‘For most things in life, the range between best and average is 30% or so. The best airplane flight, the best meal, they may be 30% better than your average one…But I [Steve Jobs] realised that A players like to work with A players, they just didn’t like to work with C players.
~ Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
We all like to think that we are beyond the ‘average’ level. What is average? It means, being at an ordinary and OK level. We don’t stand out! Our work standard is not at excellence and we may not stand out to be recognised.
Who do we know who has achieved excellence, or peak performance? Names such as: Steve Jobs who changed the world forever who was the CEO of Apple and Pixar Animation. Jobs oversaw the development of the iMac, iTunes, iPod, iPhone, and iPad, and on the services side, the company’s Apple Retail Stores, iTunes Store and the App Store.
Bill Gates is the former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company, Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavours, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs.
Ray Krok made the name ‘McDonalds’ synonymous with hamburgers all over the world.
J.K. Rowling the “Harry Potter” series of books became the most popular writer in the world – and certainly the richest. She was rejected by almost a dozen publishers before it was finally accepted for publication and became a world-wide phenomenon in publishing history. Rowling was at her lowest point financially when she set out to write the book that turned into a series.
Oprah Winfrey the queen of daytime TV who now pursues opportunities with her OWN cable network, was born to teenage parents who separated after the birth, leaving Oprah to be raised by her grandmother. Living in poverty, she claims to be molested repeatedly by family members as early as the age of 9. As a 14 year old, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son who died at childbirth.
Jesse Owen was a black American track and field athlete who specialized in the sprints and the long jump. As a black person, his family was segregated from white America and was poor. He participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany, where he achieved international fame by winning four gold medals. Adolf Hitler stormed out of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin because Germany had been humiliated by a black man.
On a smaller level, individuals achieve excellence when they work hard and achieve their goals, overcoming obstacles and making personal sacrifices. They do this whilst maintaining their values.
Achieving excellence is beyond professional achievement. It is also about having personal traits of integrity – a moral or ethical principles (for me it’s about doing the right thing) , empathy – seeing the situation from another’s perspective (your staff, client, family member or friend) and treating each person like you would like to be treated. Usually with gentleness and kindness.
Nobody likes to think of themselves as ‘average.’ Yet, this may be the case. Time for some honest truth and self reflection.
OK, how do we start moving to the next level? For each individual, this may be a different degree of development and improvement. That’s OK, as long as one’s goal is to move forward and develop – grow as an individual, and improve their personal and professional level.
What have individuals done to achieve their very best?
1. Pursue professional and personal development
Work on yourself to learn the knowledge and skills. This is an ongoing lifelong process. You will constantly be developing and growing, and be open to new ideas and possibilities. It refines your thinking process, and enables ‘higher’ level thinking and analysis.
Personal development enables you to be the best person you can be with traits that will assist you to move forward. It will develop your attributes and instil self discipline.
The quote below sums up the importance of your character and your future success. I first heard it when I was seeing a movie.
Watch your thoughts; they become words.
Watch your words; they become actions.
Watch your actions; they become habits.
Watch your habits; they become character.
Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.
~ Frank Outlaw (Movie – Iron Lady [on Margaret Thatcher])
2. Have the hunger to achieve excellence
You need to be passionate and want to achieve excellence. It is what you want, is a part of you and almost nothing will stand in the way. You have a strong focus, almost a tunnel vision to achieve and are prepared to work for it – to do whatever it takes (on a moral level!)
You recognise the truth between what you really want and something that is ‘nice’ to have.
To achieve your goal, vision or life purpose, you are being true to yourself. You are setting out to achieve what you recognise is personal and professional expression of who you are.
3. Overcome obstacles
You look at what stands in the way of achieving your goal and are positive with a solution focus. You recognise that sometimes your solution may work, or sometimes you modify your solution. You work at it!
4. Have a mentor or coach
Ask for feedback
Benchmark against the best
A mentor or coach has experience and wisdom to see a broad perspective and see things that we may not be able to see. Our blind spots prevent us from seeing the complete picture and from achieving results.
The role of a mentor or coach is to guide you to achieve excellence and success. The ‘gift’ of honest and objective feedback is valuable to fill one’s perspective on self knowledge or a particular situation. The more feedback you get, the more aware you become, and the better you will become.
Positive people will uplift you and raise your professional level of achievement. Learn from people, from their achievements and mistakes. This will assist your development. Set benchmarks against people with high achievements. Keeping aiming and growing, challenge yourself to raise the benchmarks. This will help ensure that you keep aiming for higher standards.
5. Believe in yourself
Self-belief is paramount to your success. You need to first believe in yourself to reach your goal. You need to have self-confidence for others to believe in you. At times, we all lack confidence. Work on your self talk and confidence to get back on track. Confidence grows as you begin to see results, and over time.
6. Have a plan
Every goal needs a plan to make it come to life, otherwise it’s a dream. Your plan is the roadmap – your strategy, to get you to where you want to go. There is truth in the old saying ‘if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.’ – Benjamin Franklin
7. Be creative on how to achieve your goal
To achieve your goal is never a straightforward process. Think creatively and laterally – outside the square. Open yourself to possibilities to try something new. The old tried way of achieving will only give you average success. Open yourself to new possibilities and the creativity will flow. This is fundamental to your success.
8. Work hard and manage your time strategically
Success does not come without hard work and sacrifices. Once you have decided to work, ensure that you complete the most important tasks first as this is your highest priority. Ask yourself, ‘if you need to complete one task know that will make a difference to your work, what would you need to do?’
Focus your efforts in the areas that will bring you the most results. The value of the 80/20 principle means that you focus on the 20 percent of your activities to produce 80 percent of your results. Identify and focus on the “20 percent that matters”. Don’t just work hard, also work smart on the right things.
Break your tasks into a manageable size so it’s easier to tackle. These tasks form part of a whole. Eventually, you’ll achieve your goal.
Employing such strategies is the only way to achieve results. There is no easy way out, just hard and focussed work. Successful people work hard and work smart, and in the long term the results become evident.
9. Be adaptable
The pace and type of workplace changes in technology, telecommuting, globalisation and the labour market meant that the work environment is constantly changing. As individuals, we need to keep up or risk being left behind. Being adaptable means being responsive to a new situation, essentially, keeping up with the times.
Adaptable workers usually demonstrate an open mind, listen to alternative ideas and come up with creative or innovative ways to solve problems.
Adaptable workers find more employment and promotion opportunities because many people lack these critical skills.
10. Never give up
The notion of not giving up and believing in yourself was quoted in a light hearted movie that I saw.
‘Everything is okay in the end, if it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.’ Unknown (Movie – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)
If you believe in your passion, commit to the journey. It will bring out qualities in you that will hold you in high esteem for now and the future.
11. Enjoy what you are doing and find your passion
By focusing on what you enjoy doing, and the things that come easy to you, you’ll become the best ‘you’ possible. Your passion will motive and drive you to greatness.
Written by Leah Shmering
Leah Shmerling is the Director and Principal Consultant of Crown Coaching and Training, and has over 30 years experience in career development, life coaching, education and training. Leah holds a Master in Professional Education and Training, Graduate Diploma in Career Development, and Certificates in Life Coaching, Mediation Skills, and Psychodrama.
Published author of 2 books and former freelance writer for Herald Sun – where I wrote in Education, then The Age – wrote in Education, Employment and had a few articles published in Business
Leah is a professional member of the Career Development Association Australia (CDAA), a professional member of Australian Career Professionals International (ACPi-Aus). Her international accreditation with the Institute of Career Certification International is currently under consideration.
For further information and to contact:
Leah Shmerling – Director & Principal Consultant – Crown Coaching and Training
T: +61 (0) 412 940 902 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org