Of all the ignoble traits one can subscribe to mediocrity would be the most heinous. Mediocrity is a slow erosion where a deed was once disdained now lauded. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes of all time is that of Jack London. Written during one of his many hard times he wrote, “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
Imagine your brakes installed by one accustom more to getting by than excellence? How do you thwart mediocrity? Raise your standards.
Here, then, are the six keys to achieving excellence from HBR:
Pursue what you love. Passion is an incredible motivator. It fuels focus, resilience, and perseverance.
Do the hardest work first. We all move instinctively toward pleasure and away from pain. Most great performers, Ericsson and others have found, delay gratification and take on the difficult work of practice in the mornings, before they do anything else. That’s when most of us have the most energy and the fewest distractions.
Practice intensely, without interruption for short periods of no longer than 90 minutes and then take a break. Ninety minutes appears to be the maximum amount of time that we can bring the highest level of focus to any given activity. The evidence is equally strong that great performers practice no more than 4 ½ hours a day.
Seek expert feedback, in intermittent doses. The simpler and more precise the feedback, the more equipped you are to make adjustments. Too much feedback, too continuously can create cognitive overload, increase anxiety, and interfere with learning.
Take regular renewal breaks. Relaxing after intense effort not only provides an opportunity to rejuvenate, but also to metabolize and embed learning. It’s also during rest that the right hemisphere becomes more dominant, which can lead to creative breakthroughs.
Ritualize practice. Will and discipline are wildly overrated. As the researcher Roy Baumeister has found, none of us have very much of it. The best way to insure you’ll take on difficult tasks is to build rituals — specific, inviolable times at which you do them, so that over time you do them without having to squander energy thinking about them.
Read full article via Six Keys to Being Excellent at Anything – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.
Jim Woods is a leadership development and training consultant deploying his unique abilities in character based training and strategy.
Jim is president of InnoThink Group a human resources and leadership management consulting firm. He has an absolute passion for people development and are constantly refining and adapting his programs in order to ensure that they have the maximum impact on those we serve.