The Carr Report: Strive for excellence

by Damon Carr, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Excellence is defined as the quality of being outstanding or extremely good. Perfection is defined as the condition, state, or quality of being free from all flaws or defects.

As a child, I can recall my parents, teachers, coaches and other adults always telling me and other adolescents to be the best that you can be. They’d say things like, “Strive for greatness.” “If the mind can conceive, and the heart can believe, you can achieve.” “It doesn’t matter what you do in life, be the best at it.” “Always put your best foot forward.”

I grew up in an impoverished community. There were plenty of negative things I could have engaged in. I instead took to sports.  My youth basketball coach used to make us recite two things before and after every practice. The first was he’d ask us, “Who loves you!?” We’d shout back, “Mr. Arnold!!” The way this chant flowed sounded like we were singing a song. To this day when I run into friends of mine who played sports under Mr. Arnold’s guidance, we jokingly chant, “Who loves you!? Mr. Arnold!!” to each other.

The other thing he had us recite before and after every practice was a poem titled, “I’m Somebody.” I didn’t know it then but this poem was made popular by Reverend Jesse Jackson. It reads as follows:

I am Somebody!

I may be poor, But I am Somebody.

I may be young, But I am Somebody.

I may be on welfare, But I am Somebody.

I may be small, But I am Somebody.

I may have made mistakes, But I am Somebody.

My clothes are different, My face is different,

My hair is different, But I am Somebody.

I am Black, Brown, or White.

I speak a different language, But I must be respected, protected, Never rejected. I am God’s child! I am Somebody.

Unbeknownst to us, Mr. Arnold’s mission for us was bigger than basketball. He was teaching us that if we thought the entire world hated us, know that he, Mr. Arnold loved us. He was teaching us that no matter what your current status is in life, we are somebody.  He was teaching us that we could be whatever we wanted to be. He was conditioning us to strive for excellence.

As an adult, I find myself making the same statements to my children and to the young athletes whom I had an opportunity to coach in basketball. I’d always say to them, always give it your all and do your best because you never know who’s watching you. Them performing their best in the classroom and on the basketball court could lead to an academic and/or athletic scholarship.

As a coach, I developed a chant of my own:

Coach: We play at one speed and that speed is what!?

Players: Hard!

Coach: We believe?

Players: In ourselves!

Coach: We believe?

Players: In each other!

Coach: We believe?

Players: We can win!

Coach: Ball hard on three…..1.2.3

Players: BALL HARD!!

Like Mr. Arnold, my mission as a youth basketball coach was bigger than basketball. I was teaching them that if they gave maximum effort, believed in themselves, and believed in each other, they could win in both the game of basketball and the game of life. I was conditioning them to strive for excellence.

I never fully internalized how those positive affirmation statements I’ve heard as a child were ingrained in me. As a youth and as an adult, I take great pride in my work.  If my name is attached to a project, I want that project to be the best. If I’m competing in a contest of any kind, I want to win, because I’m striving to be the best. I still continue to hone my craft on a daily basis as a money coach/financial planner and as a financial writer in an effort to be the best that I can be. I firmly believe that if I can be the best that I can be at what I do, it will help me to bring out the best in others who rely on me for leadership, guidance, advice, and support.

As I take this journey on striving for excellence, I’ve come to understand two things.

  1. Excellence isn’t perfection. I’m still growing in knowledge and understanding. I’m still improving on various flaws and shortcomings. You can exhibit signs of excellence without being perfect. Excellence is an attainable goal. Perfection isn’t.
  2. When you’re making a positive impact on others, you are in fact excelling. We often confuse excellence with status. We marvel at various people because of their position in life without fully taking into consideration that they are held in such high regard not because of who they are but because of the profound impact they’ve had on countless people.

On Sept. 22, the New Pittsburgh Courier honored the “Men of Excellence, Class of 2022.” This article was inspired by the annual celebration of great men.

As a writer for the Courier, I often work these events. It’s very gratifying to observe men and women of the community being recognized by people from the community for the work they do in the community. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine me being recognized for this prestigious award. Here’s why: It’s easy to observe the positive impact that others have made on us and the community at-large. It’s hard to see and realize the positive impact that we as individuals have made on others and the community at-large. I’m both honored and humbled to be a recipient of this year’s Men of Excellence Award! 

It is my goal to have a positive impact on those whom I’m able to reach. I’m thankful that the New Pittsburgh Courier and the community at-large recognize my efforts.

Congratulations are in order for this year’s New Pittsburgh Courier Men of Excellence! May we always strive to put our best effort forward because we never know who’s watching. May we continue to excel at having a positive impact on others.

(Contact me, Damon Carr, Money Coach, at 412-216-1013 or


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