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Personal Best: Inner-Vation©

June 28, 2011

The eponymous hero of Billy Elliott is a boy brought up in a working class mining community who fulfills his dream to become a ballet dancer. Against the backdrop of Thatcher’s clampdown on the working class miners’ community, it is an emotional film from many perspectives, not least from the father-son relationship and helping your children realise their potential – when you had different aspirations for them.

Billy wants a different kind of work from the people around him. He wants to jump sisonnes rather than shovel coal, and to express himself through his work. He thinks he’ll get more out of Covent Garden than a coalmine. For him, dancing represents freedom – freedom to go his own way, and be the best he can.

The Japanese painter Hokusai signed his work Old Man Mad About Painting, that’s what we all want and need, to have passion for what we do. If we are, we’ve a chance of being successful, and to a level I’ll call Personal Best, a term often used in sport for a level of personal success. I’ve always been fascinated how great athletes perform at a level of Personal Best in a vital moment of competition, when the chips are down, going from ordinary to extraordinary, I believe there are some essential lessons from those performing at the extreme, beyond the norm and creating success, and I’ve captured them in something I’ve called ‘Personal Best – Inner-Vation’©.

High achieving individuals, no matter their personal background, domain or expertise are virtually identical in one way – every day they strive to achieve their best, and what sets them apart from their peers is that they continually grow – setting and beating goals. They have what I term ambition without compromise.  There are many people who live in no-man’s land, a place where they’re not realising their potential, but not unhappy enough to do anything about it. That’s a dangerous, nowhere place where people become numb, where they dismiss expectation and accept what’s in front of them instead of being agitated and determined, driving forward, building momentum and raising the bar. Who knows what they can achieve?

So what is the difference that makes the difference? Success leaves footprints, and whatever your personal goals, you can make an exponential leap towards them by modeling what others have done and adapting it to fit your own circumstances and objectives. We all live lives of infinite potential but few of us make the most of what we’ve got. Opportunity is everywhere, but some people miss it because it looks like work. What’s the bird’s eye view of what does success look like for you? I mean, why wouldn’t you want to explore your potential and be the best that you can be? I’ve looked at the achievements of outstanding individuals and how they reached beyond their expectations, and identified 10 ‘genes’ in the dna of high performers:

  • Clarity & Discipline High performers maintain a laser-like focus on their highest priority goals whilst minimising near term distractions;
  • Risk & Reward As determined as they are to avoid unnecessary risks, high performers are the first to recognise when a risk is worth taking;
  • Proving & Improving: High performers aren’t defined by what they do to reach the top, but what they do to stay there – continuous renewal;
  • Attitude & Aptitude: What separates high performers from lesser competitors isn’t just talent, it’s the way they fuse their capability and mindset;
  • Foresight. High performers not only seize opportunities, they plan for them. They concentrate on preparation, not second guessing;
  • Inner-Vation©. High performers sustain their success by focusing less on surpassing the competition, and more on surpassing themselves and what they want to be;
  • Future Focus. It’s not what you did last time, but what you will do next time, raising the bar of expectation, no time for resting on your laurels;
  • Flexibility High performers blend rigid operating principles with a knack for changing shape: it’s not a set-back, it’s a test of ingenuity;
  • Consistency & Willingness. We all embrace the idea of continuous improvement, high performers actually practice it as a core competency;
  • Classical & Jazz. High performers not only excel at the fundamentals, they’re also brilliant at instinctive improvisation.

We can all do a Billy and chose our own path, the point is It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be. From Carl Lewis, Pablo Casals, Anita Roddick, Sir Edmund Hilary James Dyson to Maggie Alphonsi, the attributes and habits of high performers are reflected in the list above and can guide you towards your own aspirational. But there is more to it than that, it’s all about setting your standard of Personal Best. You’ve got to make it matter, where it counts, and that’s inside: Inner-Vation©

 

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