Ruth’s Truth: It’s no longer enough to be good at your job. Lots of people are good. The competition is fierce and the market increasingly crowded with good workers. Today, if you want to advance, you have to be great. Albert Einstein great. Oscar and Pulitzer winning great. Super Bowl and Stanley Cup great. Aretha Franklin great. You get the picture.
What you may not get is what’s necessary to achieve greatness. So here’s a secret: You do not have to be a genius or even have a high IQ. You just have to have a passion for your area of expertise and practice until you’re blue in the face. This is what every masterful professional knows. The other thing they know is most of their competitors won’t do what it takes, creating a tremendous opportunity for those who do.
Actors and athletes become skilled through repetition. 5 hours of practicing a single scene, 5 hours of a single passage, 5 hours of foul shots. Daily for weeks and months and years on end. Scientists must constantly experiment through failure after failure. Yet they persist.
But how does this type of practice translate to a more traditional workplace?
During the typical office workday, there are so many tasks it’s hard to know what to focus on. Furthermore, the distractions are legion and growing. This is where most people get tripped up (including me and no, I’m not going to give you any advice on turning off your devices. I never advise people to do things I don’t or won’t do). What I will suggest is that you focus your practice on the 2 or 3 tasks that will advance you. These fit into two categories: Technical and communication. You need the technical skills to do the job. You need the communication skills to persuade people to give you what you need to continue your pursuit of technical mastery and to teach others. In both categories, you must be willing to stretch and take risks, which is frightening. I’ve come to believe this is why most people won’t excel. They don’t want the discomfort the fear causes.
People are often surprised when I share my own experiences of getting to mastery. They often don’t want to hear that I practice constantly, read for hours, stretch myself, and scare myself half to death in the process!
There is another discomfort, too, which is the tedium and boredom that sets in when practicing a task over and over again. Progress can be glacial and it’s difficult to stick with it when improvement is so slow that you don’t think you’ll ever get there. Which brings me to the other thing: greatness takes patience. In our age of instant gratification, people have lost this ability.
Ready to be world class? Here are 5 performance mindset steps:
- Identify your passions.
- Select 2 technical skills and 1 communication skill you want to improve.
- Practice them every day – until you’re “blue in the face” – knowing it will be tedious and boring.
- Take risks, push through your fears, and deal with the discomfort.
- Be patient. You will improve.
Greatness is not reserved for the pre-ordained few. It’s there for you but only if you do the work. If you want help with the communication piece of your journey, I’m here for you.