IN PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

Happy 8th Anniversary to VF Inc!  I give God all the thanks, praise and glory for his favour over the last eight years and pray his continued favour over us in the coming years.  I thank my employees, past and present, associate consultants, strategic partners, clients, PCWS and Youth Series participants, parents and guardians of Youth Series participants, suppliers and all those who have walked with us over the years and pray for their continued support in the coming years.  I give you Thanks!  I also say Happy Birthday to Raschida as she celebrates an important milestone.  May the Lord continue to shower her with his blessings and may she walk resolutely towards her purpose.  Raschi, Blessings, Blessings and Much Love!  Happy International Women’s Day to all women and pray for our continued economic, social and political advancement for the benefit of our nations.

Today, the topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” is not a review of the book of the same name by Terry Orlick, though it will draw reference from it.  Last week, the calls for King Dice to step down after winning the calypso monarchy for the seventh time to allow others the chance to win the crown disturbed me.  Instead of focusing on the feat, never before achieved by anyone in Dominica, and giving King Dice the praise and recognition due, it appeared our focus was meant on denigrating the young man.   This prompted some research on Trinidad calypso for I am sure many who are calling for him to step aside after only about eleven years in the calypso ring, are great fans of the Mighty Sparrow, Chalkdust, as well as other artists, from the region and internationally who have competed and performed over several decades.

My research revealed that Mighty Sparrow, known as “Calypso King of the World,” won the monarchy eight times, the road match crown eight times and twice “King of Kings.”  He first competed for the calypso monarchy in 1954, won his first crown in 1956 and his last crown in 1992, achieving a three-peat from 1972-1974.  This is a thirty-eight year span.  During that time, he toured extensively and produced many albums having signed with RCA records.  My research did not reveal but I am confident that during that time none called for Mighty Sparrow to step down because he had won enough, toured enough, recorded enough or was popular enough, and he should give others a chance.

Mighty Sparrow is not the only Trinidadian calypsonian to achieve eight crowns.  Chalkdust, the school principal and later university professor began singing calypso in 1967 and in 2009 earned his eighth crown, matching Mighty Sparrow’s record.  He won his first crown in 1976.  He never achieved a three-peat though he successfully defended his crown twice in 1977 and in 2005.  He won Carifesta in 1976, World Calypso King in St. Thomas eight times and Calypso King of the World in New York twice.  He has recorded over 300 calypsos.

In Trinidad and the Caribbean, these two men are celebrated.  I don’t think anyone would say it is time for them to retire to give others a chance.  Mighty Sparrow held his last performance in January 2014 in New York, after recovering from a coma late in 2013.  I know many Dominicans prayed for his recovery and mourned when it was rumoured he died last year.  The show from reports was well attended.  People were just so happy he survived.  I am confident that not all of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust wins were popular and there were times when they were not crowned that people felt they should have been crowned.  Once there is a competition, there will always be a segment, no matter how small, who believes someone else should have won.  However, as we all know the judges’ decision is final, and we accept and move on.

The talents and gifts of Mighty Sparrow and Chalkdust were recognized early, long before they had won seven crowns and every effort was made to provide them with regional and international exposure, hence the reason they are household names.  An oft-heard criticism is that King Dice cannot compete elsewhere, however, in all honesty, what efforts have been expended to provide King Dice with regional or international exposure?   Another criticism is that his material is limited to the Dominican context.   I have asked Pat Aaron, the writer for the lyrics of all of King’s Dice’s song so I can do an analysis and thereby determine the veracity of this claim.  An even more repeated claim is that King Dice does not write his songs, so he is not a true calypsonian.  How many of Mighty Sparrow songs did he pen?  Another criticism is about King Dice the person.  Truth is many who make these complaints do not know him personally.  And while it is true in the early years of King Dice’s entry into the ring, there were many reported cases of bad behavior, there has been a marked improvement but instead of focusing on that and encouraging him to be better, every effort is being made to bring him back to the old days.  Doesn’t he deserve a second chance?

These attacks led me to reflect on the words of Marianne Williamson, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.  As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.  As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.”  I think people are afraid of King Dice’s Light.  I say to King Dice to not be afraid of your Light, your Gift with which God has blessed you and do not let others’ fear cause you to diminish or extinguish your Light.  You must keep shining brighter, embrace the role and responsibilities that come with that gift and thus liberate others to be their best.  I say to those who want King Dice to step down, don’t fear his Light and Gift instead encourage him to be his best self, while working on being your best self.

King Dice is not invincible.  Hunter dethroned him in 2007 and denied him a four-peat.  Tasha P denied him the opportunity to regain the crown on his re-entry into the arena after a two-year hiatus when she won the crown and became Dominica’s first female monarch in 2011.   King Dice ensures the others up their game.  Karessah, Hunter, The Bobb, Webb and the others know he is a formidable competitor and they have to put their best feet forward to dethrone him, hence the reason for all the showmanship and performance we see from them, enhancing the standard of the Show.

This brings me back to my topic, “In Pursuit of Excellence,” what does it mean?  Excellence is defined as a “talent or quality that is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards,” (Wikipedia).   In other words, it is extra-ordinary, outstanding.  Terry Orlick defines it as reaching your full potential.  In other words it is being your best.   Orlick book is subdivided in four segments: 1) Envisioning Excellence; 2) Preparing the Mind for Excellence; 3) Building Towards Excellence and 4) Realising Excellence.  He writes about the Wheel of Excellence and identifies seven critical elements:

  1. Focus – This is the core.  We have to envision what we want and focus on it.  It is keeping our eyes on the prize and in so doing we determine what we need to do to achieve our goal.  We are prepared to do the work and walk the walk and walk the talk.  We are not interested in taking shortcuts.  We are prepared to do all that is needed and necessary to achieve our goal and realise our vision.
  2. Commitment – We have to be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve that goal and realise the vision.  We have to be disciplined.  This will mean having to give up something and sometimes some people who are hindrances to the attainment of our goals.  We need to look for buoys and stay away from anchors.  This also means surrounding ourselves with positive energy and people and being positive and optimistic, while being conscious of the realities.
  3. Mental Readiness – We have to be mentally prepared and mentally strong.  This will help us to discern what is needed to ensure our decisions are the right ones.  Obstacles and naysayers will not daunt us.  We will persevere in the face of opposition and challenges and see the opportunities they disguise.
  4. Positive Image – We need to not only think positive, we have to live positively so that our lives present the example for others.
  5. Confidence – Belief and confidence in God and in self are important for us to excel.  We have to know and believe that we have the abilities and gift to undertake the task at hand.  That confidence is sometimes mistaken for arrogance
  6. Distraction Control – There are so many things to distract us from our vision and our goal, to steal our focus, and we have to employ strategies to keep them at bay.  Commitment and mental readiness are key tools to control distraction.
  7. Ongoing Learning – This is critical for excellence; this is why it is often referred to as a commitment to excellence.  We recognise that the world is constantly changing and we need to stay abreast of the changes that may impact the attainment of our vision.

I think King Dice displays many of the traits above and this may hold the key to his success.  I think the Dominica Calypso Association, Dominica Festival Commission and Showdown Mas Camp need to work together to ensure that King Dice realizes his full potential in and out of Dominica, that he builds on his strengths and works toward eliminating his weaknesses, providing the support and encouragement needed to be his best self and continue his pursuit of excellence.  We, the public, need to acknowledge his gift, give him his flowers and encourage him to use his gift wisely.

King Dice, too, has a key role to play.  He has to recognise and accept that with these seven crowns come a great responsibility and to whom much is given, much is expected.  God has blessed him with a tremendous gift and he has to continue to use it wisely, be a role model for the youth of the land and to share his gift and talent with others, especially the youth.  He has to multiply his talents, shine his light brightly from the mountaintop and not hidden under the bushel, thus giving glory to God and permission to others to shine brightly in their world, so that he will be commended as “the good and faithful servant.”   I pray God’s continued blessings and favour on this young man.

I can be reached at info@vfinc.org or Tel: 767 449 9649.

Until we meet again, may God continue to hold us in the Palm of His Hands.

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