I hope the headline of this post is a little offensive to you. If it’s not, then you probably don’t care about being the best at your given job. What this means is you are like most people. So congratulations, you are average. If you are happy being average then don’t waste your time reading any further.
Most people want to be great at what they do, but only a few actually reach the top of their profession. Kids grow up wishing to become famous singers, actors, and sports stars. But few ever make it. Adults leave college hoping to be great teachers, doctors, and in my case strength coaches, but few ever make it to the top.
Why is this? Were they not good enough? Did God deal a small percentage of people a better set of genes, which makes them better then others?
These could all be answers. Truth is they’re all excuses for us to be lazy. Kids stop trying to make it as pro sports players because they find out that it’s hard to make it to the top level; it’s no different in the workforce. People find that to be truly great takes time and hard work.
Instead of answering to the call and stepping their game up, most will take the easy route and just strive to be a little bit above average. Another way to look at it is, we strive to work hard enough so we don’t loose our jobs.
In the book: Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, Author Geoff Colvin looks at several factors that play into how successful an individual is. The success of a person has a lot of variables that leads to individual success. We cannot control all of the variables, but the most important variable we can control.
Here are the 3 variables that play a role in becoming a “world-class performer”.
The first variable does play a role in how successful you will be, but it is not as big a factor as people always make it out to be. You have heard people say, “They are naturally gifted or just naturally smarter”. This could be the case in sports, but not so much when it comes to the workforce.
When it comes to sports, if you’re 5’5’’ your chances of playing in the NBA are going to be a lot smaller then if you are 6’8’’. Same goes if you are a 6’2’’ athlete and want to be a gymnast; just not going to happen.
There is also the factor of how you are built. A large framed person would not make a good marathon runner. Conversely, a thin framed person would not make the best NFL lineman.
Some people may be born with more type II muscle fibers or fast twitch muscle fibers. Type II fibers are what make athletes more explosive. Having more type II then type I fibers results in a stronger faster athlete. The more type I will result in a person having a higher level of endurance.
What I am getting at is, you are born with a specific set of genes. These genes will determine your body size (height and bone structure), and muscle fiber type. These are all factors when it comes to being able to play a certain sport at the highest level. They do not affect you when it comes to your success in life. You determine how good you will be at your given craft. Don’t let the excuses that you were born with the wrong set of genes hold you back.
Deliberate Practice plays the biggest role in whether or not an individual is going to be great or not. In his book, Colvin talks at length about how it is presumed that people become better at their jobs over time, but the reality for most is that you are just as good at your job as the day you started, or in some cases you actually become worse at your job over time.
If doing your job day in and day out is not deliberate practice what is?
Deliberate practice is not easy. Most will never do it for long periods of time. It involves deliberately wanting to get better at your craft. This would be reading books and understanding them, looking over your weaknesses and trying to get better at them.
If you look at most great athletes such as Jerry Rice, arguably the greatest wide receiver in the history of the NFL, you will find that he was not physically gifted with speed or height, but what he did do is spend hours a day studying film. He was also known for having one of the hardest workout regiments in all of football. What this did was allow him to run precession routes and last long into the fourth quarter.
You can look at Tiger Woods who started playing golf at the age of 4 years old, and had a professional golf coach while growing up. No wonder he is arguably the greatest golfer of all time. He had more deliberate practice by the age of 20, 16 years worth, than most would obtain in their entire lives.
If so many greats practice deliberate practice then why don’t most of us do it?
Like I said above, it is hard and time consuming. It has been found that the difference between a great musician and an average musician is only about 2 hours a day of practice. Also great musicians practice more in the morning, whereas the average musicians practice more at night. These two differences end up having huge implications on how successful they end up being.
Another reason is that people are lazy and just don’t have the drive to be great or the will to improve themselves. You have to want to be great. Your parents or friends can push you and keep you accountable, but to truly be great you have to decide for yourself that you want to be. You don’t just fall into it by accident.
Right Place Right Time
Like anything in life there is always some luck. Look at Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple. If you were to look at his life it could be summed up as, he was an adopted child, smart with technology, dropped out of college, and dabbled with LSD. This does not sound like he would grow up to be successful and the founder of a revolutionizing company. But Steve grew up at the right time and in the right place. He grew up in Silicon Valley; he was neighbors with the founder of HP. He had access to technology that most kids would never have been able to get a hold of at that time. All these factors led to him being successful.
The thing is, the harder you work the more likely you are to find such luck. Hard work and determination can lead to success.
What It All Means
Most will never be great at anything, always staying somewhere between below average and average. We all have the ability to be great, but not all have the desire and the commitment needed to make it to that level. In your pursuit of greatness you may have to loose friends and go against what is the cultural norm.
For the athlete this is going to be countless hours spent practicing your sport and developing your body. You have to working on your weaknesses and not just what you are good at. It takes a focus and determination that most do not have. If you’re the type of person who watches hours of TV or sits around on Facebook or playing video games all day then you should not expect to be anything more then average at best.
A lot of people are average. Are you ok with being average?