We are all born with a certain set of skill or abilities. As we grow and develop we get the opportunity to maximize the contribution we make to the world and to each other, in work and in our personal lives.
I have been extremely fortunate to have encountered so many gifted, compassionate, driven and capable individuals over the years.
What is it that separates the great from the good? While I am sure there are many others, here are 5 attributes that I have observed as factors that seem to exist in most of those who manage to separate themselves from the pack.
1. Preparedness and Hard Work
Winners don’t just turn up. In any business discipline, sport or other field of endeavor, it is most likely that those who are suddenly successful have spent the preceding years working very hard at their specialism. It is what Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, quantifies at 10,000 hours. There is a discipline, a routine, a dedication and a core interest and affinity with the subject, sport or profession that separates the mediocre from the great.
2. Concentration in the Moment
Just as a Formula 1 race car driver can win or lose a race in a moment of brilliant maneuvering or lapse of concentration, so it is with the practice of a professional discipline. Based on preparedness and hard work, the winners see the open door, the moment of opportunity, and almost instinctively know how to act. I say almost instinctively because while the reaction seems like a natural reflex, it is instead a practiced moment governed by well developed muscle memory honed by hours of practice and focus on that one thing that the practitioner has chosen to excel at.
3. Intense Desire to Win in our Field
There is a competitive streak in all of us. We all like to win. It is however in our chosen discipline that we care most. I know I will never be a world class tennis player, Formula 1 driver, or artist. I just don’t have the interest, nor have I sent the time on the tennis court, on the track or in front of a canvas. However when it comes to my areas of expertise, there is a confidence borne from thousands of hours of effort that give me a sense of confidence that if I execute at the top of my game, I should win. And it hurts if I lose. I don’t believe winners can achieve the pinnacle of their potential without this competitive streak. It matters.
4. Experience and Acceptance of Occasional Failure
While this might seems to contradict my previous point, how someone deals with failure is an important predictor of future success. Winners learn from their mistakes and use the experience to sharpen their skills. Accepting full responsibility for the failure with humility and understanding is a mark of a mature professional. This becomes more critical as the practitioner achieves great heights, for it is here that this learning can be the difference that leads to greater success and a plateau of achievement.
5. Ability to Adapt
Flexibility matters, and an open mind that is not hampered by rigid thinking, allows for continuous growth. We all have the ability to be in the top 1% of some endeavor. By definition, that separates us from most (i.e. 99%) of our fellow travelers. If you believe in evolution to any extent then you must see that the ability to adapt is one of the greatest
arbiters of survival (first) and excellence (second).