From good to great

Posted on May 14, 2014


Untitled 4I haven’t written a post for ages, in part because I’ve been writing for SA’s top notch outdoors site, Do It Now and in part because I’ve been online little. Sometimes, we need to disconnect in order to truly connect.

Then an email came in from one of my all time greatness gurus, Robin Sharma and it spoke to me quietly about how important it is to dedicate the time and effort required to reach our potential. You see, becoming best in class is less about natural talent and more about what we do with what we’ve been given.

Albert Einstein said:

“Only those who devote themselves to a cause with their whole strength and soul can be true masters. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person.”

The most gifted tennis player doesn’t become the champion… the most focused, practiced and passionate one does. The most innately talented violinist doesn’t become the virtuoso… the most dedicated and devoted one does. The most brilliant entrepreneur doesn’t reap the fortune and change the course of history… the one with the most discipline, work ethic and grit does.

Society sadly often teaches us otherwise…we’re told that the Mozarts and Michelangelo’s are born into their breathtakingly great gifts but growing research, Anders Ericsson and his 10,000 hour rule for example, confirms that the concept of naturally gifted genius is pure myth…

And the reality? Those we admire, the awesome mathematicians, the fantastic chess players, the remarkable artists and the heroic business men are simply people who, early on, made a few uncommon choices, installed a few unusual habits and in so doing, generated rare-air results.

Sharma talks about the threats to first-class performance as these:

  • The Threat of Disbelief

If we don’t believe that we have the potential to be one of the best there ever was at our chosen craft or skill, then we won’t do what it takes to get there‎. In other words, our belief about your potential really does determine whether we express it or let it slumber quietly within us as we coast through our lives.

  • The Threat of Undercapitalisation

Warren Buffett recently said that he’s not the smartest person in the room. Rather the secret to his extraordinary success in the financial markets comes down to the “horsepower versus output” distinction. Horsepower is the talent we’re born with whilst output is how much commitment, discipline and guts we realise. Dream big, start small, begin now! Unfortunately, it just becomes too easy to be distracted, too easy to be affected by criticism and too invested in comfort to do what’s needed to become iconic.

  • The Threat of ‎Talent Circle Apathy

Who you associate with dramatically influences the way you behave and how excellently you perform. You see, we subconsciously adopt the mindsets of the people we’re closest to and assume the same aspirations of the dominant members of our circle of influence. If those around you are aiming for best in world, up at dawn to train, work with mentors who kickstart their mastery and practise from sunrise to sunset, then there’s a great chance you’ll be modelling that ethic. Kids in Brazil aspire to become celebrated soccer players and all their friends do the same. Teens in Silicon Valley long to launch startups, go to workshops to learn code and spend sleepless nights iterating their craft‎. Everyone these kids know wants to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

  • The Threat of Complexity

Picasso didn’t practice the piano, Jay-Z’s doesn’t spend his best hours becoming a chess master and Stephen King isn’t obsessed with joining the NBA. What this means is that we can try to do many things but we’ll always play at mediocrity. Or we can commit to just one thing and enter the ring of mastery, so simply, subtract and get great at saying no!

  • The Threat of Comfort

It’s fascinating how many elite performers came from poverty. I guess they knew that if they didn’t focus passionately and practice relentlessly they’d not only not live the life of their dreams, they’d likely have little food on the table. That kind of condition fuels immense drive, unbeatable determination and an iron will to win which is why comfort can be dangerous to greatness. Famous poet, Maya Angelou, leaves her home to work in a gritty motel room and even when Steve Jobs was a billionaire, he slept on a futon. To reach legendary levels of creativity, productivity and acumen, we need to keep pushing ourselves like our lives depends on it — because they do.

Sharma talks of how when we live our potential, we rise to genius and it’s not just us who wins but the world as well. All those around us get the benefit from our artistry, accomplishments and inventions. We become heroes to each other. In other words, we SHINE!

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