To 'rise above', we need to rid ourselves of an easy acceptance of mediocrity. Walking away from the 'good enough to get by' mindset, is not easy, but it does, I can assure you, become a habit that easily flows across many aspects of our daily lives. As we cultivate a habit of being organized in our thinking and paying more and more attention to the details of our actions/thoughts, etc - we move away from the ordinary.
We also need to drop the subtly corrosive habit (that many people seem to acquire through the course of their lives) of being envious of others ... personally, I have never experienced this feeling; I have always been in admiration of others who achieve and succeed, even when I have been down and out and living in a cardboard box ... but when I look around, I see 'envy' is a living cancer in many people's lives. it destroys friendships; wastes so much energy and divides society at every level.
The pursuit of excellence also requires that we are open to the re-invention of ourselves each and every day; this is not as easy as it sounds; but growth and metamorphosis demands exactly this! Children are usually adept at most of these behaviors - until parenting, the school system and social pressure kicks it out of them. Childlike wonderment, curiosity and desire of exploration are keystones to learning and the pursuit of excellence. It's not worth waiting for a better time to embrace some of these concepts ... there is no better time - than right now! JBW