Wednesday, May 20, 2009

It's True: The Best Never Rest

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Why Are Tiger Woods, Oprah, and Bill Gates Uncomfortable?

They have fame. Power. Influence. And more money than most of us could ever imagine. So why wouldn’t they live lives of blissful ease and endless fun? The answer is simple, says best-selling author Jon Gordon: It’s because they are the best at what they do—and the best are never comfortable with where they are.

“The best have a burning desire to improve, and this naturally creates a healthy discomfort,” says Gordon, author of the new book Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else, and a speaker at last summer's TAWPI Forum & Expo. “Winners like Woods, Oprah, and Gates are always seeking new ways to learn and grow, and the process is rarely fun and easy.”

The same is true in all realms of business. Highly successful professionals in every industry display a relentless drive toward constant improvement. And according to Gordon, this is just one of the eleven key traits and habits that separate “the best” from “the rest.”

There is a formula for success, he insists, and it’s a process anyone can follow—that is, as long as they possess the focus, initiative, dedication, and positive energy required to do so.

Gordon says people have preconceived ideas about what it takes to get to the top—much like the aforementioned notion that being the best is “fun”—and buying into those myths can hold you back from achieving your own brand of success. For example:

MYTH #1: The best know a secret formula that others simply don’t.
REALITY: Nope. There’s no secret recipe, insists Gordon. The art is in putting the recipe’s ingredients together. The best take action every day and do the common things with uncommon focus, dedication, and a commitment to excellence. They know what they want and they want it more. The best are willing to pay the price that greatness requires.

“To offer an example, great salespeople do the same things mediocre salespeople do,” notes Gordon. “They just do so with more focus and consistency. The principle also holds true for entire companies.”

MYTH #2: The best are “born that way.” They are chosen.
REALITY: The best become the best through their own actions. Many, many people have “potential”…but only a tiny few ever bring it to fruition. They do it through hard work and “zoom focusing” on the (often little and ordinary and boring) fundamentals of their particular jobs until they master them.

“In his book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell discusses a study done in the ’90s at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music where they found what separated the best violinists from the good and average performers was not talent but rather the amount of time they practiced throughout their lives,” says Gordon. By the age of 20 the best performers had practiced for a total of 10,000 hours, compared to 8,000 hours for good performers and only 4,000 hours for average ones.

“Some people call this the 10,000-hour rule,” he adds. “Others call it the 10-year rule because it is believed that it takes a decade of practice to become great at something. It’s clear the best aren’t born that way. The best must commit to a lifetime of practice to be their best.”

MYTH #3: There is a huge gap between the best and the rest.
REALITY: Actually, the gap is very small. In baseball, consider the difference between a .250 batter and a .350 batter. If you calculate 162 games a year, 4 or 5 bats a game, the difference between a .250 batter and a .350 batter is only 1.7 hits a week. It’s the little things that separate the best from the rest. Believe it or not the best are not that much better than their competition. They are just a little bit better at the important things.

“Do you know what makes Walmart so successful?” asks Gordon. “It’s not just the low prices. It’s the fact that they do a hundred things 10 percent better than everyone else. That 10 percent may not seem like much, but it puts Walmart miles ahead of the competition.”

MYTH #4: The best don’t have any fear.
REALITY: Yes, the best do feel fear. They simply learn to overcome it. Too many people allow their fear of failure to define them and their actions. (Consider the potential entrepreneur, unhappy in her job, who says, “I would start the company I’ve always dreamed of, but this economy is just too scary…I’d better not risk it.”) But the best face their fears, overcome them, and don’t allow the possibility of failure to define them. As a result they are able to seize the moment and move beyond their fear.

“When all eyes are watching, [the best] know this is the moment they have been preparing and waiting for,” writes Gordon. “Rather than hiding from pressure, they rise to the occasion. As a result, the best define the moment rather than letting the moment define them. …Don’t run from fear; face it and embrace it. Don’t let fear rob you of your love and joy for life; let it push you into the moment and beyond yourself. Let it inspire you to live and work each day as though it was your last.”

MYTH #5: The best focus on winning. REALITY: The best don’t focus on the outcome at all. They focus on the process that gets them there. Ironically, says Gordon, to create success you must not focus on success but rather on the process that produces it.

“A great example is Organic Valley, a provider of organic dairy products, produce, meats, and other natural foods,” says Gordon. “Each year they continue to grow dramatically and yet they don’t have an ‘outcome’ goal in mind. Rather they focus on their purpose and process and this fuels their growth.”

MYTH #6: Success breeds success.
REALITY: Actually, success breeds complacency. Gordon says coaches and business leaders often dread success far more than they dread failure. “Too often a team will have a successful season or a player will have a great year and when they come back the following season they think all they have to do is show up and they’ll enjoy the same results, forgetting it was the hard work, focus, and process that helped them create their success,” Gordon says.

“Well, that happens in business, too,” he adds. “The moment you think you have arrived at the door of greatness is the moment it gets slammed in your face. The key is to always be innovating, offering new products and services, improving customer service, and staying one step ahead of your competition. The solution is to stay humble and hungry.”

“If you want to be the best at what you do, never allow yourself to rest on your laurels,” he adds. “I always have to come back to the first point I made—that being the best is uncomfortable. If you want to be the best—to continue to be the best—forget past glories. Focus on growing, improving, and innovating today. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”

1 comment:

FearlessFactor said...

Hi, I really enjoyed your blog post and have taken the liberty to post it on my blog with appropriate linkbacks.

The success equation is something we all need to be reminded about and I love to spread the fearless word. It is all a process of staying on top of the game if you want to succeed beyond measure. Many thanks.

Jacqueline Wales