It is easy to believe the lie that work stops. That, sometime soon, you will get the break you deserve. The time off. The retirement. You have had your eye on it for a long time, and now it feels close. It all sounds great, but if you want to be great, breaks never come. At least they shouldn’t. Being great is about the work you are doing and the work you have left to do, not what you have done.
School trains you to look forward to breaks. It is rare to go through a full week (Monday through Friday) when you are in school. So, you have gotten used to breaks. And although those breaks are nice during the school year, they do not come when you graduate. Graduation day is fun, exciting, and rewarding. You have been through a lot, and now you are finally done. Except the reward is not the break you expect. The reward for all your hard work is more work, and that is a good thing. You get to do the work you were (or should have been) trained to do. Go and do it well.
In sports, people tell you to “keep your eye on the prize.” The prize usually has something to do with winning. It might be the NCAA championship, the Super Bowl, or the World Series. If you are fortunate to win and achieve your goal, your work is not finished. If you want to be great, you must get back to work. Next year starts right when you walk off the court or field. When the final buzzer sounds, the off-season starts. Winning a championship means you have less of an off-season. So, you have work to do. And you better get to it because you have less time than the people you beat. The reward is the work you get to do, not the work you did.
Some people work their entire lives to retire. They tolerate jobs they hate so they can reach the reward of retirement. But, if you are working for the right reasons, retirement never comes. Even when you do not have to go to your job anymore, you still have work to do. Learning is a lifelong journey, so you are never finished. If you are living, you have learning to do. Retirement might give you more free time, but that does not mean you should waste it. You have a responsibility to continue working, to continue learning.
If you want to be great, you have work to do. The work never ends because it should never end. Your life is too important to let yourself believe that at some point you get to relax and do nothing. Continue to work. Continue to learn. Not because you have to, but because you get to.
The way to get what you want is not to do what you want. You have choices to make. Everyone does. Choices are hard to make because many factors go into every one, and other people make them more difficult. Everywhere you turn you are being offered someone’s opinion. They tell you what to do and how to do it. And the more opinions you have, the harder it is to choose. People tell you that to get what you want you should do what you want, and that is easy advice to follow. The easy way is to do everything you enjoy and avoid what makes you uncomfortable. The problem with this is that you never do what you need to do. And if you avoid the things you need to do you will never get what you want.
Sometimes it is good to do what you want. The things you enjoy allow you to relax and center yourself on what matters. They are a guide on your journey and a reset when you need it. We all need those things at times. But if you only do the things you want to do, you will never force yourself to act. Imagining a better life is one thing. Working towards one is another. To be someone different you must do what you have never done. If you only do what you want, you cannot become someone different.
If you want to become someone different you need to find a way to bridge the gap between doing what you want and getting what you want. The way to bridge this gap is to do what you do not want to do. So, figure out what you want to do or who you want to become and work backward. Chances are, there will be many obstacles on the path you will have to work through. They will not be easy, and you will not enjoy them. And that is a good thing. That means they are hard choices. And that is the way to bridge the gap. You must do them to get where you want to go even if you want to avoid them.
It is easy to avoid things in life. But those choices are what hold you back. Avoiding what you do not want to do stops you from achieving your goals. The things you avoid stop you from becoming the person you want to be. Your goals require certain things of you. There is no room for picking and choosing what you do and do not like. You must choose to do what is necessary to get what you want.
To get what you want you must bridge the gap by doing what you would rather avoid. Getting better does not mean you only do the things you want to do. Quite the opposite. It means you get to work and do what you need to do. You do the things you do not want to do to go where you want to go. And remember you get to do them.
Greatness is inside us. It’s in me and it is in you. It is somewhere waiting to be found, but it will not show itself. Someone must see it and go get it. And you are the only person who can do this. You can choose to find greatness on your own or allow someone else to reveal it. Either way, being great is a choice you make. It is not something that gets handed to you or that you talk about. Greatness is a choice you make through the hundreds of small options you have each day.
Jim Collins’ book, Great by Choice, is a great book and a true statement. Greatness is a choice you make. And is not one choice. It is in every choice you make because everything is connected. You cannot be great one minute and average the next. You cannot show up on gameday and expect to be great if you have not done the right things in practice. It does not work that way. You are the sum of the choices you make, and you are what you allow yourself to be. Being great is an all the time or none of the time thing. It is the person you are. You are either great or you are not. So be great. There is no reason to choose otherwise.
There will always be people more talented than you are that appear great. That is life. But that does not mean they are. Looks can be (and often are) deceiving. The fact that someone is more talented than you does not make them great. Genetics deceive many people. Greatness has nothing to do with your gifts. It is about what you do. The right choices make you great, not natural ability. That means we can all choose to be great.
While being great comes down to the choices you make, you can choose to allow someone to find your greatness. It is best to find greatness on your own because you learn about yourself, and that is valuable in itself. Doing it on your own makes you learn what it takes to improve. If you choose to allow a great leader to find your greatness, know that it will not be easy because it never is. This person will be harder on you than you would be on yourself. High standards are hard to live out. It is even harder to accept someone else’s high standards for you. But, if you can, it would be wise to accept the help. You will be better because of it.
If you want to be great you have to fight human nature. You must admit that you do not know something and that you need to get better. This means that you have a lot of work to do. We all have work to do, but we will never get started unless we know that we do not know. If you can understand that you have much to learn, you are on the path to greatness.
People who are good at something might make it look easy, but that doesn’t mean it is. At times, we all wish things were easier. We convince ourselves that some people have a genetic advantage or are luckier than we are, but neither idea is true. Unfortunately, the easiest excuses are the ones we give ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy because we are the easiest person to fool. But let’s not fool ourselves. Great achievement comes from great sacrifice.
Things don’t just happen by chance. You have to sacrifice to get what you want. Actually, you get to sacrifice to be who you want to be. Although individual situations are different, you can choose to improve right where you are with what you have. Seemingly small choices can be made at this moment to improve who you are. And you are the only one who can choose to make this change. Don’t wait for someone to come save you because they never will. Your only obstacle stopping you from where you want to go is what you tell yourself and what you do. To get something, you must give something. We all can give something.
To assume people are “naturals” only hurts you. People who are viewed as naturally gifted are assumed to have great genetics. The problem is that genetics rarely gives you what you need to be successful. Genetics lay the foundation for success, but you have to do the work and make the choices. Unfortunately, great genetics are detrimental to many people. Believing that successful people are naturals gives you the excuse to not try. Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Assuming that people are naturals causes you to never try; to never take that one step that could make all the difference. Instead, you can believe people are where they are because of their hard work, sacrifice, and the choices they make. By looking at it this way, you give yourself a chance. You choose to take that first step.
Although this is not a huge surprise, you will only sacrifice if something is important to you. If it is important, you have to give something up to get it. You don’t know if it is important until you decide to commit to it all the time. It is easy to say you want something because it is easy to utter words. It is difficult to act them out. The challenge lies in the actions you take, not the words you say. You prove your commitment to yourself when your actions follow your words at all times.
Keep in mind that you sacrifice either way. You can choose to sacrifice for what you want by giving up your excuses and taking the necessary steps to eliminate things holding you back. Saying no to unnecessary things frees up time to focus on the things that matter. Eliminating social media gives you more time to study and think. Avoiding poor food choices allows you to feel and perform better, leading to a healthier mind and body. Like these positive changes, sacrifice also happens the other way. You can choose to indulge in social media and unhealthy food, but you will need to accept the sacrifices that come with these choices. Indulging in these things sacrifices your ability to learn and become healthy. The choice is yours to make, and there are sacrifices either way. While you don’t get to choose your results, you do get to choose your sacrifices.
The possibilities are endless with the right sacrifices. The right ones are available to you, but it is your responsibility to choose them. No matter if you choose to go after what you want or not, sacrifices will be made. You will give up what you want now for long-term rewards or give up long-term payoff for what you want now. Either way you sacrifice. What you achieve is the result of the choices you make and the things you give up.
There are prices to be paid for everything. Food costs you money. Reading a book takes up your time. And working that job you hate is costing you your sanity. Just like there are prices to be paid for these things, greatness comes at a price.
Although it is easy to believe people are great by default it is not true. Just because we believe something doesn’t make it true. To be great at anything requires a large sacrifice. All great achievement is possible because the achiever is willing to pay the necessary price. You can’t be great without paying the required price, but that doesn’t stop us from believing so. And even if you could skip the price and achieve greatness, you shouldn’t want to. Then you would have to live with knowing you shortcutted your way to the top. There are few worse realizations.
It’s easy to assume that people become great by accident; that greatness is something that happens to them. But that is not true. How can it be? If it were that easy, everyone would be great. And if you look around, that is not the case. As human beings, it is easier to believe that things just come to people. It is easier to think that people stumble upon greatness instead of sacrifice for it. And it’s easier to believe that you are great by default instead of working hard towards a goal. But that is our nature: we choose to believe things are easy. This belief makes us feel better when we are assuming, unorganized, and lazy. Our nature allows us to accept our circumstances as fate.
Achieving greatness in sports is one example. There are no secrets to success in team or individual sport. Being a great athlete requires certain things of you. You must be willing to sacrifice your body if you want to be elite. Pushing your physical limits likely leads to pain and injury. Many of the greatest athletes have persevered through gruesome injuries in pursuit of their goals. But they kept going and refused to quit. They understood this to be part of the process of becoming great.
Take the Olympic athlete. They often train for years to perform one event. Years and years of training for a race that might last less than 60 seconds. It is unbelievable to think of the time invested and energy sacrificed for the chance to compete in just one event. This is a huge price to pay, but they accept it knowing it’s necessary to be great.
Authors also know this sacrifice all too well. If you want to write, you in a way must become your book. Great authors spend years writing a few hundred pages or less. They spend hours each day crafting their masterpiece. After the hours they invest into the writing of their work they spend the rest of their time reading and thinking about how to improve it. It is an exhausting, expensive process. It costs them time, money, and energy, but they know there is no other way to produce what they want. If they want to produce great work, this is the price they must pay.
Being great is for the select few. Most people are average, some are good, and few are great. Greatness comes at too high a cost for people to accept and pay. But for the few willing to pay its price, the rewards are ready for them. If you look at any great achiever, you will find they paid a high price to get where they are. All great athletes, musicians, authors, and entrepreneurs paid the necessary price to be great.
The problem we face is that people want to be great without paying the necessary price. There is a price along with greatness, and you cannot separate one from the other. Many of us don’t think the price applies to us. We like to believe we can write a bestselling book without the years of research and struggle to choose the right words. We tell ourselves we can be an elite athlete without years of practice, failure, and disappointment. One thing we know is that greatness requires more than wishful thinking and dreams. It requires sacrifice and an acceptance of the price it takes to get there.
Although it is easy to believe many of these things, greatness cannot be cheated, lied to, or fooled. It is too smart, and the requirements are too simple and well-known. You cannot cheat the system. You can try, but one way or another you will fail if you resist paying the price. While you can talk about being great, dream about great performances, and imagine yourself living like your idols, you never will be without sacrifice. You can imitate greatness, but you’ll never achieve it unless you are willing to pay its price.
My life has been filled with books. As early as I can remember, I have been reading. This has not always been by choice. I have to admit that I have not always enjoyed reading as much as I do now. I used to hate it. I dreaded reading through high school. I hated it because I was forced to do it. Now I love it because it’s my choice. It’s funny how life works that way.
When I got to college, my reading began to shift. I still didn’t read for my enjoyment, but I opening up to the idea of reading my school textbooks to help with my classes. What a thought that was. The books helped my grades quite a bit. Shocking, I know.
When started volunteering for my eventual full-time job I realized how little I knew about my job. To put it nicely, I didn’t know anything. I remember talking with my co-worker one day about my problem, and he asked what books I was reading. He wanted to know because he was going to suggest some that might be able to help with my work. But, to his surprise, I was not reading at all. Nothing. I sure had my work cut out for me (and I still do), but his question changed my life.
Realizing my embarrassing lack of knowledge, I began to buy and read everything I could get my hands on. It was the greatest thing ever. I am a coach, so I started reading every training, nutrition, and coaching-related book I could get my hands on. They were all full of information, and I felt like I was cheating. I felt like I had discovered some secret pot of gold full of secrets to my life and work. I still feel that way about books.
After reading through many (to say the least) of these books, I started to branch out and read everything. I now read fiction and non-fiction. I read books on creativity, productivity, meditation, business, focus, philosophy, and much more. I’ll read anything that will benefit me, and I recommend the same strategy to others.
Reading is my favorite thing to do. There is nothing I enjoy more than getting up early and reading when it’s quiet. I love studying books that I’ve read and searching for new books that might benefit me or someone I know. That’s the wonderful thing about reading: if you can find one thing that benefits you, it is worth your time. And this is almost always the case.
Books have changed my life, and I believe they can change yours too. If you would like to know more, I am starting a monthly reading newsletter. It will be an email that includes several of my favorite books that I’ve recently read. It will include a summary of the book and a few key takeaways. I hope you’ll sign up below, and that you find a few books to read and enjoy.
We all strive to get better and to improve. We set goals and dream of a better life. It’s easy for us to imagine getting a dream job, losing weight, or writing that book. Imagining is easy, but it is much harder to do it. To do it is uncomfortable. And it’s not uncomfortable for a moment. It is that way for a long time, and results are not guaranteed.
This example is clear with our physical goals. Most people want to lose weight, get in better shape, or build muscle. They want these things, but most are not willing to do the work. They are not willing to make the uncomfortable choice day in and day out to achieve these goals. It’s easy to go to the gym, but it is difficult to eat and sleep well. It’s easy to watch videos of others lifting weights, but it is difficult to go to the gym and lift weights. Our goals will not achieve themselves. We must be willing to sacrifice for what we want. Sacrifice happens when uncomfortable choices are made.
Learning a new topic or building your business takes years of uncomfortable choices. It is easy to read a few articles on the Internet, but it is difficult to study books and re-visit them to ingrain these topics. Listening to your favorite speaker or watching a video is convenient. Taking notes and researching different topics is difficult and time-consuming. If we want to learn and improve our abilities we must choose to do things that are difficult and inconvenient.
Nothing worthwhile is achieved through comfort and convenience. If we hope to get better or to provide a better life for the people we love, we must willingly make uncomfortable choices. If we make those choices often enough, we have a chance of making progress. Avoiding uncomfortable choices guarantees that you will stay right where you are. Remember that the next time you want to avoid something. There just might be a path forward if you choose to go through it.
William Deresiewicz wrote a great article on leadership. Solitude and Leadership discusses a common challenge leaders face. All leaders face many challenges, and one of them is balancing time with other people and time alone.
An important aspect of leadership is interacting with other people. In order to lead people, you have to connect with them and communicate often. You have to make time for them and listen to their thoughts and suggestions. But, in order to do this well, a great leader schedules time for solitude. They take the time to be alone.
Great leaders improve their abilities through times of quiet reflection and study. The work that is done in the quiet, when no one is around, is what matters. It is during these times of solitude that leaders develop and improve their ability to lead. Neglecting times of solitude will limit your ability to lead well.
The commitment to develop as a leader is more important than the act of leading. It is easy to underestimate the commitment necessary to become a great leader. That is why great leaders are rare. If you want to be a great leader, schedule time to think and to prepare for the responsibility.
The Navy seals are known as a tough, disciplined group of people. They are the best of the best. They have been credited with many famous sayings and operating principles through the years, and one of my favorite quotes comes from them. That quote is:
“Under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to the level of your training. That’s why we train so hard.” – Navy Seals
Although I love this quote, one addition makes it better. You do sink to the level of your training under pressure, but you also sink (or rise) to the level of your leadership. The leader is responsible for directing the training and making sure the group is prepared to handle the pressure. Good performance under pressure does not happen by accident. To handle pressure well, you have to prepare well. That preparation is the responsibility of the leader.
The leader responsible to prepare a person or group for pressure can take many forms. They can be a boss, a parent, or a coach. The specific role does not matter. What matters is that the person in charge understands their duty and operates accordingly. They view their role as a leader as an honor, and they treat it that way every day. They do not take for granted what so many only get to dream of.
Anyone fortunate enough to lead people understands it is a great honor, but they also know leadership comes with great responsibility. The task does not come lightly, and nor should it. Your job is to prepare people for pressure and to perform well in the heat of battle. That pressure and battle can be the game on Saturday night, the important Monday morning meeting at the office, or raising your children. You either prepare to handle pressure well, or you choose to show up unprepared. When you show up unprepared, you are guaranteed to fail.
In order for a leader to prepare others for the pressure, they must first prepare themself. If you have not spent time studying and preparing, you have no right to attempt to prepare others. You cannot be a leader without doing the work that leadership requires. This includes researching, observing, asking questions, and learning from your mistakes over many years. Leaders work at their craft every day, and true leaders understand they have to be well-educated and experienced if they hope to lead others well. Without this preparation, you have no right to lead.
The challenging responsibility of leadership comes with a great reward. To be known as a good leader is highly respected, and it is something to take pride in. But that’s not why you lead. You don’t lead for recognition or validation. You do it because that’s what you are supposed to do. It’s what you have to do. You have to do it if you care about people, and if you care about a better tomorrow. Because that’s what leaders do. They lead and prepare in the moment for a better tomorrow, and they inspire others to think and prepare the same way.
Decisions are not only decisions. There is more to them than a simple yes or no. If only they were that simple.
Like all of us, you have many decisions to make. This can be overwhelming. We all feel we have more decisions to make than we can handle at times.
The worst thing you can do when you have decisions to make is nothing. By failing to act, you choose to do nothing. And there it is. You just made a decision, and it was a bad one.
Most people are indecisive. They can’t convince themself to do anything. They worry and never act. Failing to act guarantees you’ll stay right where you are. Worried, overwhelmed, and frustrated.
Right behind indecision is quick action. It is almost equal to doing nothing. Acting too quickly can be as bad as doing nothing. When you are quick to act you fail to think. Quick action means you bypass your thought process. You guess, and you guess fast.
It is always better to do something than nothing. Something is a good start. But you don’t want to eek by with “good.” A good start is just that. It’s not horrible, but it’s far from great. You should strive to do what is best. What is optimal. We all should.
Between quick action and indecision is thinking. It’s a wonderful place where thought takes place. A place to pause, to think, and to reflect. To give yourself the chance to make a worthwhile decision. Those decisions are made through the thought process, and that requires you to ask questions. It requires quiet time to think and listen to yourself. To wonder and evaluate options.
A question worth asking is, Is it worth it? Is what I am asked to do worth the price I must pay? The good and bad news is that you are the only person that can answer that question.
Don’t be like the majority. Don’t act without thinking. Choose to act and to do something. There is nothing worse than doing nothing at all. There is no path destined for failure like the one you never get on. It guarantees failure.
Be quick to think before you act, and not just quick to act. Take pride in your ability to think and choose the best option. Not the quickest or most convenient one. The quick choice is the easy choice. And what is easy will not last. It never does.
There are many things that we do not know or have trouble understanding. Oftentimes we do not know where to start looking for information. But, the internet provides us with a great opportunity to learn any subject through videos, writing, and websites. TED talks are a great resource for learning a variety of topics in a short time. I have listed eight of my favorite TED talks on a wide variety of subjects that are worth your time. I hope you learn a few things you can take away and apply to your life.
Ric Elias was a passenger on Flight 1549, the plane that landed on the Hudson river in 2009. In this video, Ric discusses what went through his mind as he believed the plane was going to go down. He offers a great perspective from what he learned during this frightening experience. Ric is CEO and co-founder of Red Ventures, a portfolio of digital companies that creates customized online experiences.
David Blaine is a magician and stuntman who is best known for his feats of extreme endurance. This video details how he trained to stay underwater for this world-record breaking attempt, and how he thinks through his work. He is the author of Mysterious Stranger. You can learn more about David by visiting his website.
Susan Cain is a best-selling author, lecturer, and a co-founder of Quiet Revolution. Her talk discusses the current state of society, where being social and outgoing are valued. She argues that introverts bring extraordinary talent and abilities to the world. She is the author of Quiet, and Quiet Power.
Julian is a sound and communication expert. His mission is to help organizations and people listen better and create more effective sound. This talk discusses powerful speaking, and provides vocal exercises and tips on how to speak with empathy. He is the author of How To Be Heardand Sound Business. You can learn more at his website.
Dr. Attia is the founder of Attia Medical and focuses on the applied science of longevity. In this video, Dr. Attia questions the current understanding of diabetes. He analyzes how assumptions within the medical community may be leading us to the wrong wars. You can learn more about Dr. Attia by visiting his website and listening to his podcast, The Drive.
Adam Grant is a professor at Wharton. He is a leading expert on motivation and meaning, as well as living generous and creative lives. In this video, Adam discusses how creative people come up with ideas. He shows us that “the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most.” Adam is the author of Give and Take, Originals, Option B, and Power Moves. Visit Adam’s website to learn more about him.
Nutrition is complex, confusing, and difficult to understand. Chances are good that it has confused you, as it has confused me. This has led us to our current situation. Competition is intense to see what strategies are best and to determine who is “right.” Nutrition has become a marketing battle, which is unfortunate. Today, the best marketer is the nutrition authority, and the best salesman is the most educated. Yet, this is not always the case, as the most educated are quiet.
There are many factors that contribute to health and performance, and they are exercise, nutrition, sleep, and work. They determine our health, well-being, and performance. Nutrition is a large contributor to our health and combined with sleep forms the foundation that all other qualities depend on. It is difficult to stay healthy and perform well without a foundation of quality nutrition.
Nutrition impacts the way we live and perform. It is not about the next two-week goal, the competition crash diet, or the amount of food consumed to make your weight goal. These examples prove that nutrition is confusing for many people. Nonetheless, it is time to change our perspective.
The world is in poor health, and several of our problems are due to poor nutrition and a poor understanding of it. Our poor understanding has left us without any idea of what, or how, to eat. The common advice of eating more healthy fats, lean proteins, and whole-grain carbohydrates do not work.
Quick changes are a sure way to disaster. The weight loss goal for the wedding, the vacation, or the family pictures will fail to produce sustainable results. Eating until stuffed for the bodybuilding show, the sports competition, or gaining a few pounds will not result in lasting body weight increases. These examples are not all bad; what is bad is how we are told to achieve them. Short-term changes do not lead to long-term results. Quality is neglected in these examples, and quality matters.
Goals should have a positive impact on the way we eat. If goals are not aligned with quality nutrition, they are detrimental and need change. Nutrition supports and benefits our lives, and we should eat according to this idea.
The important thing is that we only get one body, and it is ours to care for or to neglect. Quality nutrition is a great way to nourish our body, and poor nutrition is a way to neglect it. Quality means we eat to fuel our body, and provide it with what is needed to function. Every choice is made through this lens. These choices show results after years of implementation, and they carry long-term benefits and consequences.
The ingredient list is the focus of nutrition. Food ingredients dictate our food choices. Health experts have focused on nutrition facts while neglecting the ingredient list. We function best when we eat foods with a short ingredient list, and it is best to get close to one ingredient. The more ingredients, the further away it is from its natural state, and more ingredients mean more processing and additives to food. The goal is to consume food in its most natural state. More is not better, especially in food.
Countless methods and opinions exist, but the amount of ingredients is a key aspect. It is difficult to argue that food with more ingredients is better for your body. Real food has few ingredients, and few ingredients are good for digestion and absorption. We have the choice, so choose foods with few ingredients.
Continuums exist and explain many things in life. Aspects of nutrition relate to continuums. Things are better when they are in the middle, and avoid extremes. It is best to eat foods with fewer ingredients and keep your total amounts toward the low end of the range. The amount of food you eat should also lie near the middle; eating until satisfied, and not stuffed or starving.
It seems that we eat to get something now and disregard the future. We eat for the six-pack abs or heavy squat numbers, and this is a problem. When we eat for these goals, we neglect quality food. Bad things happen when we neglect quality. Ignoring quality might get you to a short term goal, but it is not worth the long term consequences. Food makes us who we are, and we do not have time to neglect our choices.
Eat to live, and eat as your future depends on it – because it does.
Time is a variable we all share, and one we never get back. We never seem to have enough time. Work and other commitments seem to consume our time. We all get the same amount each day; the difference is the choices made on how it is spent. For example, we choose what to do with our time, who to spend it with, and if we want to respect both ours and other people’s time. However, these are influenced by one of the simplest decisions involving time: to be early or to be late.
The people we are close to and our responsibilities expect us to be on time. Being on time to work, school, family functions, and other activities is important. It is important for you to be on time for yourself and those involved. Imagine your work, the dreaded Monday morning meetings. When everyone is on time (meaning early), the meeting is able to begin and end as scheduled. If anyone involved is late, the meeting starts off on a bad foot. This happens instantly, before anyone knows (or cares) why you are late. At this point, it does not matter. All that matters is that you are not on time.
We have many things trying to take our time every day, to steal it in a sense. Responsibilities, other people, and surprises are parts of life that will consume your time, if you let them. It is our responsibility to decide what is worth our time, to prioritize it, and to eliminate what is not. We decide how we spend, and respect, time. The decisions we make impact the people around us. We impact other people’s time. Your family, friends, teammates, and co-workers are impacted by your ability (or inability) to be on time.
What Does It Mean To Be On Time?
There are two things that need to happen to be on time. You must be mentally prepared for where you are going. This means that you have thought about what will happen and what you need to do. You must also be physically present. You are (physically) where you are supposed to be, when you are supposed to be there.
To be on time means that you are mentally prepared at the scheduled time. Preparation allows you to feel confident and ready for the task. It is blatantly obvious to others in the room, and it means you have done your homework and spent time thinking. This helps you think, and act, effectively in the world. It is possible to be physically present but not part of the meeting or event. If you have not prepared, you cannot contribute. If you cannot contribute and think effectively, you are not on time and you are expendable.
Physical presence is an important aspect of being on time. Some might argue that this is all that matters. This means that you are physically where you need to be, when you need to be there. You are not on time if you are not present. A meeting that starts at 8am means that it starts at 8am. Being in the parking lot, walking in the door, or stuck on the bus is not being present. It is impossible to be on time if you are not physically present. This is a simple concept, but surprisingly common.
To be on time is simple, but difficult to do consistently. Think of the meetings, sport practices, school functions, and dinner reservations that fail to start on time. Consistently being on time is difficult, especially when it is not prioritized. It is more common to be late than we hope or believe to be true. Unfortunately, it is not okay to not be on time.
Why You Shouldn’t Be Late
People are impacted when you choose to be late. Two groups of people in particular: you, and those involved in wherever you were supposed to be or whatever you were supposed to do. Being on time is about more than just you.
That 8am meeting you were late to? Everyone involved is now impacted by your failure to be on time. That virtual team meeting at 3 p.m. you did not remember? Everyone on the team now wastes time wondering where you are and why it is not important for you to be on time. Think about it; by being late to one thing, you are saying it’s not as important as something else. You are deliberately choosing one over the other. You might have things that take priority. Fine. Just don’t agree to be on time somewhere if it might not happen.
We all have surprises, either good or bad, that come up and make us late. Things do pop-up. This happens on rare occasions. We are more concerned with overall patterns of behavior, our reliability over long periods of time. To have something unexpected come up is expected, occasionally. To be late each week is not expected, and it is not accepted.
This Includes You
Our ability to be on time impacts those around us. It also influences us personally. It is a small action that carries large consequences. The concepts of gradualness and habits are compounded, positively or negatively, on a daily basis. Paul Graham refers to the concept gradualness in The Age of the Essay. In it, he discusses the power of gradualness and how concepts start with small actions and evolve over time. What we do each day matters. How we treat people and different situations has long-term effects on us. Being on time directly impacts the people involved. It also impacts you, someone more important.
We are shaped by the decisions we make, the things we think about, and the actions we take. Choosing to be on time is a small step in the right direction. Many small steps lead to a large leap over time. But you rarely make large leaps. Progress is made slowly, in small, incremental steps. Some people appear to make large leaps to success, but they do not. Success is made one good decision at a time. Start with one simple decision, to be on time.
Health, performance, and rehabilitation professionals share one common rule: to do no harm. Our first and most important duty is to keep the person safe while they are in our immediate care. This also applies to what they do while completing recommendations we have given them out of our direct supervision. To keep someone safe from injury is no small task.
To keep someone safe means that two things are accomplished. The individual is safe during the process of training or rehabilitation. Movements are performed efficiently and the client understands what to do and how to do it. They are safe while in your care. This also means that they are well-prepared for future tasks. Sports, daily life, and work all place unique demands on an individual. It is the job of the coach, trainer, and physical therapist to ensure that people are prepared for life’s demands.
This concept is commonly discussed, with limited practical framework as to what it means. To do no harm is interpreted differently depending on the person’s perspective. There are many examples that clearly break this rule.. As education material has become available and easier to access, it seems that our ability to do no harm is somehow getting worse. How could this be? What does it mean to do no harm in a professional setting?
Education and Teaching
The professional’s ability to keep others safe depends on their knowledge and ability to communicate expectations. The process starts with a clear understanding of what is to be accomplished. The professional can then, and only then, begin to demonstrate and explain the details of exercise performance. The ability to teach is limited by our level of education and ability to critically think. This is our greatest asset and there are no exceptions. While experience is important, the ability to teach will always depend on the understanding of the concept and one’s ability to clearly explain it.
Unlimited amounts of educational material are available to us today. Our job is to filter through it and utilize only what is beneficial and safe. Filtering through information allows you to extract what you need. It is important to read everything that you can and to discuss concepts and methods with people in the profession. Discussions with experienced professionals is beneficial to you (as the professional), and to your clients or patients. Watch videos to figure out what needs to be improved.
Teaching depends on what you know. Your education determines your effectiveness as a teacher. These two variables are dependent on one another. You will not be a great teacher without education and a deep understanding of your craft. Knowledge is dependent on what you read, what you watch, and who you talk to. The sources of information matter. You will limit your ability if you attempt to improve through practice alone. Teaching ability is limited if you do not constantly challenge yourself to learn and understand at a deeper level.
Watching and analyzing a client’s performance is crucial in keeping a person safe and doing no harm. Observation is dependent on your knowledge and education, as well as your ability to teach. You will only be able to notice what you know and have previously studied. There must be clearly defined standards of performance of execution when performing movements. Safety depends on how an exercise is performed.
Professionals must be exceptional observers to help people and keep them safe. They must first define their expectations through education and teaching, then analyze the performance of the prescribed movement or exercise. It begins with knowing what they want, and then being able to see it in others. The ability to break down a movement in this stage is critical. All exercises can be broken down into smaller, simpler movements. Small deviations in technique and performance need to be watched and assessed. View your client from different angles. This gives you the best idea of what is going well and what is not.
This is serious business. Doing no harm means seeing and identifying what could do harm. You must know what is harmful, and what is not, to know when the client is at risk. Observing the details of performance is key to their safety.
The next step in the process of doing no harm is correcting an exercise. The practitioner’s job is to correct movement and to help improve efficiency. After teaching and observing has taken place, feedback must occur. This includes positive feedback for what is being performed well. It also includes feedback on what needs to be improved. To give feedback in this order allows the person to continue doing the good portion, and focus on improving what can be improved. Explain what is being done well, then what they can work on.
Effective correction depends on our ability to teach and effectively observe movement. If we fail to deeply understand what is happening, we cannot possibly begin to correct. Through years of education and experience, we can begin to formulate the goals and standards of safely and effectively performed movement. This is in both our best interest and that of the client.
A simple piece of advice related to correction begins before it is necessary. Simply, do not teach or include any exercise that you are not confident in demonstrating and explaining. The goal of any physical exercise or rehabilitation program is to set people up for success. If there are not clear expectations before beginning, there is a high chance of the exercise being dangerous and poorly performed. If you do not understand it, they will not understand it. The exercise will have no chance of being performed successfully before it is even attempted. Do not waste your time, and do not waste theirs. This is easier said than done.
The ability to modify is closely related to our teaching ability. To modify is to correct, or to improve. To take something as it is and improve an aspect of it. As it relates to the performance of an exercise or movement, it is to make it safer and more efficient. Movements will need to be modified if they are being performed in a dangerous manner or if they are not efficient. They might also need to be modified if there are individual differences. A particular movement may not be best for the individual, and should be modified accordingly. This ensures that your client is performing a movement safely and efficiently.
A movement performed dangerously needs to be stopped immediately. There is nothing to debate. If you, or someone that you observe or coach, are in danger, there needs to be an immediate stop in performance. Safety is our top priority. Anything that is not safe should be stopped and corrected. This can take place by changing the exercise completely, reducing load, adjusting speed of repetition, or explaining and demonstrating it in a different way. There is always another way. One that might work better for the individual. Modify and stop at nothing to achieve safety during performance. There are no excuses for unsafe exercise execution.
It is possible for a movement to be performed safely, but not optimally. Safety is achieved, but the performance of the movement might not be optimal for that individual. They may need a slight variation, a different load, or a different training goal. These are all slight modifications to the training programs of advanced clients or athletes. Exercises, and the training program, can be slightly modified or re-focused to accommodate different individual development. Everyone is unique, and they will adapt at different rates to different demands.
Loading and Progression
Modifications are the slight alterations that take place in a training program as a person progresses and becomes better able to handle the demands of training. When training an athlete or client long-term, more factors must be considered. True coaching and expertise is required when you are with a person long-term. Development during a college or professional career requires a deep understanding of the mechanisms behind training and achieving specific adaptations.
Proficiency has been achieved in performing exercises and now the person must be challenged. Challenge, or increasing demand, occurs through variations in load, volume, frequency, and exercise selection. These are the variables to consider when creating a training program or rehabilitation plan. Training programs based on these variables have options to be progressed or regressed in difficulty. These options give us the ability to adjust the program long-term and change the focus so that results continue to be achieved. Remember, everything will work for a short amount of time, but nothing works forever. It is our job to adjust the training program to achieve results long-term.
The number one rule in the health, performance, and rehabilitation professions is to keep people safe. People are kept safe through proper performance of exercises and adaptations from the training program. Safety is a process that is refined and improved over many years. It is a continual process of education and teaching, observation, correction, modification, and loading and progression adjustments. I hope that this sheds light on the process of proper exercise performance and planning. It is not enough to say that our goal is to do no harm. We need a system and a process to achieve this result. I hope this gives you something to think about.
The eye of the elite takes on different meanings. Some of us recognize it when we see it, many do not. The rare eye of the elite that few understand or possess. It is a gift. A gift that is developed and practiced over months and years. It is a quality that is in some of us, a part of who we are. One that we cannot get rid of, even to the best of our abilities. The question is, why should we even try?
The elite eye can carry a negative or positive connotation, depending on a person’s perspective. It is mostly viewed in a negative fashion today. We should not fall into the same belief pattern. The eye of the elite is a gift and only a rare few truly possess it. It is a unique quality and should be valued as such. We need to nurture it, develop it, and to allow it to be utilized and listened to. Thrusting it into the forefront of decision-making and leadership.
What is it?
The elite eye is the lens that a person views their world. This includes their work, interactions with others, how they evaluate different situations, and their response to adversity. It is how they view what they do and how they do it. The eye of the elite is how one evaluates their work and the detail of execution.
Any person can possess the eye of the elite. It can be a well-known leader, the coach of a sports team, a parent, or a friend that we love. It is not limited to a popular leader or the coach of a famous sports team. It does not matter what role they have, but that they view people and situations through a similar lens. They view them with an elite eye.
Along with evaluating themselves, the elite eye is how someone evaluates the work and actions of those around them. The elite eye of a coach is how the coach evaluates their players and assistant coaches. The elite eye of a parent is how one evaluates the actions of their children and guides them forward by correcting their poor decisions and praising their good ones. The eye of a leader is how they assess unique situations, think through them, and act on their decisions.
Why do the elite need it?
We should begin by defining the elite. Elite is not subject to a particular job, sport, or are of the world. The elite eye is a mindset and a way of living, a way of evaluating one’s work and world. Think of the truly elite football coaches, like Nick Saban and Bill Walsh. The leaders like Winston Churchill and George Washington. Think of your parents or adult figures in your life that have impacted you. Think of your friends in school who, even though you might not talk to anymore, impacted your life at the time and probably still do. Elite is a mindset and a trait, not a job or a title.
Need is a strong word. You will not find one truly elite person that does not possess the elite eye. You are sure to find many influential people who are great at what they do and do not possess the eye of the elite. They are not truly elite. The trait is reserved for the select few, the truly elite and influential. There are not many football coaches like Nick Saban, few leaders like George Washington, and no parent who can guide and you love you like the one only you know.
The elite eye is a compass for the truly elite. It is how they direct their thoughts and actions under all circumstances. This compass is what they use to guide themselves on a daily basis. It helps them determine what they want and how to get there. These people always seem to have a clear vision of where they want to go and where they want their organization or team to go. They cannot go far without it.
Speaking with those who possess the elite eye is unique. The way they operate is rare. Few possess it, but you know when you are in the presence of someone who does. They function in a way that is almost robotic, automatic in a sense. Every obstacle they face and situation they deal with is handled with thought and consideration. They keep the big picture in mind and consider how different situations impact the goal. They approach decisions with a clear mind. They plan out their days and their work meticulously to make sure that what they are asking of themselves and of others will drive the mission forward.
The eye of the elite is instantly respected. You know it when you see it and you can feel it when you are around an elite individual. Many claim to be elite, but few truly are. A small number of people operate in such a way that they are constantly thinking about what can be better. Few consider possibilities, think through scenarios, and constantly try to improve their situations and the situations of those around them. They are always searching for ways to improve and for what can benefit them and their people.
What are the benefits of the elite eye?
It can be difficult to evaluate yourself. It is easy to lie and tell yourself that you have the right intentions, that you are acting in a positive way towards others. When someone has an elite eye, they are better able to evaluate themselves. Being able to evaluate yourself makes you a more effective person, and it allows you to be a better leader. The eye of the elite has a vision, and it is used as reference when reflecting on their own actions and routines. This allows the person to constantly evaluate what they are doing, why they are doing it, and where their actions are taking them.
The elite eye allows you to better evaluate and guide others. A strong sense of direction makes it simpler to assess others and keep them on track. While it is necessary to keep others on track, it is also important that the vision is communicated well in the beginning. Evaluating the performance of a team or organization is difficult to do without a clear view of the future. The elite possess the ability to communicate clearly and to encourage others to stay on track.
It will not be possible for a team to accomplish what it needs to if the leader does not evaluate effectively. They must be able to evaluate different situations and people. Without the ability to view things through the elite eye and evaluate effectively, they never have a chance. This can be any team, organization, family, or group of friends. A person or group needs to possess at least one elite eye to keep them progressing and adapting.
Progression, or the process of developing and moving towards a more advanced state, is the key variable that separates people of influence. The elite eye is progressive in nature, constantly searching for ways to grow and improve. Being able to effectively evaluate themselves, other people, and situations allows for improvement and growth. Personal and group improvement is important in progression. If the individual is not improving, the group will not progress. Keeping people focused on the vision helps keep the group progressing towards it. The elite start with themselves. They look in the mirror, and then they look at others.
Are there any drawbacks?
The eye of the elite can come off harsh or critical at times. When someone is focused on growth and minute details, it is likely that they will be portrayed negatively by outsiders. It is easy to judge a coach when you see him or her have a stern conversation with a player. It makes sense to criticize a leader when you see them make a decision and it fails. One truth we know is that the easy way is often the correct way. The easy path leads to worse outcomes than the difficult path. So, our assumptions or distant opinions might mean nothing.
Many of the most loved coaches and leaders are those who come off harsh. Those that are focused on improvement and that will not let anything stand in their way. They are undeniable in their pursuit of excellence. It is beneficial to learn something from this. Many people love the leaders that demanded the best from them. That made them better than they ever believed they could be.
A workaholic is a high-energy person who seeks to dominate and control. They always seem to do more than required (Larranaga, 1970). If you have the eye of the elite, you might be a workaholic. When someone is constantly trying to improve themselves or their people, they stop at nothing. Now this definitely poses a problem, but what are the alternatives? To sit by and let things happen? To let sub-par performance and education simply slide by? We need to consider the alternatives when we make such general statements like “he is a workaholic,” or “she just cannot relax.” Oftentimes, the alternative is not better. Consider the alternative. Think what needs to be done. Decide what it will take to get there and let nothing stand in your way.
As with all things, there is a balance that needs to be met. You cannot work at something all the time and expect to achieve great results. You cannot grip something too tightly or you will never realize it. You also cannot neglect something and expect it to come to life. If you never think about it or work at it, you will not have it. So, it is a balance. A medium grip on what you want. The ability to focus for periods of time with some time where you think about something else. Focus on the goal, and then give your work time to be realized.
Can you do the work without the elite eye?
You can do work without it, but you will never get to where you envision you can. You will always come up short. Even by the smallest margin. You will fail to get there. Either you will stop voluntarily, or someone will be better than you. They will beat you in the end. You might win the battle, but they will win the war. Success is about the long-haul, and the elite eye is what leads to ultimate success.
Becoming truly elite requires special tools. One of them being the elite eye. To acquire dominating success in leadership, coaching, or parenting, one must view situations and people through an elite lens. A lens that few others possess. One that is focused on growth and maximizing potential. One that is looking for the next right thing to do and never stops in pursuit of excellence. You might be thinking that this sounds exhausting. If you are, you are right. It is exhausting. That is precisely why so few have it and fewer can maintain it.
The elite eye is not for everyone, and that is okay. We know that the elite eye is exhausting, so many give up. They do not want a life that will require this degree of focus and persistence. The will to exhaust all options in pursuit of their ultimate goal. Many just do not have it in them. They have not had the chance to experience it, or to be around the mentors that instilled this line of thinking. Oftentimes, the elite eye is taught early on and passed on to a coach or a child.
Think of the coaching world today. When a head football coach either leaves for a new job or is relieved from his duties, what is the first thing the university does? They try to hire a highly successful coach, or they try to hire one of their assistants. Year after year this happens. The more you pay attention, the more you can guess what will happen next. Why do they do this? They are hoping that they hire someone with a similar makeup as the head coach, the one with the elite eye. If they cannot have the leader, they hope to get an identical copy. They are hoping to hire someone with an elite eye that has been passed on from a mentor to an assistant. But nothing is like the original. This often does not work in their favor.
The eye of the elite is a lens that can be found on any person. Many of us know the unique leaders, coaches, parents, and friends that seem to operate differently. We might not know them personally, but these people think differently. We have defined what the eye of the elite is, how they operate, and why it is unique. This is a concept that is not talked about, but one that is necessary if you want to be elite.
Larranaga, R. D. (1970). Calling it a day: daily meditations for workaholics. HarperCollins.