High Performance Habits: The #1 Thing 2 (part 22 of 22)

Practice #3: Enjoy Connecting

Simply put, high performers have learn the tremendous value in relating with others. They’ve discovered that it is by connecting with others that they learn more about themselves and the world. It’s their connection with others that inspires greater congruence and competence. You know this, too. The more you work with others, the more you learn new ways of thinking, new skills, new ways of serving. That hit of learning is what high performers told me gives them so much drive to engage.

This is an important distinction, especially if you don’t consider yourself a “people person.” It doesn’t matter whether you are natural with others. What matters is this: “Do you want to learn from others? Will you take the time to do it? Will you genuinely try to engage someone and learn about how they think, what they need, what they stand for?” If you can summon that curiosity and talk to enough people with that intention, you will gain confidence. At least, that’s what high performers have shared with us.

High performers’ confidence, then, comes from a mindset that says, “I know I’ll do well with others because I’ll be genuinely interested in them because I want to learn.” In my interviews, no one said the opposite: “I know I’ll do well with others because I’ll make them genuinely interested in me, because I want to teach them who I am.” They are not thinking about their “elevator pitch” or what they have to tell everyone as much as about what they might learn or how they can serve. Confidence comes less from projection than from connection.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. The main reason I want to become better with people is …
  2. I know I’ll become more confident with people when I …
  3. To gain more confidence with people, from now on when I talk with them, I’ll think to myself …

 

A Formula and Farewell for Now

As you reflect these three confidence builders – competence, congruence, and connection – perhaps you’ve noticed an underlying theme. What drove the development for high performers in each of these areas was curiosity. It was curiosity that developed their knowledge, skills and abilities. Curiosity drove their self-examination. You have to ask a lot of questions of yourself to see whether you’re living a congruent life. Curiosity made them want to seek out others. Perhaps, then, there is a formula at play:

Curiosity x (Competence + Congruence + Connection) = Confidence

The promise of this equation is that you don’t have to pretend to be superhuman. You just have to care enough to learn new things, to live in alignment with who you want to become, and take interest in others. You’ll feel better about yourself, and research shows that curiosity itself can improve your well-being. Curiosity is the electric arc for life bright with joy and vibrancy. To get there, you just have to start conditioning the internal dialogue that says …

  • I know what to do and how to add value here (or at least I believe in my ability to figure things out and I’m willing to go for it)
  • I know I’m living in alignment with the person I want to become.
  • I know I’ll do well with others, because I’m genuinely interested in learning about them and serving them. 

I don’t pretend that becoming more confident or reaching high performance will be easy. Throughout this book, I’ve shared that the journey to becoming more extraordinary in life will always be brought with struggle. But as I’ve also shared, ease is not the objective in personal development; growth is. So anticipate and honor the fact that it’s going to be difficult to implement the habits and practices of this book.

  1. Seek Clarity on who you want to be, how you want to interact with others, and what will bring meaning into your life.
  2. Generate Energy so you can sustain focus, effort, and well-being. To stay on your A game, you’ll need to care actively for your mental stamina, physical energy, and positive emotions.
  3. Raise the Necessity of your level of performance. This means actively tapping into the reasons you must perform well, based on a mix of your internal standards (e.g., your identity, beliefs, values, or expectations for excellence) and external demands (e.g. social obligations, competition, public commitments).
  4. Increase Productivity in our primary field of interest. Specifically, you’ll need to focus on “prolific quality output” (PQO) in the area in which you want to be know and to drive impact. You’ll also have to minimize distractions (or opportunities) that steal your attention from creating PQO.
  5. Develop Influence with those around you so you can get them to believe in and support your efforts and ambitions. Without a positive support network, major achievements over the long haul are all but impossible.
  6. Demonstrate Courage by expressing your ideas, taking bold action, and standing up for yourself and others even in the face of fear, uncertainty, or changing conditions.

Seek clarity. Generate energy. Raise necessity. Increase productivity. Develop influence. Demonstrate courage. These are the six habits that you need to adopt to reach high performance and stay there. These are the habits that will make you more confident in life and even more extraordinary.

From now on, before every meeting you go into, before every phone call, before you start any new project or pursue any new goal, revisit the six habits.

I hope you wake up each day and decide to practice the habits that will make you proud of your life. I hope that as you endeavor to live an extraordinary life, you bring the joy and honor the struggle and seek to serve others. I hope that as you look back one day, having reached a level of performance you could never have dreamed of, you can say that you wanted it, you worked for it, you willed it to happen – that you never gave up and you never will. You became extraordinary because you chose to.

That reality, I believe, is something available to each of us. Now go earn it. 

High Performance Habits: The #1 Thing 1 (part 21 of 22)

We’ve measured over a hundred variables in search of which habits matter most in high performance. We’ve asked high performers almost every conceivable questions bout how they got so extraordinary. We’ve also sought to find out what matters most in the increasing overall HPI scores and scores in each habit area proven to correlate with high performance. And so far nothing we’ve found correlates with high performance scores across the board more than confidence. Confidence is the secret ingredient that makes you rise to the challenge.

But this doesn’t mean confidence alone causes high performance. You can have all the self-confidence in the world, but if you don’t practice the high performance habits, the odds of long-term success aren’t so good. It’s clear from our research that to become extraordinary, you need strong confidence and high performance habits.

But where does the kind of confidence that improves performance come from? What, specifically, do high performers do to gain and maintain confidence as they deal with life’s challenges and take on ever greater goals?

The 3 C’s of Confidence

High performers do have more confidence than most people, but not by birthright, luck, or superhuman skill. What I found was that high performers simply thought about things that gave them more confidence than others, more often did things that gave them more confidence than others, and avoided things that drain confidence more often than others did, They almost universally reported that their confidence came from purposeful thinking and action.

Practice #1: Develop Competence

While most people think of confidence as a general belief in oneself, the kind of confidence that it most tied to performance improvement comes from belief in one’s abilities in a specific task. This means that the more knowledge, skill, ability, or talent – that is, competence – you have at a given task, the more likely you are to be confident and perform well. I’ve been teaching about this “confidence-competence loop” since 1997, and I’m continually surprised at how much it comes up in conversations with high performers.

The idea here is that the more competence you get at any given task, the more confident you’ll become in trying it more often – and the more you’ll stretch yourself. That repetition and stretching leads to more learning, which gives you more competence. More competence, then, begets more confidence, and round and round it goes.

In the chapter on productivity, I covered how to get super-competent at any skill through practicing progressive mastery. So let me move on to another distinction in this area. High performers have confidence not only because of past skill acquired in a specific area, but equally from trust in their ability to gain future competence. That is, they reported that their confidence was not tied to one specific competency but rather to a belief that they could adequately handle things in the future – even if they had no experience. Their confidence came from belief in their power of learning in general.

High performers are learners, and their belief that they can learn what is necessary to win in the future gives them as much confidence as their current skill sets. 

Having learned so many things in the past, they trust they can do it again. In this way, it became clear that the internal voice of a higher performer is saying, “I believe in my ability to figure things out.” It’s a bit circular but no less true: The key competency that gives high performers confidence is the ability to quickly gain understanding or skill in new situations. In other words, the competency that matters is the ability to become competent.

High performers ponder the lessons from their wins. They give credit to themselves, and they allow those wins to integrate into their psyche and give them greater strength. 

That’s what, as you strive, it’s important that you begin a practice of reflecting on your progress and your new learning. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to think about all the great things you did and learned this year. I recommend you spend at least thirty minutes every Sunday reflecting on the previous week. What did you learn? What did you handle well? What do you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for? As simplistic as this may sound, it can have a profound effect in helping you gain more confidence.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. The competences – knowledge, skills, abilities, or talents – that I have worked hard to cultivate in my life include …
  2. If I gave myself credit for learning all those things, I would start to feel more …
  3. Something I’ve learned to do in the past few years that I have not yet given myself credit for is …
  4. I feel that I can handle a big challenge in my life right now because I am good at learning how to …
  5. A practice I’ll begin doing every week to help me start feeling more confident is …

 

Practice #2: Be Congruent

It’s hard to be congruent. Naturally, different parts of us are engaged at different times. Our identity, personality, states, and standards may vary from one context to the next. We might be a rock star at work but a janitor at home. We may be fun, exciting, and playful with our best friends but shy and reserved in bed. We can be aggressive in one situation, then fail to be assertive when it counts. Variance in who we are in any given context is natural and, despite what some would have you believe, healthy. Life we be terribly unhealthy (not to mention boring) if we were exactly the same all the time.

To feel more congruent, though, we will have to be more conscious about who we are and what kind of life we want to live. We will have to be conscious in crafting and maintaining our identity.

All this requires conscious choice and work. Maybe someone didn’t light the candle of love for you when you were younger, so your’e always had the identity of someone who isn’t or could not be loved. Now, as an adult, you can consciously choose to light that candle for yourself. Perhaps you were never given the attention or respect you desired. Now is the time to give it to yourself. Maybe no one every instilled in you the confidence that made you feel you could shape or shake the world with your power. Give that confidence to yourself. This is the path to constructing your own identity.

They shaped their identity by conscious will and have aligned their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to support that identity. 

The more days they live in congruence with who they have chosen to become, the more they feel a sense of general confidence in life. I heard it over an dover again in interviews: “I decided to break free from my parents {or my job or my old relationships} and do what I really wanted to do.” “I finally chose to seek work that was more me.” ” I started living with greater intention.”

If you can understand the power of congruence, then you can understand why the habit of seeking clarity is so important to confidence. You can’t be congruent with something you’ve never defined. No clarity, no congruence, no confidence. It’s that simple. That’s why I encourage you to revisit the chapter on clarity and remember to fill out the Clarity Chart each week. Enter each week with intention for who you want to be, then align your actions with that self-image, and you’ll gain greater confidence.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. The person I really want to be in life could be described as …
  2. Three things I could do each week is live more congruently with that vision for myself include …
  3. Three things I should definitely stop doing in my life so I can live in greater congruence with my ideal image of myself are …

High Performance Habits: Beware Three Traps 3 (part 20 of 22)

Overreaching

Now you have a new tool to avoid becoming oblivious as you continue to rise. The next issue, overreaching, is a little trickier to deal with.

According to the high performers who failed to maintain their success, overreaching was a problem that stemmed from an insatiable desire for more, couple with an unrealistic sense of what is possible in a short time frame, which led to overcommitment. In other words, it was an issue of going for too much, too fast, in too many domains.

Their lesson learned was clear. When you’re good, you want to take on more. But beware the impulse. High performance isn’t about more for the sake of more, just because you can. It’s often about less – zeroing in on just those few things that matter and protecting your time and well-being so you can truly engage those around you, enjoy your craft, and confidently handle your responsibilities. Focus on just a few things and the people and priorities yo really care about, and you won’t fall prey to overreaching. Broaden your ambitions too widely, and your appetite soon outstrips your abilities. Hence the importance of reminding yourself that the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Slow down, be more strategic, and say no more often. … So what, exactly do we mean by “slow down”? First, rather than live a reactive lifestyle, you take ownership of your day. When the successes pile up, it’s easy to spend time responding to invitations and calls and well-wishers’ requests. Suddenly, the day has cruised by and you haven’t done anything. You feel successful, but nothing is really happening except new meetings. Slowing down means taking the time to care about your schedule – doing what you’ve learned in this book about reviewing your calendar and to-dos each night, each morning, each week.

It also means saying no to the good things that would stretch your day too far. if a good opportunity comes up but it’s going to rob you of a few nights’ sleep, force you to cancel strategic moves you planned long ago, or knock you out of time with your family, then just say no. Cramming your day so full that you have no time for thought or rejuvenation just makes you tired and irritable. And no one credits fatigue and a bad mood for their world-class performance.

To help you discern between the yeses an dos, you have to start thinking more strategically. Strategic thinking means stripping things down to the essentials and planning their accomplishment out over months and years. This is hard, but you have to weigh opportunities differently now, measuring them against a much longer horizon. You can’t think just about how flashy something is this month. You have to be executing against a plan – your five moves – that’s already in place for the next several months. If the new thing you want to commit to doesn’t strategically move you toward your end goals, it must be delayed. Most opportunities in life that are really worthwhile and meaningful will still be here six months from now. If that’s hard to believe, it’s just because you’re new to success. So slow down; say no more often; be more strategic. Don’t let obliviousness to what really matters, or reaching for what doesn’t, slow down all your hard-won momentum.

Don’t forget what got you here … One last simple reminder: Don’t forget the positive habits that brought you to this level of success, and do not neglect the habits that you now know will take you to the next level.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. An area where I am neglecting someone or something important in my life is …
  2. An area where that neglect will cause me regret later on is …
  3. An area where I can now return my focus, reallocating my attention to things that matter, is …
  4. Some areas in my life where I feel overcommitted right now are …
  5. The things I need to learn to say no to more often are …
  6. An opportunity I really want to chase right now that I could schedule to revisit in a few months is …
  7. The main things moving the needle toward my success that I should be focused on right now, despite all the other exciting interests and opportunities I could chase, are …
  8. The way I’ll remind myself not to take on too much is …

Tough Truths

The culprits tha steal your success are not lack of values or intelligence. The culprits are ultimately allocations of attention. You feel separate from others, so you stop paying attention to feedback, diverse viewpoints, new was of doing things. You get so good that you start noticing only what’s wrong, and a constant state of disappointment drains your passion. You rationalize neglecting one area of life so you can get ahead, saying it will be “worth it,” so you stop focusing on what really matters in life.

None of these things has to be your reality

Superiority, dissatisfaction, and neglect are your enemies. Let them invade your life, and you lose. Be vigilant, avoid them, and practice your HP6, and all will be well.

It’s always a difficult truth when we notice ourselves behaving in the negative ways we’ve discussed in this chapter. But if sustaining success is important to you, I encourage you to revisit this chapter often. It will keep you humble, satisfied, and focused. And it will allow you and others to enjoy what should be an extraordinary life and a joyous ascent to high performance.

High Performance Habits: Beware Three Traps 2 (part 19 of 22)

Trap #2: Dissatisfaction

Those who are never satisfied are never at peace. They can’t tune in to their zone – the noise of a dissatisfied mind prevents them from finding a rhythm that makes them feel alive and effective.

Ultimately, the dark, exhausting, negative emotional prison that is constant dissatisfaction saps performance. Perennial dissatisfaction is the first step on the path to misery.

If dissatisfaction is so detrimental to performance, why do so many people think you have to be dissatisfied to succeed? Because it feels natural and automatic. It’s easy to be dissatisfied, because noticing what’s wrong in a situation is a habit of evolution.

The reason I push so hard against the “never be satisfied” credo extends beyond the empirical research. Simply, this thinking has little to no practical value, because the emphasis is in the wrong area. It’s pointing in a statement rather than a positive direction. When you speak to people who are fond of that instruction, and ask them to turn it into a positive takeaway, they say such things as “Stay motivated”; “Notice what’s not working and improve it”; “Care about perfecting the details”; “Set your sights on bigger goals as you grow”; “Keep moving forward.” The truth is, you can do all these things and still be satisfied. Seeking excellence and experiencing satisfaction are not mutually exclusive.

Being satisfied, then, doesn’t mean “settling.” It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is.

So how can you avoid performance-sapping dissatisfaction? I suggest a big-picture reminder: Life is short, so decide to enjoy it. Instead of discontent, bring joy and honor to what you do. I promise you’ll start feeling more alive, motivated, and fulfilled.

In this moment now, you can breathe deep and finally, after all this time, give yourself love and appreciation. To help you on this journey, try this:

  • Start journaling at the end of each day. Write down three things that went well or better than expected that day. Write about any progress or blessings that you feel grateful for. It’s such simple but essential advice to keep a high performer performing high: Start noticing what’s going well, appreciate your blessings, enjoy the journey, and record your wins.
  • Get your family or team together once a week for no other reason than to talk about what’s working, what are people excited about, what difference your efforts are making in real people’s lives.
  • Start meetings by asking others to share one great thing that has happened that can give the team a sense of joy, pride, and fulfillment.

These are simple steps, but they will matter to the people you love and lead.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. The areas of my life I’ve felt consistently dissatisfied with include …
  2. Some good things that have also happened in those areas include …
  3. Something I can say to myself the next time I feel dissatisfied, to get me to notice the good things and continue moving forward, is …
  4. Someone who probably sees me dissatisfied more than I want them to is …
  5. If I were going to inspire that person to believe you can enjoy life as you work hard and succeed, I would have to change these behaviors …

 

Trap #3: Neglect

Neglect, like the other traps of superiority and disappointment, sneaks up on you. You don’t say to yourself, “I’m going to neglect my health, my family, my team, my responsibilities, my real passions and dreams.” It’s more that passion or busyness blinds you to what’s important, just long enough for things to fall apart.

Often, then, it’s not what you do that unseats you from high performance, but was you don’t do. In single-minded pursuit of achievement and mastery in one area of life, you take your eyes off the other areas. Soon, those areas fight back for more attention. This si the story of those who work so hard in their career that they keep forging their spouse’s needs. Soon, the marriage is in turmoil, the high performer feels awful, and performance declines. Switch this example out with neglect of one’s health, children, friendships, spirituality, or finances, and you still have the same story: Obsession in one area of life hurts another area, setting off a negative cascade of events and feelings that eventually unseats the high performer.

I want you to avoid this fate. The good news is, it’s tactically easy to avoid neglect. The bad news is, it requires  difficult and often dramatic mental shift. Before I share the how part, let me share two distinctions about why high performers neglect something important to them in the first place.

Obliviousness

Obliviousness is the less used excuse of the two, but a destructive culprit nonetheless. It means you are so focused in one area that you are completely unaware of the growing problems in another. High performers who started losing explain it by saying, “I was so obsessed with work, I honestly didn’t realize I was getting so fat.” Or “She just up and left one day. I was blindsided and hated myself for it.” Or “That’s when I realized my team had been telling me the same things for months, but I was too busy to pay attention.”

Part of the reason it’s so painful is that the things that they believe help the climb to success – hard work, focus, and persistence – became the very things that caused their demise.

The chapters on clarity and influence will help you avoid obliviousness. Also, you might want to recall and implement the life arenas activity from the chapter on productivity:

The solution is to keep perspective in life by keeping an eye on the quality or progress of the major life arenas. A simple weekly review of what we’re after in the major areas of our life helps us rebalance or at least plan for more balance.

I’ve found it useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship, mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion. When I’m working with clients, I often have them rate their happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 and also write their goals in each of these ten arenas every Sunday night.

 

High Performance Habits: Beware Three Traps 1 (part 18 of 22)

BEWARE THREE TRAPS

BEWARE SUPERIORITY
BEWARE DISSATISFACTION
BEWARE NEGLECT

This is a chapter about failure. But not just any kind of failure. It’s about the calamitous fall from grace that high performers can experience when they get so good that they forgot what made them successful.

  1. When high performers fall from grace, the most frequent culprits (aside from failing to practice the habits you’ve learned in this book) came down to three things.
  2. When high performers rose back up, the habits in this book were the vehicle for that ascension.
  3. When high performers describe such an up-and-down journey, they clearly never want to make the same mistakes again. The fall was that painful. When you fail at the beginning of journey, it’s frustrating. When you fail hard after making it for so many years, it feels immeasurably worse.

So what were the three things that caused high performers to fall out of prolonged success? Let’s start with what didn’t cause them to fail:

  • Fear was not the issue.
  • Competence was not an issue.
  • Other people were not the issue.
  • Creativity was not the issue.
  • Motivation was not the issue.
  • Resources were not the issue. 

These issues could certainly be fair and understandable reasons for people to fail. But what I’ve learned from high performers is that these just aren’t the real failure points of sustained performance. The real traps are internal – negative patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that slowly kill our humanity, zest, and well-being. The traps are superiority, dissatisfaction, and neglect.

 

Trap #1: Superiority

High performers face a unique set of character traps because they are, by definition, outperforming so many around them. When you are succeeding beyond others, it’s easy to get a big head. You can begin to think you’re special, separate from, better than, or more important than other people. … This is a way of thinking that you must avoid at all costs.

Here’s how to know when superiority has infiltrated you mind:

  1. You think you are better than another person or group.
  2. You’re so amazingly good at what you do that you don’t feel you need feedback, guidance, diverse viewpoints, or support.
  3. You feel that you automatically deserve people’s admiration or compliance because of who you are, what position you hold, or what you’ve accomplished.
  4. You feel that people don’t understand you, so all those fights and failures are surely not your fault – it’s that “they” just can’t appreciate your situation or the demands, obligations, or opportunities you have to sort through daily.

When any of these realities is a constant in your life, you’ve begun the decline, even if you don’t know it yet. What these thoughts have in common is a sense of separateness. You just feel so much more capable or accomplished than others that, in your mind, there is you at the top and then everyone else.

When we’re facing any of these difficulties, it’s easy to feel that were’ the only one going through the struggle. But that feeling is pure illusion. There is no human emotion or situation you are counting with that someone, somewhere, cannot understand if you are vulnerable and real an open enough to share your thoughts, feelings, and challenges. Yes, you can keep telling yourself that your spouse can’t possibly understand, and if you never try, that will be self-fulfilling prophecy. … Their lack of understanding only grows in your silence.

A few more points about the lonely-at-the-top syndrome, just because it’s just so corrosive:

First, I’ve rarely met a high performer who thinks they’re “at the top.” Most feel like you’re just getting started. … They understand they’re still students of life, and no matter how stellar their success, they feel that they’re just a few steps in on the path of mastery. This is a widely held attitude with the top scorers of our assessments whom I interviewed.

Second, here’s a special reminder if you have begun dismissing other people’s capabilities. You can’t maximize your potential while minimizing others. What you have attained in life isn’t because your’e all that special, but because you’re all that blessed. The reality is that a large part of the differentiation in performance at you level comes down to the habits we’ve discussed – which anyone can begin implementing – augmented by exposure, training, practice, and access to excellence-driven mentors, coaches, or role models. That’s why I often have to remind the superior minded: You are not better than anyone. You likely got more exposure to your topic; you had more information or opportunity available to you; you got trained better; you had the opportunity to put in more passion or deliberate practice over more time; you had the opportunity to receive good feedback and guidance. These things are not inherent to who you are. These things, if given to anther person, would help them rise to your level. True? (If you don’t answer yes, please shake hands with your ego.)

This warrants the simplest of remedies: Don’t just others as below you or separate from you. Your frustration with people is coming from a forgetfulness that almost everyone could succeed at a higher level if they had more exposure, training, practice, and access to excellence-driven mentors, coaches, or role models. Remember, everything is trainable. That doesn’t mean everyone will request the training, put in the hard work, reach number one, or have as much grit as you. But everyone is capable of success. Everyone can win at life. So let’s be honest: You were once a mess, too, or did you forget already? But you improved. Give others that same opportunity. When you remember that you, too, struggled, and you remind yourself that others can dramatically improve themselves, that’s when you start to be more compassionate. That’s when you start to beat back any hint of a superiority complex.

So what’s the solution? I’ve found that the first step is always awareness. You have to be alert and catch yourself when you start thinking you are separate from tother for any reason. Second, you need to develop habits that will help you stay humble and open even as you get better at what you do.

How do you stay humble? … You begin developing a more open and test-oriented mindset by flipping the earlier examples:

  1. To avoid thinking you’re superior to others, deliberately seek others’ ideas for improving anything you do: If you could improve on my idea, how would you go about it?
  2. If you find that your thinking is not being challenged enough or your growth has topped out, hire a coach, trainer, or therapist.
  3. To avoid thinking you automatically deserve people’s admiration or compliance just because of who you are, where you came from, or what you’ve accomplished, remind yourself that trust is earned through caring for others, not bragging about yourself.
  4. Instead of believing that people don’t understand you and that they are to blame for the fits and failures in your life, take ownership of your actions by reflecting on your role.
  5. Keep a practice for reminding yourself of your blessings.

These suggestions will help keep you humble, effective, and respectful. That’s how you sustain success, and that’s how you build a life you can be proud of.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. A recent situation where I found myself being overly critical or dismissive of others was …
  2. The thoughts I had about myself in that situation and others involved were …
  3. Had I reimagined the situation from a more humble and appreciative view, I would probably have realized that …
  4. The best way I can remind myself that everyone is dealing with difficulties in life and that we’re all more alike than we are different is …

High Performance Habits: #6 Demonstrate Courage 3 (part 17 of 22)

Practice Three: Find Someone to Fight For

We will do more for others than for ourselves. And in doing something for others, we find our reason for courage, and our cause for focus and excellence.

Each of the highest performing people I interviewed told me about someone who inspired him to excel. They all had a reason, and that reason was often a person, not always a purpose or a group of people. Most often, just one person. Sometimes, it was more than one: their kids, their employees, their extended family, their community’s need. But more often than not, it was just one. 

Sometimes, courage appears to be a spontaneous act. But what I have found is that it’s usually an expression or action built up from years of caring deeply about something or someone. So begin seeking things and people you care about. Give. Care deeply about something now. Stand up for something now. And then you will be more likely to find courage when it matters.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. A courageous action I will take this week because someone I love needs me to take it is …
  2. Another courageous action I will take this week, because a cause I believe in needs me to take it, is …
  3. Another courageous action I will take this week, because my dream requires it of me, is …

 

Courage Through Complexity

Just as the universe doesn’t become less complex, life doesn’t tend to get easier. But you get stronger. You learn to show up more, cope better, and be truer and more conscious amid the judgement and hardship. Soon, the obstacles do begin to seem smaller and the path seems more your own. So no matter what happens, trust in yourself and lean forward. The next level opens after your next courageous step.

And here’s what I’ve learned: For most people, courageous acts are indeed rare events. But we remember those acts, and they shape our sense of ourselves and our lives as much as the small stuff. And so I ask you to consider the questions below often, to ready your mind for even more courage. Only by conditioning ourselves now will we truly serve with grace and courage when called.

  • What in my personal life have I avoided doing, which might involve hardship but just might improve my family’s lives forever?
  • What could I do at work that would require stepping out on a limb but would also truly change things for the better and help people?
  • What decision could I make that would demonstrate a moral commitment to something higher than myself?
  • How could I bring myself to face a situation that usually makes me nervous or anxious?
  • What change could I make that scare me but will help someone I love?
  • What good thing could I walk away from to advance my life?
  • What have I wanted to say to those close to me, and when and how will I courageously declare that truth?
  • Who needs me, and who will I fight for the rest of this year?

These questions might spur some brave thinking and action today. Ask them enough, and practice the habits in this chapter, and you’ll come to this truth: Deep down, away from all the noise, where love blankets your heart and your dreams lie in wait, you are not afraid.

High Performance Habits: #6 Demonstrate Courage 2 (part 16 of 22)

Practice Two: Share Your Truth and Ambitions

In The Motivation Manifesto, I argued that it is the main motivation of humankind to be free, to express our true selves and pursue our dreams without restriction – to experience what my be called personal freedom. Our spirits share when we feel unencumbered by fear or the weight of conformity. When we live our truth – expressing who we really are, how we really feel, what we really desire and dream of – then we are authentic; we are free. This requires courage.

But for anyone who doubts or diminishes you, forget about it. Don’t bother trying to please them. Live a life that is yours. Don’t seek the approval of the doubters. You’ll find no lasting joy in seeking acknowledgement from others. If it comes, it’ll never be enough. So the only path left is to express your own truth and pursue your own dreams.

Minimizing Ourselves

One thing I didn’t expect from readers of The Motivation Manifesto was a different kind of fear in sharing their truth. Many people wrote in and said they weren’t worried that others would judge them as insufficient; they were worried that by being their best, they would make others feel insufficient. They were fearful of expressing their true ambitions, joy, and powers, because the people around them could feel bad about themselves.

They felt they had to minimize their dreams, keep their big ideas bottled up, dumb themselves down, tone it down, look down – all so others could feel good about themselves.

So please stay with me. I have no doubt that accessing the next level of courage in your life requires a new degree of openness and honesty about who you are, what you want, and what you’re really capable of and ready to do. All that stands in your way is that fearful part of you that feels like minimizing yourself so that you don’t make others feel bad. But don’t for one minute think that’s humility. That’s lying about your real ambitions. That’s apologizing for the gifts that God, the universe, fortune, or hard work – take your pick – blessed you with. And it’s insidious. Unless you choose to let it go, that fear will forever prevent you from feeling truly authentic and fulfilled and living out your real potential. It will drive you to lower your sights and miss out on excellence – and for what, exactly?

You may think, People will be threatened by my drive and desire. They might not like my ambitions. They might make fun of me. So I’d best keep quiet. It’s better to downgrade my ambition or work ethic, anyway.

I’ve heard every version and permutation of that misbegotten idea. But I want to say it again and etch it on your mind: This kind of thinking is not humility, my friend. It’s fear. It’s lying. It’s suppressing. It’s adolescent concern. And it will destroy any real aliveness and authenticity in your relationships. I know, it may feel better in the short term to minimize yourself so someone else can feel good about themselves, but consider this: No one wants to be in connection with a fake person. 

Look. If you’re gulping back your real thoughts and dreams just to “fit in” or make others feel better, then you can’t blame them or anyone else. Because it’s you choking yourself. And while you’re at it, you’re squeezing the life out of your relationships.

No one can quiet you without your permission. No one can minimize your self-image but you. And no one can up you up and release your full power but you.

You can always blame “them” for your failure to be real and vulnerable. Or you can choose this very day to start speaking up and living in full, even though some may not like it. Will some people make fun of you? Might a person you love doubt you ar leave you? Could your teammates call you crazy and marginalize you? Can your neighbors or fans turn on you for wanting “more than you deserve?” To each of these questions, yes. But which is nobler: falling dutifully in line with what everyone wants, or speaking up for what’s right for you? Ultimately, you must ask which your life is about: fear or freedom? One choice is the cage. The other – that’s courage.

I see this all the time. A successful person fails to achieve the next level of success because they chose to strive in silence. They don’t want to share or speak up. They’re trying to be “appropriate,” “realistic,” “level-headed.” They’re trying to make others “happy” or “comfortable.” And so they have these brilliant ideas, and not only do they not share them, they make the most lethal mistake of all: They don’t ask for help. If you don’t ask for help, the right people can’t come into your life. So if the universe isn’t giving you was you want, perhaps it’s because amid all your distractions and silence, the universe just doesn’t know what you’re asking for.

The people who are in your life for the right reasons will list to your truth. They’ll applaud your ambition. They’ll be happy to meet the person behind the face. They’ll thank you for sharing, for being real, for trusting them. Trust others with your truth, and the golden values of real friendship and love reveal themselves like lost treasures.

To find even more courage, remind yourself that you owe it to those who have supported you in the past. Stay strong in recognition of the strength they have given you. As a gift to all those who have been good to you, don’t complain; act. Don’t criticize; cheerlead. Don’t conform; live your truth. Don’t be selfish; serve. Don’t take the easy path; strive for growth and an extraordinary life.

The Simple Conversations

The most important thing in connecting authentically with others is to share your true desires with them. They don’t have to approve or help or even brainstorm with you. This isn’t about them. This is about you having the courage to open to others just as the universe remains open to you. Try it. Each day, reveal to others a little bit more of what you’re thinking, feeling, dreaming of. Even if you don’t get the immediate support of the humans in front of you, who knows? Perhaps a distant force is unlocked and the necessary ripples in time and luck and destiny converge and deliver to your door a hint about the next step – a treasure map of sorts, unearthed by your own courage.

This habit doesn’t take shape by a single momentous conversation with everyone you know. You don’t have to sit everyone you love down and tell them all the reasons you’ve been holding back from them and from life. You don’t have to shoot a video explaining your entire life and philosophy. Instead, just make it daily practice to be sharing your thoughts and goals and feelings with others. Every day, share something with someone about what you really think and want in life. You could say “You know, honey, today I was thinking about starting X because I’d love to Y.” for example:

  • I was thinking about researching how to write a book, because I think I have a story worth telling.
  • I was thinking about starting to hit the gym every morning, because I’d love to feel more vital and alive.
  • I was thinking about starting to look for another job, because I’d love to feel more passionate and appreciated.
  • I was thinking about starting to cold-call some new coaches, because I’m ready to compete at a higher level.

These are simple statements. It’s a simple formula. What do you want to share? Whatever it is, share it. Then take bold action each day to bring it to reality.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. Something I really want todo that I haven’t shared with enough people is …
  2. If I were going to be more “me” in my everyday life, I would start to …
  3. When I put myself out there and someone makes fun of me, I’m just going to …
  4. A major dream I’m going to start telling people about and asking for some help with is …

High Performance Habits: #6 Demonstrate Courage 1 (part 15 of 22)

DEMONSTRATE COURAGE

HONOR THE STRUGGLE
SHARE YOUR TRUTH AND AMBITIONS
FIND SOMEONE TO FIGHT FOR

Many Kinds of Courage

It’s useful to have a look at the different kinds of courage so we can think through them.

  • There’s physical courage, when you put yourself in harm’s way to meet a noble goal.
  • Moral courage is speaking up for others or enduring hardship for what you believe is right, to serve the greater good.
  • Psychological courage is the act of facing or overcoming your own anxieties, insecurities, and mental fears.
  • Everyday courage could mean keeping a positive attitude or taking action despite great uncertainty, bad health, or hardship

While none of these types of courage are definitive or mutually exclusive, the terms are useful in conceptualizing courage.

The important thing is that you define what being more courageous means to you, and start living that way. … You are capable of remarkable things that you could never foretell and will ever discover without taking action.

If your future best self – a version of you ten years older, who is even stronger, more capable, and more successful than you imagined yourself to be – showed up on your doorstep today and looked at your current circumstances, what courageous action would that future self advise you to take right away to change your life? How would your future self tell you to live?

 

Practice One: Honor the Struggle

If we’re ever going to develop the strength that courage requires, we’ll have to get better at dealing with life’s basic challenges. We’ll ave to stop getting so annoyed and start seeing the struggle as part of growing our character. We must learn to honor the struggle.

We’re surrounded by memes and media an influencers telling us we’re not supposed to struggle, that life should just be an easy flow or we’re on the wrong track. Imagine what that’s doing to our abilities. Imagine what that is doing to our odds of ever taking courageous action.

If we keep telling people to do what’s easy, why would they ever think to do what’s hard? 

The good news is, I think people worldwide are discovering that all these quick fixes, hacks, and silver bullets aren’t enough. People are beginning to remember something they knew already: To achieve excellence requires hard work, discipline, routines that can become boring, the continual frustrations that accompany learning, adversities that test every measure of our heart and soul, and, above all, courage. i hop the research in this book has helped you discover a bigger picture: that high performance requires real intention and the mastering of complex habits.  The practices here are doable, but they will still require focus, struggle, and faithful diligence over the long haul.

When we learn to see struggle as necessary, important, and positive part of our journey, then we can find true peace and personal power. 

The alternative, of course, is crippling. Those who hate the struggle, or fear it, end up complaining, losing motivation, and quitting.

If you are unwilling to anticipate or endure the inevitable struggle, mistakes, messes, and difficulties of life, then it’s a rough road. Without courage, you’ll feel less confident, happy, and successful. The data confirms it.

The two human stories

There are only two narratives in the human story: struggle and progress. And you can’t have the latter without the former. … We accept that struggle will either destroy us or develop us, and the hardest of human truths is that, ultimately, it’s our choice. No matter how difficult it gets, the next step is still your choice. For that, let’s be thankful.

The struggle I’m now facing is necessary, and it’s summoning me to show up, be strong, and use it to forge a better future for myself and my loved ones.

I’ll end this section with [a saying] that my students find helpful. I learned [it] from working with members of the US Army Special Forces. They told me about a common maxim they use to help people realize they must deal with the hardships of service: Embrace the suck. Sometimes, doing your duty sucks. Training sucks. Patrol sucks. The weather sucks. Circumstances suck. But you can’t just avoid them or be bitter. You have to deal with it, face it, and will yourself to persevere and rise. You have to embrace the suck. If there’s one thing I respect most about he military, it’s how little complaining there is. Complaining isn’t respected or perpetuated. That inspires me. In any area of your life, if you have the opportunity and blessing to serve, you don’t complain about the effort involved.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. A struggle I’ve been facing in my life is …
  2. The way I could change my view of this struggle is …
  3. If something great could come from this struggle, it would be …
  4. The way I choose to greet life’s inevitable hardships from today forward is …

High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 2 (part 14 of 22)

Practice Two: Challenge People to Grow

High performers challenge the people around them to rise to higher levels of performance themselves. If you could follow them around as they lead their lives, you would see that they consistently challenge others to raise the bar. They push people to get better, and they don’t apologize for it.

This is perhaps the most difficult practice in this entire book to implement. People are afraid to challenge others. It sounds confrontational. It sounds as though it might make people push back, feel inadequate, or ask, “Who the hell do you think you are?”

But this isn’t about confrontation. It’s about issuing subtle or direct positively framed challenges to motivate others to excel.

As with any communication strategy, intent and tone really matter. If your intent is to diminish others, then your challenges will likely influence people in negative ways. Look for a similar result if you sound condescending. But if your intentions are clearly to help someone grow and become better, and you speak to them with respect and honor, then your challenges will inspire better action.

Character

Influencers challenge others in three realms. First, they challenge their character. This means they give people feedback, direction, and high expectations for living up to the universal values such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, self-control, patience, hard work and persistence.

Challenging someone’s character may sound confrontational, but in practice it’s a supportive, helpful gift. I’ll bet someone influential in your life once told you, “You could do better,” or “You’re a better person than that,” or “I expected more from you.” These were standard setting statements that challenged your character. You may not have liked hearing them, but I’ll bet they got your attention and go you to rethink your actions.

Of course, challenging someone to develop more character can happen in subtler ways, through indirect challenge. Asking someone, “How would your best self approach this situation?” challenges that person to be more intentional in how they behave. Other indirect challenges might sound something like:

  • “Looking back, do you feel you gave it your all?”
  • “Are you bringing the beset of you to this situation?”
  • “What values were you trying to embody when you did that?”

For leaders, I suggest the direct approach of asking people to think of how they can challenge themselves in future scenarios. Ask, “What kind of person do you want to be remembered as? What would life look like if you gave your all? Where are you making excuses, and how might life turn out differently if you showed up stronger?”

Connection

The second area where you can challenge others concerns their connections  with others – their relationships. You set expectations, ask questions, give examples, or directly ask them to improve how they treat and add value to other people.

What you wouldn’t condone is poor social behavior. High performing leaders call out anyone who is being inappropriate, rude, or dismissive of someone else on their team. … The just don’t let bad behavior slide.

What’s important to note here is that high performers are explicit in their expectations for how people should treat each other. Im’m always surprised at how direct they are in telling people, over and over, how to treat one another. Even when people around them are treating one another well, they still keep pushing for them to unite even more.

If you’ve observed a high performing leader in a team meeting, you’ve probably noticed how often they suggest how the team should be working together. They say things like:

  • “Listen to one another more.”
  • “Show each other more respect.”
  • “Support each other more.”
  • “Spend more time with each other.”
  • “Give each other more feedback.”

The word more seems omnipresent when they are challenging others.

Contribution 

The third area where you can challenge others in in their contributions. You push them to add more value or to be more generous.

This is perhaps one of the more difficult challenges that high performers issue. It’s hard to tell someone, “Hey, your contributions here at work aren’t enough. You can do better.” But high performers don’t shrink from saying this kind of thing.

When high performers issue challenges to contribute more, usually they are not giving feedback sole on the quality of what you’re delivering now. Rather, they challenge you to contribute more looking ahead – to create or innovate so that you make the future better.

In almost every in-depth interview I’ve done, it’s clear that high performers are future oriented when challenging people to make better widgets today; they challenge them to reinvent the product suite, to brainstorm entirely new business models, to find adjacent markets to go after, to push into unknown territory, to add new value.

Though I initially thought that high performers were doing this on large scale, telling their entire team to crate a bigger future, I was wrong. Instead, high performers challenge individuals specifically. They go desk to desk and challenge each person on their team.

They adjust the level of challenge they issue to each person they are leading. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to pushing people to contribute. That’s how you know you’re working with a high performing leader: They’ll meet you where you are, speak your language, ask you to help move the entire team toward a better future, in our own unique way.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

Think about a person in your life you are trying to influence positively, and complete the following sentences:

Character

  1. There person aI am trying to influence has the the following character strengths …
  2. She could become a strong person if she …
  3. She is probably too hard on herself in this area …
  4. If I could tell her how to improve who she is, I would tell her …
  5. If I could inspire her to want to be a better person, I’d probably say something like …

Connection

  1. The way I want this person to interact differently with others is to …
  2. Often, this person doesn’t connect as well with others as I would like, because he …
  3. What would inspire this person to treat other people better is to …

Contribution

  1. The greatest contribution this person is making is …
  2. The areas where this person isn’t contributing well enough are …
  3. What I really want this person to contribute more of is …

 

Practice Three: Role Model the Way

High performers give a lot of mindshare to thinking about being a role model. Seventy-one percent say they think about it daily. They say they want to be a good role model for their family, the team, and the greater community.

Of course, everyone would say they want to be a role model. Who doesn’t, right? But what I’ve found with high performers is that they think about it much more often and specifically in relation to how they are seeking to influence others. Meaning they aren’t just seeking to be a good person in general, as you would typically think of a role model – someone who is kind, honest, hardworking, giving, loving. They go a step further and think about how to act so that others might follow them or them them achieve a specific outcome. It’s less “I’m trying to be Mother Teresa” and more “I’m going to demonstrate a specific behavior so that others will emulate that exact behavior, which will help us move toward a specific result.”

There’s just something magical that happens in our life when we let all the drama go and decide to ask how we can be role models again.

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. If I were going to approach my relationships and career as an even better role model, the first things I would start doing are …
  2. Someone who really needs me to lead and be a strong role model right now is …
  3. Some ideas on how I can be a role model for that person are …
  4. If, ten years from now, the five closest people to me in my life were to describe me as a role model, I would hope they say things like …

High Performance Habits: #5 Develop Influence 1 (part 13 of 22)

DEVELOP INFLUENCE

TEACH PEOPLE HOW TO THINK
CHALLENGE PEOPLE TO GROW
ROLE MODEL THE WAY

Influence Basics

Most of the other high performance habits are under your direct personal control. You choose to seek clarity. The level of energy you feel is largely under your command. How prolific you are with productive output is up to you. But what about influence?

To keep a broad perspective on this topic, at least for the next several pages, let’s define “having influence” as the ability to shape other people’s beliefs and behaviors as you desire. It means you can get people to believe in you or your ideas, buy from you, follow you, or take actions that you request of them.

Ask (No, Really, Just Ask)

One reason people struggle to gain influence in their personal and professional lives is that they simply don’t ask for what they want. This is, in part, because people drastically underestimate the willingness of others to engage and help.

You can’t possibly know whether you have influence with your coworkers unless you ask them to do something. The same goes for your spouse, neighbors, or boss. … Underperformers fail to ask all the time. They let fear of judgement or rejection prevent them from speaking up, asking for help, trying to lead. And the sad thing is, they’re usually wrong.

Finally, when you do ask for what you want in life, don’t just ask once and quit. Research shows that influencers understand the power of repetition, so they try multiple times to get their ideas in front of those they hope to influence. The more you ask and share your ideas, the more people become familiar and comfortable with your requests, and the more they start to like the idea.

Asking isn’t just about making requests to get what you want. If you seek greater influence with other people, learn to ask them a tremendous number of questions that elicit what they think, feel, want, need, and aspire to. Great leaders ask lot of questions. Remember, people support what they create. When people get to contribute ideas, they have mental skin in the game. They want to back the ideas they helped shape. They feel that they’re part of the process, not a cog or some faceless minion. It’s universally agreed that leaders who ask questions and get those around them to brainstorm the path ahead are more effective than “dictator” leaders who just push their demands and requests on others.

This same principle works in your intimate relationship, your parenting style, your community involvement. Ask people what they want, how they’d like to work together, and what outcomes they care about. Suddenly, you’ll start seeing more engagement, and you’ll have more influence.

If you want more influence, remember: Ask and ask often.

Give and You Shall Receive

In all the asking, don’t forget to give. In just about any area of endeavor, giving to others with no expectation of return increases your overall success. And, of course, it increases the likelihood that you’ll get what you want. Researchers have long known that often you can double your ability to influence others by giving before you ask for something.

High performers have a giving mindset. They enter almost every situation looking for ways to help others. They carefully consider the problems people face, and offer suggestions, resources, and connections. They don’t have to be prodded to do this. They’re proactive in seeking give something to others, whether in meetings at work or while visiting in someone’s home.

In organizational settings, often the greatest thing you can give to others is trust, autonomy, and decision-making authority. Researchers call this giving someone “authorship,” meaning they get to choose what to work on or how to get things done.

Be a Champion of People

Since so many people feel ostracized, unappreciated, or undervalued, when you show up and give genuine praise, respect, and appreciation, you stand out. Be grateful for people. Just by offering gratitude, you can more than double the likelihood that those receiving your appreciation will help you again in the future. Give thanks in meetings; write thank-you notes; spend more time noticing positive actions by your people. If you’re the one who appreciates people the most, you’re the most appreciated.

Appreciating people is one step. The next is to become their champion. Find out what your people are passionate about, and cheer on their good ideas. Be excited for people when they do a good job, and publicly praise them. The ultimate measure of whether you really support someone is to trust them, give them the autonomy to make important decisions, and praise them in public when they do well. That’s how people know they are  truly cheered on.

Perhaps all this sounds too basic, but every leader I’ve ever worked with has acknowledged they needed to do a better job of expressing appreciation and giving people more trust, autonomy, and praise. In fact, I’ve never met anyone, myself included, who couldn’t do a better job in these areas. And that’s why I know that anyone, including you, can gain greater influence.

These ideas are the low-hanging fruit of gaining influence. Now we’ll focus on the more advanced strategies. … To gain influence with others, (1) teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; (2) challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and (3) role model the values you wish to see them embody.

 

Practice One: Teach People How to Think

When I work with leaders, I’m consistently telling them they should always communicate how their people should be thinking about themselves as individual contributors, about their competitors, and about the overall marketplace. I mean that literally – in every email to the full team, in every all-hands meeting, in every investor call, in every media appearance. In the all-hands meeting: “This is how we should be thinking about ourselves if we’re going to win. If we’re going to compete, this is how we should be thinking about our competitors. If we’re going to change the world, this is how we should be thinking about the world and the future.”

Take a few moments now and think of someone you want to influence. How can you shape their thinking? Begin by identifying how you want to influence them. What do you want them to do? Then know your responses to these questions before you meet with that person:

  • How do you want them to think about themselves?
  • How do you want them to think about other people?
  • How do you want them to think about the world at large?

Remember, there are three things you want your people thinking about: themselves, other people, and the greater world (meaning, how the world works, what it needs, where it’s headed, and how certain actions might affect it).

PERFORMANCE PROMPTS

  1. Someone in my life I would like to influence more is …
  2. The way I would like to influence them is …
  3. If I could tell them how they should think of themselves, I would say …
  4. If I could tell the how they should think of other people, I would say …
  5. If I could tell them how they should think of the world in general, I would say …