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  • Writer's pictureMAD Staff

Habits of Excellence MAD’s Mantra: “Make excellence a habit”

John. K Murray, MA, CSCS, USAW, CMT

Managing Director



“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”


“Practice makes perfect.”

“Master a skill.”

These two quotes and others like them are heard often in life. The idea being that if you fully commit yourself to learning a particular skill that one day you will attain perfection and you will have mastered “it”. This train of thought lends itself to the pursuit of “the top”, the very pinnacle. Once someone has attained “perfection”, complete “mastery”, as this thinking goes, then you have “made it”. You’re done. You are the very best.

But, then, where do you go from there?

As a lifelong student of martial arts, I have been very fortunate to train and study with some amazing individuals. Among this esteemed group were gentlemen who were both close friends and original students of the legendary Bruce Lee’s. Allen Joe. Ted Wong. George Lee. Taky Kimura. All legends in the Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and the martial arts communities but more importantly amazingly kind, humble and extremely generous and knowledgeable teachers.

Of the many, many lessons they taught me and my fellow JKD classmates one in particular has always stood out as the most important: that “you are a student for life”. A JKD Master? Never! A martial arts master? Ridiculous! They loved to quote Bruce’s line that “you’re not a master until you die!” They always reminded us that you must continue to learn, to grow, to improve. You can always get better, they would tell us. Never stop working.

“Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a state of constant learning.”
Bruce Lee

Life is a constant classroom, they’d tell us. The minute you stop striving to get better, the day you become satisfied and think you are now a “martial arts master”, you stop growing and you “die”. You cease to be alive, to be vibrant.

With this invaluable lesson indelibly etched into my memory, the foundation of my business was formed. Never, will I or any of my fellow coaches ever be obsessed with attaining “practice makes perfect mastery” with our athletes. I humbly borrowed a saying from the iconic genius of Aristotle, who sits atop of the pantheon of human intellect as our company motto:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Admittedly, this line is very liberating for both students and teachers/coaches alike. Everyday represents an opportunity to hone your respective skills and work towards your excellence. When tomorrow arrives, you again have another opportunity to pursue your excellence. The silly, often debilitating pressure of trying to be “perfect” or a “master” now becomes a zest to go for it, to do your very best to get better each and every day.

As my great friend and long time N.B.A. team scouting director, Greg Stratton, often will say, “great talent with great habits are huge”. His go to quote: “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard!” With that mindset, he and his staff scour the planet in search of that ever precious combination: highly skilled players with excellent habits. And not just habits on the court but off the court habits as well.

Awesome on court talent’s shelf life will suffer an expedient demise if paired with sloppy, off the court behavior. Always. It’s just a matter of time. That’s why Greg and his staff always emphasize the importance of learning potential draftees habits in all facets of their lives. They know that habits are a practiced behavior that travel very well; great habits honed as a youngster and in college will transfer to the N.B.A. They are the foundation of every great athlete. On the flip side, great talent combined with bad habits will eventually get a player cut. For good.

Now Bruce and Aristotle never said that pursuing your greatness and making excellence a habit is easy. It’s no walk in the park but the challenging journey is paved with exhilarating moments of accomplishment. And remember, as Greg always emphasizes, “habits travel”: from life to sports and from sports to life.

So get after practicing your excellence today and never lose sight of your goal:

“Make excellence a habit!”

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