blessing to us. We should view failure as a lesson with great value. We should ask ourselves, "What did I learn? What would I do differently in the future?" All great men and women have learned from their failures and don't repeat them.

Fifth, have a forward looking, flexible, realistic and achievable life plan. Let's know what we want, why, when, how, where and at what cost. Accept that life isn't easy or simple. Let's accept the need, from time to time, to take one step forward and two back. Let's keep our eyes focused on our ultimate goal in life and prioritize around it. If we stay the course, we will reach our target.

Sixth, find ways to bless the lives of others. I know of no other personal activity that so almost instantaneously brings joy and happiness to one's soul as does service to others. To this end, let us give of our talents, time and resources to those in need.

Seventh, never give up. Overcome every troubling challenge and every nasty setback. A quote from my youth has served me well all my life. It's worth repeating here. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going." Be persistent in spite of obstacles or opposition.

Eighth, go forward with faith. Opportunities are there, even if we can't see them today. Believe me, they are there. They will always be there. Our goal is to move forward one step at a time into the unknown until we find what we seek.

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Ninth, celebrate achievements no matter how small or insignificant. Count every victory and recognize success. Celebrations can be large or tiny. The party may be the purchase of a new tie or a ticket to the movie. Whatever it is, take the time to enjoy the moment.

Tenth, always be optimistic, never doubting ourselves or our future. Keep in mind that the sun will rise another day, that life can be sweet and joyous. Push from our minds negative thoughts and attitudes. Look for and a find a good reason to relish one more day on this amazing planet.

What is it that inspires you to excellence? Drop me a note at www.AlanEHall.com or @AskAlanEHall. You can also follow my newest columns at blogs/forbes.com/alanhall/. Thanks for reading!

Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is chairman of the Utah Technology Council.