The Mystery of Greatness Revealed

What science says links those who achieve greatness.

Recently, I heard an interview on what science has to say about achieving greatness with Dr. Mehmet Oz and Talent Is Overrated author, Geoff Colvin. In it, they revealed insights into a question you may be asking yourself, “How do I become great?

The Truth About Success Secrets 

Key

Before we answer the question “How do I become great?”, let’s get one thing straight.

There is no one key to success. Success has many many secrets.

There are probably millions of success secrets. Different secrets help you succeed in different situations, with different kinds of people, at different times, in different areas of the world. 

But you don’t need to know them all! 

The main thing you need to do is use the ones you already know. 

One of the Biggest

One of the all time nominees for top secret of success is one that has universal application. It is that the fastest way to the top is to spend time with the people already at the top and to copy what they do.

High achievers are all different, but they have certain things in common. And one of those things stands out more than all the rest.

Deliberate Practice

Man deliberately practicing piano.

In the interview, Colvin, the former editor of Fortune magazine, reveals that studies show greatness comes from consistently practicing in a very specific way—deliberate practice. 

Studies show greatness comes from consistently practicing in a very specific way—deliberate practice. Click To Tweet

What does deliberate practice mean? Breaking down a goal and systematically practicing in a purposeful way that actually leads to performance improvement.

Here’s an example:

I know a young guy named Sean who has gotten really into table tennis over the past few years. Why table tennis? I’d rather be out skiing or hunting—but to him, table tennis is exciting. It brings out his competitive nature, and it’s something he’s driven to become great at. 

He started casually, challenging other players in the area and practicing with a coach occasionally. He became a decent player, but he still lost a lot of matches.

Then he decided to get serious about practicing and got a fancy table tennis machine. This thing had all kinds of knobs and settings for practicing different swings. You could adjust the speed of the ball, the topspin, the curve. 

Every day, Sean would practice a specific swing until he got really good at it. Then he would adjust the settings and practice another, and another, and another. Pretty soon, he could return almost any ball. 

Through deliberate practice, he improved so much that, in a year, he was beating his own coach! 

Now he runs a table tennis club and is a coach himself, allowing him to share his knowledge and techniques with others. 

Becoming Great is a Specific Process

You can’t achieve greatness haphazardly. It’s never going to happen if you’re sloppy about where you’re headed or how you’re going to get there. 

Unlike Sean, most people aren’t organized about becoming great. 

Most people aren't organized about becoming great. Click To Tweet

At the beginning of my career, I knew I wanted my business to grow, but it floundered until I got organized around a specific goal and a specific process for making it happen. 

We decided to focus on improving our recruiting. 

Each month every person and every small team pushed to beat the recruiting number from the month before. Everyone had a goal of recruiting at least 1 more than they had the month before.

If they only recruited 1, it didn’t matter. The next month they went for 2. If they recruited 0, it didn’t matter. The month was over. The next month they’d try to recruit at least 1. The next month they’d go from 1 to 2 or more, and so on.

Not everyone reached their goal, but many did.

The idea was to learn some lessons, improve our recruiting, and become at least a little more productive.

All I had to do as a leader was keep each group pushing to reach their goal. It was easy to keep growing if everyone on the team was focused on their role of growing their own recruiting number.

In 1979 we recruited 56. In 1980 we recruited 1,800. In 1981 we recruited 7,200. And, in 1982, we recruited over 15,000!

How? We kept doing the same thing and got better, and better, and better at it.

That’s how we built a world-class team—one month and one small improvement at a time.

It Takes Time for Greatness to Evolve

Man relaxing at the office.

The thing is, greatness doesn’t happen overnight. There are only 24 hours in a day, and you choose if you spend them intentionally working towards attaining your goals or not. 

We’re not going to live forever, and it’s not going to be very rewarding if you finally attain greatness, satisfaction, achievement, and happiness on your 100th birthday and then take your last breath and die.

The faster you get there, the faster you can enjoy and benefit from all the hard work it took to climb that ladder. 

Yes, great people wind up making a lot of money because they move up to the top of whatever field they are in. But, beyond money and material things, it allows you to use your skills and insights to benefit more and more people, which increases your satisfaction. 

Once you get past that point, far enough to notice how much of a joy it is to help others, you reach a level where your satisfaction, enjoyment, and quality of life can never stop growing.

This is why people who want to achieve greatness are in a hurry. Becoming great is a process, and it’s one you want to race through. 

People who want to achieve greatness are in a hurry. Becoming great is a process, and it's one you want to race through. Click To Tweet

How to Achieve Greatness Through Deliberate Practice

Team achieves greatness.

If you want to become great at something, here’s what you need to to do:

1.) Organize your activity around a specific goal and process. 

What makes world-class performers great is their hunger and internal drive. The hunger and drive give them the ability and willingness to consistently engage in deliberate practice.

Be very clear about where you’re starting, where you want to go, and what you want to be doing. Pick something that really excites you! 

Next, identify the things you need to improve to reach your goal and come up with a plan for making it happen. 

This is another specific way where it pays to study the people on top. Obviously they figured out how to get there. And, although everyone is different, they are the best in giving you advice on getting your plan together. So study them.

If you can, find a mentor, ask them questions, and get their advice. And, finally, keep your eyes on them because keeping your eyes on the people at the top will help you solve 99% of all the mysteries you have about reaching their level.

2.) Practice deliberately and make improvements every day. 

I call this the ABI Principle, which stands for always be improving. Tiny improvements really do add up. Day after day, keep pushing to improve specific things that get you closer to your goal and move up—that’s what the great ones do.

Tiny improvements really do add up. Day after day, keep pushing to improve specific things that get you closer to your goal and move up—that’s what the great ones do. Click To Tweet

I hate to be repetitive, but there are only 24 hours in a day. That means there is only so much you can do in a given day. We all have needs and obligations that eat up a great part of our day, so the amount of time we have to work is always limited. 

The make or break differences are how hard you’re working and how focused you are when working. 

When you work with energy and consistently move towards a target, guess what? You get closer! 

Even when you encounter setbacks, they are temporary. As soon as you can get back on your feet and moving forward again, you start getting closer again. And eventually, you are going to get there. 

Axe

Think about the example of chopping down a tree. No matter how big the tree is, if you keep chopping at it, eventually the tree must fall. When you understand this, it helps you to make the extra effort. Even 1% extra effort can make a huge difference. 

The difference between 99% effort and 100% effort isn’t much. But, over time, it makes you great. You aren’t born great; you improve steadily until you reach that level—like a jeweler polishing a diamond.

The difference between 99% effort and 100% effort isn’t much. But, over time, it makes you great. Click To Tweet

3.) Face the facts—know your numbers. 

You are either growing or dying. You’re either getting better, or you’re getting worse.  You can’t grow if you’re hiding from your numbers.

To become great you have to face the facts. You can’t live in denial or make excuses. Accept responsibility.

Say to yourself, ‘Here’s where I am today. Here’s what I’ve got to do today. If I don’t do it, I’m not going to get where I want to go.’

You’ve got to work because when you’re not working, you are far more likely to be complaining and making excuses.

Focus on climbing your particular ladder to take you to the top of whatever particular mountain excites you. 

Of course, you can win. But, in order to be great, you have to pay the price and climb just like everyone else on top.

Of course, you can win. But, in order to be great, you have to pay the price and climb just like everyone else on top. Click To Tweet

Start polishing. Diamonds don’t come out of the ground cut, polished, and sparkling in a velvet box . . . and neither do champions.

. . . 

What can you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to get you closer to your goals? Let me know in the comments below. 

 

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