The Census aside, it has been a gold medal week for Australians with our athletes doing their best. I always love it when our country tops the medal count in the early days of the Olympics. I love seeing our great athletes competing with the world’s best and it always makes me think about what powers someone to strive to be the best.
Over the years analysing business champions, I’ve come up with having a goal, focusing on that goal, developing a disciplined process, a maniacal commitment to the process and often having great influencers in their life. Combining it all, it explains their winning edge and it really differentiates them from we spectators who watch on in awe at what they can achieve.
If you need reminding, just YouTube Cate Campbell’s and Michael Phelps’ efforts in the Rio pool!
The best sportspeople are human outliers who do things differently, which explains their herculean efforts on the sporting field. One of my favourite books on this subject, written by Malcolm Gladwell, is called Outliers. In a study done in the early 1990s by psychologist K. Anders Ericsson and two colleagues at Berlin’s elite Academy of Music, they tried to work out why some students, who started the same as youngsters, ended up with different abilities.
This is what Gladwell found out about the study’s conclusions:
“Everyone from all three groups started playing at roughly the same age, around five years old. In those first few years, everyone practiced roughly the same amount, about two or three hours a week. But when the students were around the age of eight, real differences started to emerge.
“The students who would end up the best in their class began to practice more than everyone else: six hours a week by age nine, eight hours a week by age twelve, sixteen hours a week by age fourteen, and up and up, until by the age of 20 they were practicing - that is purposefully and single-mindedly playing their instruments with the intent to get better- well over thirty hours a week. In fact, by age 20, the elite performers had each totaled ten thousand hours of practice. By contrast, the merely good students had totaled eight thousand hours, and the future music teachers had totaled just over four thousand hours.”
So practice does make perfect!
I have been on the business speaking circuit for nearly 30 years and I am always amazed how people can sit in an audience and not take notes! As I watched our politicians go around the country to sell themselves and their policies in the recent election, I wonder if they have taken notes to ensure self-improvement!
Sure, audiences might think I have nothing new to say — and they’d be wrong, of course — but I have seen it even when I have been an MC with the likes of GE’s legendary CEO, Jack Welch, Microsoft’s Steve Balmer and even Virgin’s entrepreneur extraordinaire, Richard Branson.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again - the back pages of my copy of Richard Branson’s Losing My Virginity book is filled with notes. I could not put it down (though I resisted reading the book for years for God knows what reasons) but as I read it as a business builder, I knew I was reading pure gold!
I could not imagine reading a book like this and not remembering the unbelievable life changing and business enhancing lessons it delivered. If you’re not a note-taker, that could become one of the many changes you make to eventually live the new story of success you have already written down and possibly made public.
The key to winning or being successful has fascinated me for over three decades and I have written books about it, penned newspaper articles, magazine and website columns on the subject. I have studied those who have made it big in business and I have interviewed these people on my radio and television programs. They have frailties like all of us but they have something special that makes them stand out from the crowd. And that’s exactly what I am going to share with you.
If you want to really lift your performance as an employee, business owner or as a wealth builder, you have to answer these two vital questions:
Here are a few ‘must do’ actions to get you started to answer these questions:
Successful people deconstructed
All the highly successful people I’ve talked about have been great learners. They carry notebooks or use iPhones but they don’t let a competitive eureka moment or idea get lost in the busy lives they lead.
They are powered by a big dream to build a successful business. They are focused on that dream and few distractions take them away from making it happen.
They are constantly committed to self-improvement — especially for their business but they also can be fanatical about other things such as their health, their family, causes, etc.
They are constantly forcing themselves to get outside their comfort zones because they know that’s where progress will come from. And they are not afraid to spend money or invest in success because they know that others with expertise can show them stuff that will add to their competitive advantage.
In fact, those two words are the massive drivers of successful business builders — they are committed to getting an edge over their rivals and they go the extra yards to make it happen.
They are great believers in the Sir Isaac Newton line that goes “If I have seen further, it has been upon the shoulders of giants.”
And that’s why they have great accountants, great business coaches, great financial advisers, great networks, great teams of workers who are at one with the boss and his or her dream.
These people fight against being second rate and they have an undying commitment to knowing what they customers want and they want to know it before their rivals. If they are employees who have become top CEOs like Richard Goyder of Wesfarmers, they have benchmarked themselves against the great CEOs that ran before him. He would have been constantly looking at the people around him (his potential rivals for the top job) even if he didn’t know he was doing that at the time. Competitiveness drives these people and they have it so ingrained that they can become unaware of just how competitive they are.
I always advise anyone to try to objectively look at themselves as an entity — like a business — and work out how other people see you. This will always give you ideas for self-improvement.
If you are in business and this doesn’t sound like you, well you now know what you have to work towards.
I have always loved this advice that I suspect came from a US business thinker called Jim Rohn, who once effectively said — work out what you want. Figure out the price. Pay the price!
The great business builders, successful wealth growers and quickly promoted employees have done exactly that.