Drop by drop is the water pot filled. Likewise, the wise man, gathering it little by little, fills himself with good. Buddha Here are 2 examples of excellence by testing our limitations and dedicating ourselves to our aspirations: A sous-chef with dreams of her own restaurant empire may have mastered the art of classical French sauce making, but not yet have developed the signature cooking style she imagines as the cornerstone of her own chain of restaurants. She gauges her progress not only by whether she is moving toward her aspirations, but also by her improving skills. Our chef may not yet have the stature of famous chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, but she can remember a time when she could not name the five French mother sauces, let alone execute them. She's made progress. Appreciating the skills she has developed is a marker along the path toward her culinary aspirations. The sense of accomplishment that accompanies improved skills is one of the rewards we reap when we dedicate ourselves to mastery. The surgical resident interested in learning trauma will bypass a residency at a quiet community hospital for a residency at a fast-paced Level 1 trauma center treating a high volume of trauma patients. A Level 1 trauma center residency is far more rigorous—and not particularly glamorous—but the intensive culture of a dedicated trauma center will cultivate the decisive judgment and action required of a surgeon specializing in trauma. By choice or by chance, we must actively test our limits to know our capabilities. Excellence is a function of practice and time. It is a result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible. Don't rush. Those of us who are always pushing and running hard up the mountain, may reach the top first only to realize we forgot to enjoy the climb.