Let’s pretend for a moment that you heard directly from God, and the message was: You’ll never be any better than you are right now. Tomorrow won’t be terrible, but you will be a little less happy, a little less healthy, make somewhat less money, have shallower experiences and make less impact. And that will continue each day for the balance of your life.
Would you be happy? I don’t think so.
At some level, we all hope and expect our lives to keep getting better…
….but what do we do each day to ensure that happens?
Ongoing improvement requires both the desire and the discipline, a passion and a plan.
That’s why I wrote, The Potential Principle: A Proven System for Narrowing the Gap Between How Good You Are and How Good You Could be.
I’ve been fortunate to work with some of the best companies and highest performers of our day. I noticed that many had succeeded at becoming the best in their space, but that once they did, they faced an even bigger challenge: how to become better.
When you’re at the top of your game improvement are more incremental and harder fought. You’ve got few if any to emulate. You now are the leader, and just maintaining much less increasing that lead is difficult.
So Why Get Better?
If you are already among the best, or even really good, why would you even want to get better?
First consider this: we all know how good we’ve become, but none of us know who good we could be. No person or organization I’ve ever worked with has ever claimed they were living or doing business at peak potential. Why? We simply don’t know what is possible, so we keep aiming to get better and find out just how good we could be. That makes life and business incredibly interesting.
There are also several practical drivers for the need to improve.
The first is change: with so many changes occurring around us, we need to improve our knowledge and skills just to keep up.
The second is competition. If our competitors get better and we don’t, we lose ground.
The third is customers. They have increasing expectations. Ever noticed that the more you do for customers, the more they expect? Of course. And that’s why you need to continue to increase your value proposition.
Finally, your capabilities are above whatever level you are performing at now. As a client once told me, we don’t benchmark against our competitors, we benchmark against our capabilities.
The Key to Better
Nobody gets better “accidentally.” Only wine improves with age without trying.
You don’t accidentally improve significantly, reach the highest summits or make the greatest positive impact without intentionality.
How much do you want to get better? Teachers can teach you, coaches can coach you, and motivational speakers can pump you up but it is what you do with the information that matters.
Ongoing improvement requires a process and is based on principles you correctly and consistently apply. The exciting thing is, when are intentional and take action, the door to your future swings wide open. Your willingness to work at improving yourself is the secret to realizing your full potential.
You supply the commitment to getting better coupled with the right plan and process and your effort will start to pay off. It’s well worth it.
Not only will it benefit you, but it will also benefit the people around you. Your customers will be happier. Your boss will be impressed. And your family will see you at your best—the spouse and parent you really want to be.
So, you have a choice to make. Are you content coasting along, content with the status quo? Or are you ready to make your best even better?
Today can be better than yesterday, and tomorrow can be a little bit better than today. Choose to keep getting better and narrow the gap between how good you are and how good you could be.
Action: What one thing will you focus on improving today?
Remember: better always beats best! For more information on how to better your best, go here.
When I turned 50 I shared the most important leadership lessons I’d learned with my sons, Hunter and Jackson.
Now that I’m turning 60, I updated the list for them by adding ten more.
It is important that I impart as much knowledge and wisdom as I can to my sons. But I’d also like to share what I’ve learned with you.
What follows, in no particular order, are 60 of the most important lessons I’ve learned in 60 years of living.
Know who really loves you and return the favor.
Take care of those who take care of you.
Read more than your competitor.
When you start to worry, replace it with action. If there’s nothing you can do, then don’t worry.
In the final hour, persistence wins.
If you have an opportunity for a new experience, take it.
It isn’t the quantity but the quality of your friends that matters most.
Help others increase their success and you will increase your success.
Rehearse the good things in your life regularly. Release the bad things quickly.
Develop the ability to simply sit and think.
Worry more about what God thinks about you and less about what others think about you.
Take Walt Disney’s advice: “Find a job that you like so much that you would do it without compensation; then do it so well that people will pay you to continue.”
You usually win or lose in the preparations.
Add a little extra value to everything important that you do.
Fear nothing but to waste the present moment; if you take care of the moments, the moments take care of your life.
Follow-through and follow-up are critical. Surprisingly few people practice either.
Learning is your most powerful leverage in life.
If we could completely understand God, He wouldn’t be much of a God.
You can’t take too many notes. Write down as much as you can.
Know why you believe.
Give loyalty to those who deserve it and value loyalty when you receive it.
Nobody has extra time—you must make room in your life for what is important.
To be encouraged look at how far you’ve come; to be discouraged at how far you have to go.
God gives us children to help us understand how much He loves us.
You can’t have it all; but when you know what’s important, you don’t want it all anyway.
The more things you own, the more things own you.
To be of service, lessen the pain of another or increase his or her joy; do both when you can.
You can be almost anything you want to be but you can’t be everything.
It is more fun to give fun than just to have fun.
Activity creates momentum. Try lots of different things.
Time is the ultimate test of friendship.
Don’t ask, “Why me?” Ask, “Why not me?” Nobody is exempt from the challenges of life.
To live a life of grace remember these words from Philo Judaeus : “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Keep your word. Say what you’ll do and do what you say. It is that simple.
It shouldn’t be lonely at the top. If it is, you got to the top the wrong way.
Once you are successful, more people will befriend you than will truly be your friend.
Successful people are those willing to do what others aren’t willing to do.
“The world will never lack for wonders, but only wonder.” G.K. Chesterton
“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.” C.S. Lewis
The navel is not the center of the universe. Anger will rarely serve you well.
It is hard to live a high performance life in a low performance body.
Practice the three loves: love what you do, who you do it with and who you do it for.
Everyone is an example: choose to be a great one.
Success with people comes not from being interesting but being interested.
Guard your heart (Proverbs 4:23).
Work harder and smarter (not one or the other).
Always give credit where it is due. You can never express too much appreciation.
Work is rewarding and even fun when you’re doing it well.
Make time each day to think.
Put yourself in the place of maximum opportunity.
Humor adds immensely to your journey.
“Speak the truth in love.” The Apostle Paul
Even when you think you’re certain you may not be right. Be careful with certainty.
Emulate to learn but innovate to earn.
Learn to outthink your problems and your competitors.
“You can never get enough of what you really don’t need.” Eric Hoffer
First you make your choices and then your choices make you.
The antidote to negative thinking isn’t positive thinking, it is gratitude.
No matter what happens, look for the lesson.
There are two important questions that determine the success of every leader’s day. Ineffective leaders don’t deliberately consider either question. Effective leaders keep both questions top of mind:
What results do I want to achieve?
How do I want to achieve those results?
The first question sets the agenda for both the leader and the organization. Leaders keep their teams focused on the results to achieve, not the activity they create. A busy team isn’t necessarily a productive team. Alignment comes from everyone knowing the desired results.
The second question reminds us that good leaders balance the tension between results and relationships. How people feel about the results they’ve achieved, how they should go about achieving them and their relationship with their leader and employer are critically important.
Focusing on either question exclusively can be disastrous. Focus on results at the expense of healthy relationships and you become an inconsiderate tyrant. Focus only on relationships and you are an ineffective leader with warm fuzzy relationships but no results to show.
Both questions are important. How you answer them is essential to good leadership.
Obviously, being bored is no fun. I’ve never met anyone who aspired to boredom, but it happens. Some even readily admit they are bored.
When my boys were younger, I told them that boredom was a choice, not a condition. There are too many interesting things in the world to make boredom an inevitability.
But there is another danger to being bored: you bore others. If your team isn’t energized, you might be the reason.
How do you approach your work? Are your customers or clients bored? What energy do you bring to your interactions with others? Are family members bored? What do you do to create curiosity about the world they live in?
Being bored isn’t good, but boring others is even worse.
I started a new novel and it grabbed me in the first two pages. That’s why I kept reading.
The opening scene of a movie was exciting. That’s why I kept watching.
I heard a speaker who made an opening statement I found intriguing. That’s I kept listening.
Here is the key to powerful communication: instantly grab attention.
We live in the age of distraction. There are too many shiny objects and emphatic sounds vying for our attention.
To get attention you must do it quickly. People won’t waste much time reading or listening to determine if your message is compelling. They will check out and move on quickly if you don’t get their attention at the very beginning.
Don’t waste time “warming up.” Grab your audience by the brain and prove what you are going to share is important.
Of course grabbing attention fails if you can’t keep it. You’ve got to follow up the grabber with information of interest and import delivered in a compelling way. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Attention is critical when you are trying to communicate using any medium. Grab it. And do it quickly.
I had lunch at a New Orleans style restaurant near my hotel. The outside was neat but nothing special. There was no bar. The seating space was small. Yet the restaurant was full with a steady stream of customers.
Why? Because the food was very, very good. Yes, the service was very good as well but not notable. And the room itself was somewhat lacking.
I’ve written much about being different and distinctive. And I believe that is still a worthwhile goal. But this restaurant reminded me:
There is still room in the market place for very, very good.
You could argue that the food was this restaurant’s distinction. But there was nothing about it that was different from traditional New Orleans cuisine. It was just done as well as it could be done.
Do an inventory: what in your business do you do very, very well?
So many individuals and organizations study the competition. They want to do everything the competition does as well or better. But it rarely helps them get ahead. How could that be?
The answer: he was only good at being the same.
Nobody remembers same. Bland is unmemorable. Bold is memorable.
There are many things you have to do as well or better than your competition. But don’t stop there. Different by itself can be weird or odd; memorable, but not in a good way. Different that is valued by your customer or client is key: they can get sameness anywhere, but they can only get that kind of different from you.
It is the extra flourish, the useful bit of information or signature difference that people talk about. They don’t talk about same. Sameness sucks.
What are you doing that is different and valued? That’s what will make you memorable.
“Don’t let it bother you.” How often have you heard or said that? It is usually about things we shouldn’t let bother us.
But what about the important things, the things that make a difference? Some things should really bother us.
If we let important things stop bothering us, we become numb to needed change. We settle for mediocrity rather than excellence. We ignore how much a bad situation bothers others and seem indifferent to them.
Don’t be a service rep who isn’t bothered when the customer is disappointed. Let it bother you enough to regain the customer’s loyalty.
Be an engineer who is bothered by a “good enough” design mentality. Be a leader who is bothered by policies that don’t support employees, or red tape that creates hassles for customers.
Let is bother you when you see someone being treated poorly and you can intervene to prevent it. Be a parent who is bothered if your son or daughter is growing distant or not doing well at school. Take action, even if it is difficult.
Let it bother you when someone is spreading gossip and you can defend the accused. If you are in politics, be truly bothered by the shortcomings of the system and work to change it.
Let your own bad performances, mistakes and shortcomings bother you enough to improve and become better.
Petty annoyances and inconveniences? Don’t let them bother you. But something important that matters? Please, do let it bother you.
“It’s all for the best” or “Something good will come of this:” do you like hearing these words when you fail? I don’t.
These sentiments might hold a grain of truth in them, but they rarely make us feel any better.
So, the first thing to remember about failure is not to sugar coat it when it happens. Accept that it sucks. Feel your disappointment, but don’t get stuck there. The quicker you can release the emotion, the quicker you can move on.
Then remind yourself:
Failure is rarely permanent. It is only permanent when you give up. As long as you’re willing to keep trying new things, the feeling of being stuck is temporary.
Failure is a hated but great teacher. We can certainly learn from success but we can learn as much or more from failure.
Failure makes you stronger. A muscle that isn’t challenged doesn’t grow in strength. The same is true for personal development.
Failure is the price of future success. If you hear a story about someone who became an instant success, you probably aren’t being told the whole story or that person is an anomaly. Overnight success can happen, but it doesn’t happen often. More often failure becomes the energy that fuels the drive to succeed. From trying, failing, learning and trying again, you move closer and closer to your desired goal.
Failure is no fun. But that doesn’t mean it can’t help make you better.