For years, I have been a voracious reader and student of success, whether it be success in business, career or sport. I have always been intrigued by what separates the good performers and good leaders from the performers and leaders who are exceptional. No matter what field you study, you will find great examples of people who have separated themselves from the pack, and become exceptional in terms of their performance and results.
But what is it that these exceptional people do that leads to these results and how do they sustain this performance? It is also worth noting that there are also many ‘overnight’ successes who enjoy what appears to be great success very quickly, only to be not seen shortly afterwards. One of the most obvious examples of this is the music artist who hits the charts with a great and catchy song however struggles to back it up with a subsequent hit. Or the tennis player who manages to beat the number 1 player in the world, only to lose to a lower ranked player in the following tournament. For some reason, they are unable to replicate their success and sustain it over time. So how is it that great business people, sports people and artists are able to develop and maintain sustained success and move from good to exceptional?
- Firstly, they have an unshakeable belief in their own ability and their ability to handle any challenge. Many would argue that they have a very healthy (and sometimes, overinflated) ego and this is true, however, their ego does not get in their way – it actually underpins their self belief, that enables them to continue to move forward.
- They understand that in order to become masterful at their craft, it will take them around 10,000 hours of practice and application, and so every time they step up to the plate, enter the court, or step onto the field or into the office, they are progressing towards the 10,000 hours and continuing to improve and develop.
- They will surround themselves with trusted and high quality individuals who will hold them accountable and on track. Some people wonder why Roger Federer or Adam Scott have coaches even though they are at the top of their games. Well, these guys realise that coaches help them to identify areas to improve and to capitalise on. The coach provides the disassociated perspective and can bring a pragmatic and emotionless perspective to assist the athlete take their game to another level. They also drive accountability. In fact, all exceptional and successful athletes, business people and artists have a coach or someone to help them remain accountable. It is a non-negotiable.
- They are crystal clear on who they are, what they stand for and what they want to achieve. This means that when they take action, it is very focussed and specific. They understand that time waits for no-one, so they focus on making ‘every post’ a winner, always moving towards a very specific outcome.
- They are exceptionally disciplined in everything they do – some may even call them fastidious and single minded. However, they know that in order to be exceptional and enjoy replicable and sustainable results, they must often do what others are not prepared to do, and many times do things even when they do not feel like it. They will ‘zig’ when everyone else ‘zags’ because they know that going along with the masses is not where their success lies. As a result, they will develop a routine and religiously follow it.
- Further to the point above, the exceptional performer will also do whatever it takes to take their game to another level. This will often equate to extra work or extra effort over and above what is expected. Professional golfer Adam Scott for example will finish a practice session on the golf course and then hit another 100-200 golf balls. It has been said that the great basketball Michael Jordan practiced more than any other basketballer of his generation, always investing a little extra, which over time, makes a massive difference.
- They welcome challenges and ‘defeat’. The exceptional performer understands that there is actually no such thing as failure (unless they quit!) – there is only feedback. And so it is their belief that if they are not hitting obstacles and challenges, they are not growing and therefore they are not getting feedback. Feedback is breakfast of champions!
- Above all else, the exceptional performers have the attitude and mindset that they have never arrived, they are yet to hit their peak and as such, they are continuously striving for improvement, even if that improvement is only 1% – the 1% improvement can often be the difference that makes all the difference. They are dedicated life long learners, always searching for new knowledge and new information, and what separates them though is that they implement the knowledge immediately, they don’t simply acquire knowledge or information.
So if you are currently a high performing individual, in sales, business or in sport, ask yourself what exceptional looks like for you. Are you implementing any of the above points and if not, why not? If you are, congratulations, you are well on your way to being exceptional. Now it is a matter of doing more of it, or re-calibrating and re-loading if you are not quite there.
One thing is for certain though. In order to make the leap from good to exceptional, you will have to get uncomfortable and perhaps challenge yourself like you have never challenged yourself before. And know that it may not be easy, but here is a guarantee – it will most definitely be worth it!
To your exceptional success.
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Darren is a Sales Leadership and Sales Performance Coach, Facilitator & Speaker. He is an experienced and committed coach with a background of sales leadership success in large organisations. He applies a genuine focus to coaching and developing high performing sales leaders who are looking to unleash the potential of themselves and their teams.