High Level Thoughts
Upon reading the habits themselves, they seem obvious. Burchard does a good job in each chapter of applying each habit in many ways that I had not seen previously. However, there is a lot of fluff. I think that this book could have easily been 1/3 to 1/2 smaller without losing anything important. Also, be aware that there are upsells to much more expensive products when you visit any of the online content he links to in the book. Still a very worthwhile read though.
Copy and pasted the below notes from my kindle, so they are quite verbose. Will edit them soon.
Certainty is the enemy of growth and high performance. Too many people want certainty amid the chaos of this world. But certainty is the fool’s dream and, thus, the charlatan’s selling point. Certainty ultimately blinds you, sets false or fixed limits, and creates “automatic” habits that become predictable bad thinking and openings for your competitors to surpass you. The person who is certain is most closed to learning, most vulnerable to dogma, and most likely to be blindsided and overtaken by innovators. You’ll learn that high performers outgrow their youthful need for certainty and replace it with curiosity and genuine self-confidence.
If you want to reach higher levels of performance in anything you do, you must consistently do the following: Seek clarity on who you want to be, how you want to interact with others, what you want, and what will bring you the greatest meaning. As every project or major initiative begins, you ask questions such as “What kind of person do I want to be while I’m doing this?” “How should I treat others?” “What are my intentions and objectives?” “What can I focus on that will bring me a sense of connection and fulfillment?” High performers ask these types of questions not only at the beginning of an endeavor but consistently throughout. They don’t just “get clarity” once and develop a mission statement that lasts the test of time; they consistently seek clarity again and again as times change and as they take on new projects or enter new social situations. This kind of routine self-monitoring is one of the hallmarks of their success. Generate energy so that you can maintain focus, effort, and wellbeing. To stay on your A game, you’ll need to actively care for your mental stamina, physical energy, and positive emotions in very specific ways. Raise the necessity for exceptional performance. This means actively tapping into the reasons you absolutely must perform well. This necessity is based on a mix of your internal standards (e.g., your identity, beliefs, values, or expectations for excellence) and external demands (e.g., social obligations, competition, public commitments, deadlines). It’s about always knowing your why and stoking that fire all the time so you feel the needed drive or pressure to get at it. Increase productivity in your primary field of interest. Specifically, focus on prolific quality output (PQO) in the area in which you want to be known and to drive impact. You’ll also have to minimize distractions (including opportunities) that steal your attention from creating PQO. Develop influence with those around you. It will make you better at getting people to believe in and support your efforts and ambitions. Unless you consciously develop a positive support network, major achievements over the long haul are all but impossible. Demonstrate courage by expressing your ideas, taking bold action, and standing up for yourself and others, even in the face of fear, uncertainty, threat, or changing conditions. Courage is not an occasional act, but a trait of choice and will.
Effectiveness in life does not come from focusing on what is automatic, easy, or natural for us. Rather, it is the result of how we consciously strive to meet life’s harder challenges, grow beyond our comforts, and deliberately work to overcome our biases and preferences, so that we may understand, love, serve, and lead others.
To reach exceptional performance and win over the long term, you will be required to develop well beyond what is easy or natural to you, because the real world is full of uncertainty and ever-increasing demands for growth. Your “natural” birth strengths will not be enough.
You are not supposed to be innately good at the HP6. You have to work at them all the time. Whenever you hope to succeed at a new goal, project, or dream, you have to bust out the HP6.
One thing is abundantly clear from our findings: You should never wait to pursue a dream or add value out of fear that you lack the “right stuff.”
So don’t hope for a flash of inspiration to reveal what you want next. You generate clarity by asking questions, researching, trying new things, sorting through life’s opportunities, and sniffing out what’s right for you.
You have to know who you are, what you value, what your strengths and weaknesses are, and where you want to go. This kind of knowledge makes you feel better about yourself and about life. Next, you need to have unambiguous and challenging goals.
Choosing stretch goals in each area of your life makes a good starting place for high performance.
You should also give yourself deadlines for your goals, or you won’t follow through.
They didn’t just know who they were; indeed, they rarely focused on their present personality or preferences. Instead, they consistently thought about who they wanted to be and how to become that.
High performers are clear on their intentions for themselves, their social world, their skills, and their service to others. I call these areas self, social, skills, and service, or the Future Four.
So what makes the difference is that high performers imagine a positive version of themselves in the future, and then they actively engage in trying to be that. This part about actively engaging is important. They aren’t waiting to demonstrate a characteristic next week or next month. They are living into their best self now.
Be more intentional about who you want to become. Have vision beyond your current circumstances. Imagine your best future self, and start acting like that person today.
Describe how you’ve perceived yourself in the following situations over the past several months—with your significant other, at work, with the kids or team, in social situations with strangers. Now ask, “Is that who I really see myself being in the future?” How would my future self look, feel, and behave differently in those situations? If you could describe yourself in just three aspirational words—words that would sum up who you are at your best in the future—what would those words be? Why are those words meaningful to you? Once you find your words, put them in your phone as an alarm label that goes off several times per day.
I’ve found that high performers also regularly ask themselves a few primary questions right before interacting with people. They ask questions like these: How can I be a good person or leader in this upcoming situation? What will the other person(s) need? What kind of mood and tone do I want to set?
What is apparent across all high performers is that they anticipate positive social interactions and they strive consciously and consistently to create them.
Write down each person’s name in your immediate family and team. Imagine that in twenty years each person is describing why they love and respect you. If each person could say just three words to summarize the interactions they had with you in life, what would you want those three words to be? Next time you’re with each of those people, approach your time with them as an opportunity to demonstrate those three qualities. Have those words as the goal and start living into those qualities. Challenge yourself to be that person now. This will bring life back into your relationships.
High performers are also working on skills that focus on what I call their primary field of interest (PFI). They aren’t scattershot learners. They’ve homed in on their passionate interests, and they set up activities or routines to develop skill in those areas.
This means high performers approach their learning not as generalists but as specialists
Look to the future. Identify key skills. Obsessively develop those skills.
No matter your current level of performance, clarifying your PFI and the skills you need to master for your next level of success must be a priority.
Think about your PFI (primary field of interest) and write down three skills that make people successful in that field. Under each skill, write down what you will do to develop it. Will you read, practice, get a coach, go to a training? When? Set up a plan to develop those skills, put it in your calendar, and stay consistent. Now think about your PFI and write down three skills that you will need in order to succeed in that field five to ten years from now. In other words, try to imagine the future. What new skill sets will you likely need then? Keep those skills on your radar, and start developing them sooner rather than later.
Specifically, high performers care deeply about the difference they are going to make for others and in the future in general, so they cater today’s activities to delivering those contributions with heart and elegance.
“How can I serve people with excellence and make an extraordinary contribution to the world?”
In stark contrast again, underperformers are too focused on self over service. They give more mindshare to “What do I want now?” than to “What do those I serve want now?” They ask, “How can I get by with the least amount of effort?” instead of “How can I serve with excellence?” Underperformers ask, “Why don’t people recognize my unique strengths?” while high performers are asking, “How can I serve in unique ways?”
The second practice that will help you heighten and sustain clarity in your life is to ask yourself frequently, “What is the primary feeling I want to bring to this situation, and what is the primary feeling I want to get from this situation?”
Think of an emotion as mostly a reaction, and feeling is an interpretation. Like the sprinter, the emotion of fear can come up but you don’t have to choose to feel frightened and run away. You can experience the sudden emotion of fear, but in the very next moment choose to feel centered. Whenever you “calm yourself down,” you are choosing a different feeling than the emotion that may have come up for you.
In your everyday life, start asking, “What do I want to feel today? How could I define the meaning of the day so that I feel what I want to?” Next time you go on a date with someone, think about the feelings you want to create. Before you sit down with your child to work on math, ask, “What do I want to feel when I’m helping my kid? What feelings do I want them to have about me, about homework, about their life?” This kind of clarity and intention will change how you experience life.
Clearly, if you want a positive life, you would do well to summon as much enthusiasm as possible. It was these findings that inspired me to ask myself this question every morning in the shower: “What can I get excited or enthusiastic about today?”
Connection is less about comfort than about challenge. In other words, high performers feel that their work has more meaning when they are in a peer group that challenges them. In their everyday life, too, they value being around inspiring people who push them to grow more than, say, people who are just fun to be around or are generally kind.
When your efforts correspond with one of your primary passions, lead to personal or professional growth, and make a clear and positive contribution to others, you tend to call those efforts satisfying.
Passion + Growth + Contribution = Personal Satisfaction
Enthusiasm + Connection + Satisfaction + Coherence = Meaning
The important thing is this: You need to bring more conscious and consistent thought to what you will find meaningful in life.
You have to have a vision for yourself in the future. You have to discern how you want to feel and what will be meaningful to you. Without those practices, you have nothing to dream of and strive for, no pop and zest in your daily life propelling you forward.
In a stunning finding, CEOs and senior executives have energy equivalent to that of professional athletes. It turns out that to make it to CEO, you have to care about your energy as much as an NFL quarterback does, because it takes about the same level of energy. Bottom line: The more energy someone has, the more likely they are to be happy and climb to the top of their primary field of interest.
In a decade of coaching high performers, I’ve found that the easiest, fastest, and most effective way to help them increase their energy is to teach them to master transitions.
What do I mean by transitions? Well, every morning when you wake up and start your day, you experience a transition from rest to activation. The start of your day is a transition. The time you drop off the kids and start your commute—that’s a transition from family time to drive time. When you finish your commute to work, open your car door, and walk into the office, that’s a transition from solitary time to working with others.
From now on, as you move from one major activity to another, try this: Close your eyes for the next minute or two. Repeat the word release in your mind over and over. As you do, command your body to release all the tension in your shoulders, in your neck, in your face and jaw. Release the tension in your back and your legs. Release the tension in your mind and spirit. If this is hard, just focus on each part of your body, breathe deeply, and repeat the word release in your mind. This doesn’t have to take long—just a minute or two repeating the word release. When you feel you’ve released some tension—and it doesn’t have to be all the tension in your life!—move to the next part: SET INTENTION. This means think about what you want to feel and achieve in the next activity you’re about to take on when you open your eyes. Ask, “What energy do I want to bring into this next activity? How can I do this next activity with excellence? How can I enjoy the process?” These don’t have to be the exact questions you ask, but these are the kinds of question that will prompt your mind to be more present in the next activity.
If you’d like to go to another level of mastery, try a twenty-minute practice called the Release Meditation Technique
Just close your eyes, sit up straight, and, breathing deeply, let the tension fall away from your body as you keep repeating the word release to yourself. As thoughts inevitably come up in your mind, don’t try to chase them away or ponder them—just let them go and return to the “release” mantra.
That’s why I suggest that if you decide to set one intention that will raise your energy and change your life more than any other, make it to bring more joy into your daily life.
Every morning in the shower, I asked myself three questions to prime my mind for a positive day: What can I be excited about today? What or who might trip me up or cause stress, and how can I respond in a positive way, from my highest self? Who can I surprise today with a thank-you, a gift, or a moment of appreciation?
Whenever things felt like they were getting out of hand, I’d stand up, take ten deep breaths, and ask, “What’s the positive thing I can focus on and the next right action of integrity I should take now?”
I began an evening journaling activity in which I wrote down three things that made me feel good during the day. Then I took just a few moments to close my eyes and actually relive them. I put myself right back into the situation I experienced. I see what I saw, hear what I heard, feel what I felt.
If you don’t put intention and set up reminders to generate joy in your life, then you’re not experiencing the full range of life’s zest.
So if the demands of your job or life require you to learn fast, deal with stress, be alert, pay attention, remember important things, and keep a positive mood, then you must take exercise more seriously.
If health practitioners consistently repeat any rule above all others, it’s that you should be aware of when you’re eating not for nourishment but just to satiate yourself when you’re in a bad mood. Beware of using meals as a way to push down negative emotions. If you feel bad, move. Go for a walk and change your emotional state before eating.
After personally coaching many people trying to improve their energy, I’ve learned that if you’re going to start anywhere to improve your health, you should start with a regular workout schedule, especially if you’re in generally good health.
Don’t look at any screens an hour before bed; drop the temperature in your home to sixty-eight degrees at night; black out the room from all light and sound. If you wake up in the middle of the night, don’t get up and don’t check your phone. Condition your body just to lie there. Start teaching your body that it has to lie in bed for eight hours no matter what. For other sleep tricks, read The Sleep Revolution by my good friend Arianna Huffington.
If you’ve made optimal fitness a primary goal in your life, under no circumstances should you try to optimize your physical health without a trainer.
Just five to ten minutes of light stretching or yoga every morning and night will help you gain greater flexibility and mobility. It will loosen up your body so you’re not carrying so much tension.
You need some sort of practice for checking in on whether you are living up to your own personal standards. This can be as easy as journaling every night and considering this line of questioning: “Did I perform with excellence today? Did I live up to my values and expectations for giving my best and doing a good job?”
The goal for all underperformers must be to set new standards, self-monitor more frequently, and learn to become comfortable with taking a hard, unflinching look at their own performance.
They sense they must do something with excellence, and if they fail and have to endure negative emotions, so be it. They too highly value the performance edge that comes from necessity to let themselves off the hook. The payoff is worth the potential discomfort.
Go ahead and tie your identity to doing a good job. And remember to set challenging goals. Decades of research involving over forty thousand participants has shown that people who set difficult and specific goals outperform people who set vague and non-challenging goals.
When you are passionate about what you do, people understand. When you are obsessed, they think you’re mad. That’s the difference.
Obsession is not something to fear. Quite the contrary. It’s almost like a badge of honor. When people are obsessed with something, they enjoy doing it so much that they don’t feel the need to apologize to others for it. They lose hours working at a task or improving a skill. And they love it.
Before we move on to the external forces, spend some time reflecting on the following statements: The values that are important for me to live include . . . A recent situation where I didn’t live my values was . . . The reason I didn’t feel it necessary in that moment to live my values is . . . A recent situation in which I was proud of living my values or being a particular kind of person was . . . The reason I felt it necessary to be that kind of person then was . . . The topics I find myself obsessed with include . . . A topic I haven’t been obsessing about enough in a healthy way is . . .
High performers often feel the necessity to perform well out of a sense of duty to someone or something beyond themselves. Someone is counting on them, or they’re trying to fulfill a promise or responsibility.
So if you ever feel that you are not performing well, start asking, “Who needs me more right now?”
Because high performers understand the need to meet their obligations, they rarely complain about the tasks and duties they must perform to succeed. They recognize that fulfilling their role and serving the needs of others is part of the process. It’s a positive thing tomorrow even if it’s a pain now.
Real deadlines are an underappreciated tool in performance management.
We’d rather talk about goals and timelines, setting “nice to have” dates to achieve those goals. But high performance happens only when there are real deadlines. What is a “real” deadline? It’s a date that matters because, if it isn’t met, real negative consequences happen, and if it is real, benefits come to fruition.
The reality is that when you choose to care for others and make a big difference in the world, the number of deadlines coming at you will increase.
From now on, whenever you sit down at your desk—that’s the trigger action—ask: “Who needs me on my A game the most right now?”
If you want to be on your A game, you can’t be a dabbler, novice, amateur, or player. You must consciously choose and try to will yourself into being a high performer. If you’re going to bring your A game regularly, you have to describe that identity for yourself and step into it—every single day.
In addition to choosing a high performance identity, you’ll have to immerse yourself fully in activities that force you to stretch. You can’t just prance around thinking you’re good. You have to put yourself in situations that make you good.
It’s in affirming their whys with other people that high performers not only feel more confident but create social consequence and obligation. If I tell you I’m going for a goal and why it’s so important to me, and if I speak as though it’s going to happen, declaring that I will make it happen, then my ego is now on the line.
All this leads me to suggest that you affirm your whys, to yourself and to others, more consistently.
When I say affirm your why to yourself, I mean literally talk to yourself using affirmations.
Also, note that I spoke to myself in the second person and that the affirmation was based more on intrinsic rewards (helping people, loving the process) than on extrinsic rewards (finishing the video, making money selling the course, winning awards, or getting positive feedback).
When I’m hired to coach someone to high performance, one of the easiest quick wins is to have them spend more time with the most positive and successful people in their support network.
If you truly want to increase your performance in any area of your life, get around some new people who expect and value high performance. Expand your peer group to include more people who have greater expertise or success than you, and spend more time with them.
They are more strategic and consistent in seeking to work with others at or above their level of competence, experience, or overall success. They seek networking activities or group affiliations with more successful people. At work, they communicate more with people who are more experienced and often “above” them on the organizational chart. In their personal lives, they volunteer more, spend less time in negative or conflict-ridden relationships, and ask for help from their more successful peers more than others do.38
Instead of “getting rid of” all the negative people in your life (especially if they are family, friends, loyal peers, or those who are just in need), spend more time (a) hanging with your positive and successful peers and (b) building a new positive peer group.
I tell high performers to have one or two lifelong mentors: older, wiser, highly respected, successful people. I want you to call them once per month. I also want you to have one new “domain mentor” every three years. This means someone who has precisely the expertise you need to succeed in your field. You should also call that person every month. These two mentors, one for life and another for specific domain expertise, will give you extraordinary perspective.
You want to get around more successful people? Then earn your way into that party by becoming exceptional at what you do. Work hard. Practice the high performance habits. Never give up, add a tremendous amount of value, and stay on the path to mastery.
You are only as strong and extraordinary as you give yourself reason to be. So determine your musts, my friend. Make them real. Feel them in your gut. Because the world needs you to show up now.
High performers have found a way to produce more but also eat healthier, work out more, and still feel a greater love for taking on new challenges than their peers do.
The fundamentals of becoming more productive are setting goals and maintaining energy and focus. No goals, no focus, no energy—and you’re dead in the water.
The great mistake most people make is to think of balance in terms of evenly distributed hours.
Indeed, most people have a lot more time off and more time with their families than they think. It’s just that they’re not intentional about that time and, hence, don’t enjoy that time “enough.”
Instead of trying to balance hours, try to balance happiness or progress in your major life arenas.
I’ve found that it is useful to organize life into ten distinct categories: health, family, friends, intimate relationship (partner or marriage), mission/work, finances, adventure, hobby, spirituality, and emotion. When I’m working with clients, I often make them rate their happiness on a scale of 1 through 10 and also write their goals in each of these ten arenas every Sunday night.
If you aren’t consistently measuring the major arenas of your life, then you couldn’t possibly know what the balance you seek is or is not.
You’ll always feel out of balance if you’re doing work that you don’t find engaging and meaningful.
That’s why, for optimal productivity, you should not only take longer breaks—claim your vacation time!—but also give yourself intermittent breaks throughout the day.
If you want to feel more energized, creative, and effective at work—and still leave work with enough oomph for the “life” part—the ideal breakpoint is to stop your work and give your mind and body a break every forty-five to sixty minutes.
Notice what’s not included during these breaks: checking e-mail, texts, or social media. Checking in is the exact opposite of our goal here: checking out so we can recharge.
Figuring out what you are supposed to produce, and learning the priorities in the creation, quality, and frequency of that output, is one of the greatest breakthroughs you can have in your career.
Whenever I have to help a client increase high performance, quickly discovering what output they should be creating is one of my go-to strategies. No matter what topic or type of deliverables they decide to get productive toward, I have them reorient their entire work schedule toward that endeavor. As quickly as possible, I want them spending 60 percent or more of their workweek oriented to PQO.
Instead, researchers have found that procrastination is really a motivational problem.33 It’s an issue that arises because you’re not working on things that intrinsically matter to you. In rare cases, it can be about anxiety or fear of failure, but far more often it stems from working on things that don’t excite you, engage you, or matter to you. That’s why finding a PQO you can get behind is so important. If you love what you’re creating or contributing in the world, you’ll experience less procrastination.
Having a plan and working through it step-by-step is more important than you think. A plan focuses scattered thinking. And finishing each vital task on your list fires off dopamine in the brain, making you feel both rewarded and more motivated to continue. A plan not only increases your likelihood of completing an activity but also increases your joy during the project, and your available cognitive resources for the next goal.
Think of the most ambitious dream you’d like to take on, identify what you really want, then ask yourself: “If there were only five major moves to make that goal happen, what would they be?”
Once you’re clear on these things, put them into your calendar, scheduling the bulk of your time in protected blocks during which you do nothing but make progress toward the activity that the specific block is dedicated to.
Know the big five moves that will take you to your goal, break those moves down into tasks and deadlines, then put them in a calendar.
I discovered that to get the result of number one bestseller, all that really mattered were these five basic moves: Finish writing a good book. Until that’s done, nothing else matters. If you want a major publishing deal, get an agent. Or just self-publish. Start blogging and posting to social media, and use these to get an e-mail list of subscribers. E-mail is everything. Create a book promotion web page and offer some awesome bonuses to get people to buy the book. Bonuses are crucial. Get five to ten people who have big e-mail lists to promote your book. You’ll owe them a reciprocal e-mail—meaning you agree to promote for them later, too—and a portion of any sales they might make for you on other products you may be offering during your book promotion.
It doesn’t matter whether you know how to achieve your Five Moves at first. The important thing is that for every major goal you have, you figure out the Five Moves. If you don’t know the moves, you lose.
It’s a simple process that my clients have used over and over again to achieve equally impressive results: Decide what you want. Determine the Five Major Moves that will help you leap toward that goal. Do deep work on each of the major five moves—at least 60 percent of your workweek going to these efforts—until they are complete. Designate all else as distraction, tasks to delegate, or things to do in blocks of time you’ve allocated in the remaining 40 percent of your time.
To become more productive, become more competent. You have to master the primary skills needed to win in your primary fields of interest.
One principle lies at the heart of this effort: Everything is trainable. No matter what skill you want to learn, with enough training and practice and intention, you can become more proficient at it.
These are the steps to progressive mastery: Determine a skill that you want to master. Set specific stretch goals on your path to developing that skill. Attach high levels of emotion and meaning to your journey and your results. Identify the factors critical to success, and develop your strengths in those areas (and fix your weaknesses with equal fervor). Develop visualizations that clearly imagine what success and failure look like. Schedule challenging practices developed by experts or through careful thought. Measure your progress and get outside feedback. Socialize your learning and efforts by practicing or competing with others. Continue setting higher-level goals so that you keep improving. Teach others what you are learning.
A comprehensive meta-analysis on social skills found that personality does not correlate with “political skill,” which is how researchers often refer to influence or your ability to understand others and get them to act toward objectives.
One reason people struggle to gain influence in their personal and professional lives is that they simply don’t ask for what they want.
This is, in part, because people drastically underestimate the willingness of others to engage and help.
Studies show that people overestimate how often or to what degree others will judge them.
If someone does say yes to helping you, they tend to like you even more after they’ve done something for you.
Research shows that influencers understand the power of repetition, so they try multiple times to get their ideas in front of those they hope to influence.9 The more you ask and share your ideas, the more people become familiar and comfortable with your requests, and the more they start to like the idea.
you seek greater influence with other people, learn to ask them a tremendous number of questions that elicit what they think, feel, want, need, and aspire to. Great leaders ask a lot of questions. Remember, people support what they create. When people get to contribute ideas, they have mental skin in the game. They want to back the ideas they helped shape. They feel that they’re part of the process, not a cog or some faceless minion.
In all the asking, don’t forget to give. In just about any area of endeavor, giving to others with no expectation of return increases your overall success.
High performers have a giving mindset. They enter almost every situation looking for ways to help others.
Be grateful for people. Just by offering gratitude, you can more than double the likelihood that those receiving your appreciation will help you again in the future.15 Give thanks in meetings; write thank-you notes; spend more time noticing positive actions by your people. If you’re the one who appreciates people the most, you’re the most appreciated.
Appreciating people is one step. The next is to become their champion. Find out what your people are passionate about, and cheer on their good ideas. Be excited for people when they do a good job, and publicly praise them. The ultimate measure of whether you really support someone is to trust them, give them the autonomy to make important decisions, and praise them in public when they do well. That’s how people know they are truly cheered on.
To gain influence with others, (1) teach them how to think about themselves, others, and the world; (2) challenge them to develop their character, connections, and contributions; and (3) role model the values you wish to see them embody.
When I work with leaders, I’m consistently telling them they should always communicate how their people should be thinking about themselves as individual contributors, about their competitors, and about the overall marketplace.
Begin by identifying how you want to influence them. What do you want them to do? Then know your responses to these questions before you meet with that person: How do you want them to think about themselves? How do you want them to think about other people? How do you want them to think about the world at large?
High performers challenge the people around them to rise to higher levels of performance themselves. If you could follow them around as they lead their lives, you would see that they consistently challenge others to raise the bar. They push people to get better, and they don’t apologize for it.
But this isn’t about confrontation. It’s about issuing subtle or direct positively framed challenges to motivate others to excel.
High performers love challenge. It’s one of the most universal observations we’ve made in our research.
First, they challenge their character. This means they give people feedback, direction, and high expectations for living up to universal values such as honesty, integrity, responsibility, self-control, patience, hard work, and persistence.
Ask, “What kind of person do you want to be remembered as? What would life look like if you gave your all? Where are you making excuses, and how might life turn out differently if you showed up stronger?”
The second area where you can challenge others concerns their connections with others—their relationships. You set expectations, ask questions, give examples, or directly ask them to improve how they treat and add value to other people.
What’s important to note here is that high performers are explicit in their expectations for how people should treat each other. I’m always surprised at how direct they are in telling people, over and over, how to treat one another. Even when people around them are treating one another well, they still keep pushing for them to unite even more.
The third area where you can challenge others is in their contributions. You push them to add more value or to be more generous.
When high performers issue challenges to contribute more, usually they are not giving feedback solely on the quality of what you’re delivering now. Rather, they challenge you to contribute more looking ahead—to create or innovate so that you make the future better.
Instead, high performers challenge individuals specifically. They go desk to desk and challenge each person on their team. They adjust the level of challenge they issue to each person they are leading.
What makes them high performers is the laser-focused intention on how they can act in a way that gets someone to improve who they are, or achieve a specific result.
There’s just something magical that happens in our life when we let all the drama go and decide to ask how we can be role models again.
The important thing is that you define what being more courageous means to you, and start living that way.
I think of courage as taking determined action to serve an authentic, noble, or life-enhancing goal, in the face of risk, fear, adversity, or opposition.
After listening to so many high performers’ stories over the past decade, I know this to be true: You are capable of remarkable things that you could never foretell and will never discover without taking action.
“Don’t complain,” dozens of high performers told me. “Act.”
If your future best self—a version of you ten years older, who is even stronger, more capable, and more successful than you imagined yourself to be—showed up on your doorstep today and looked at your current circumstances, what courageous action would that future self advise you to take right away to change your life? How would your future self tell you to live?
We’re surrounded by memes and media and influencers telling us we’re not supposed to struggle, that life should just be an easy flow or we’re on the wrong track. Imagine what that’s doing to our abilities. Imagine what that is doing to our odds of ever taking courageous action.
To achieve excellence requires hard work, discipline, routines that can become boring, the continual frustrations that accompany learning, adversities that test every measure of our heart and soul, and, above all, courage.
When we learn to see struggle as a necessary, important, and positive part of our journey, then we can find true peace and personal power.
The struggle I’m now facing is necessary, and it’s summoning me to show up, be strong, and use it to forge a better future for myself and my loved ones.
Live a life that is yours. Don’t seek the approval of the doubters. You’ll find no lasting joy in seeking acknowledgment from others. If it comes, it’ll never be enough. So the only path left is to express your own truth and pursue your own dreams.
Do not dare play small, my friend. Do not feel guilt because you have high aims. Those dreams were seeded in your soul for a reason, and it is your duty to honor them. Do not hold back in life just to comfort or placate those around you. Holding back is not humility; it’s lying. If the people in your life do not know your true thoughts, feelings, needs, and dreams, do not blame them. It is your lack of voice or vulnerability or power, not their lack of understanding or ambition, that is building the barricade to your potential. Share more, and you’ll have real relationships that can support you, energize you, lift you. Even if they don’t support you or believe in you, at least you lived your life. At least you put it all on the table. At least you honored the hopes of your heart and the calling of your soul. In your full expression lies your freedom. My friend, your next level of performance begins at your next level of truth.
The most important thing in connecting authentically with others is to share your true desires with them. They don’t have to approve or help or even brainstorm with you. This isn’t about them. This is about you having the courage to open to others just as the universe remains open to you.
We will do more for others than for ourselves. And in doing something for others, we find our reason for courage, and our cause for focus and excellence.
What in my personal life have I avoided doing, which might involve hardship but just might improve my family’s lives forever? What could I do at work that would require stepping out on a limb but would also truly change things for the better and help people? What decision could I make that would demonstrate a moral commitment to something higher than myself? How could I bring myself to face a situation that usually makes me nervous or anxious? What change could I make that scares me but will help someone I love? What good thing could I walk away from to advance my life? What have I wanted to say to those close to me, and when and how will I courageously declare that truth? Who needs me, and who will I fight for the rest of this year?
Beware Three Traps
The real traps are internal—negative patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that slowly kill our humanity, zest, and well-being. The traps are superiority, dissatisfaction, and neglect.
When you are succeeding beyond others, it’s easy to get a big head. You can begin to think you’re special, separate from, better than, or more important than other people. That was obvious in my conversations with Don, and it’s what others were sharing about him. This is a way of thinking that you must avoid at all costs.
The roots of superiority always begin to grow in the soil of separateness and certainty. It’s that moment when you begin to think you are separate from others, or certain about anything, that you are in greatest danger.
First, I’ve rarely met a high performer who thinks they’re “at the top.” Most feel like they’re just getting started.
Don’t judge others as below you or separate from you. Your frustration with people is coming from a forgetfulness that almost everyone could succeed at a higher level if they had more exposure, training, practice, and access to excellence-driven mentors, coaches, or role models. Remember, everything is trainable
You were once a mess, too, or did you forget already? But you improved. Give others that same opportunity. When you remember that you, too, struggled, and you remind yourself that others can dramatically improve themselves, that’s when you start to be more compassionate. That’s when you start to beat back any hint of a superiority complex.
The more you absolutely believe anything, the more likely you are to become blinded to new perspectives and opportunities. The moment someone becomes absolutely certain is the moment that superiority has won. For all these reasons, we must beware of separateness and certainty.
I’ve found that the first step is always awareness. You have to be alert and catch yourself when you start thinking you are separate from others for any reason. Second, you need to develop habits that will help you stay humble and open even as you get better at what you do.
To avoid thinking you’re superior to others, deliberately seek others’ ideas for improving anything you do: If you could improve on my idea, how would you go about it? Ask this question enough, and you’ll discover so many holes in your thinking, any sense of superiority begins to melt away in the harsh light of truth. Learning is the anvil on which humility is forged. If you find that your thinking is not being challenged enough or your growth has topped out, hire a coach, trainer, or therapist. Yes, hire someone. Sometimes, your immediate peer group can’t see beyond their knowledge of you. Sometimes, they’re not qualified or available to help you through a specific challenge or period of life. Professionals can help you explore issues, find clarity, and leverage proven tools for growth. If you’d like a listing of certified professionals in this topic, visit HighPerformanceInstitute .com. If you can’t hire someone, find a mentor and call or meet with them at least twice each month. Consistency in receiving feedback is the hallmark of consistent growth. To avoid thinking you automatically deserve people’s admiration or compliance just because of who you are, where you came from, or what you’ve accomplished, remind yourself that trust is earned through caring for others, not bragging about yourself. Challenge yourself to ask people more questions about who they are, where they come from, what they want to achieve. Before interacting with others, tell yourself, “I’m starting from scratch with this person. If this were my first date or interaction with them, what questions could I ask to learn more about them?” Instead of believing that people don’t understand you and that they are to blame for the fights and failures in your life, take ownership of your actions by reflecting on your role. After a conflict, ask yourself, “Am I distorting this situation in any way to make myself feel like the misunderstood hero? Am I spinning a story to make myself feel better? Am I trying to make excuses or play the victim to protect my ego? What were my actions that contributed to the issues at hand? What might I not know about this person or their situation?” Keep a practice for reminding yourself of your blessings. Gratitude and humility have been shown to be “mutually reinforcing,” meaning the more grateful you are, the more humble you feel. And the more humble you feel, the more grateful you are.6
Satisfaction must accompany striving for optimal performance.7 Those who are never satisfied are never at peace. They can’t tune in to their zone—the noise of a dissatisfied mind prevents them from finding a rhythm that makes them feel alive and effective.
Seeking excellence and experiencing satisfaction are not mutually exclusive. Being satisfied, then, doesn’t mean “settling.” It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is. It’s allowing yourself to feel contentment whether or not a thing is complete or “perfect.”
People who feel a sense of play, not dissatisfaction, perform better in almost every field of endeavor. Play is not indulgent; it’s crucial to creativity, health, healing, and happiness.17 Flow and play are gateways to mastery. So don’t fret. You won’t lose passion by feeling better.
To help you on this journey, try this: Start journaling at the end of each day. Write down three things that went well or better than expected that day. Write about any progress or blessings that you feel grateful for. It’s such simple but essential advice to keep a high performer performing high: Start noticing what’s going well, appreciate your blessings, enjoy the journey, and record your wins. Get your family or team together once a week for no other reason than to talk about what’s working, what people are excited about, what difference your efforts are making in real people’s lives. Start meetings by asking others to share one great thing that has happened that can give the team a sense of joy, pride, and fulfillment.
Often, then, it’s not what you do that unseats you from high performance, but what you don’t do. In single-minded pursuit of achievement and mastery in one area of life, you take your eyes off the other areas. Soon, those areas fight back for more attention.
Their lesson learned was clear: When you’re good, you want to take on more. But beware the impulse. High performance isn’t about more for the sake of more, just because you can. It’s often about less—zeroing in on just those few things that matter and protecting your time and well-being so you can truly engage those around you, enjoy your craft, and confidently handle your responsibilities.
I can usually tell whether someone is about to fail, by asking a simple question: “Do you feel seriously overcommitted right now?”
Slow down, be more strategic, and say no more often.
To help you discern between the yeses and nos, you have to start thinking much more strategically. Strategic thinking means stripping things down to the essentials and planning their accomplishment out over months and years. This is hard, but you have to weigh opportunities differently now, measuring them against a much longer horizon. You can’t think just about how flashy something is this month.
Most opportunities in life that are really worthwhile and meaningful will still be here six months from now.
You might find it useful to ask, “What are the five main reasons I’ve succeeded so far in life?” Put those five things on your Sunday review list, too. Ask, “Am I continuing to do the things that have made me successful?”
High performers do have more confidence than most people, but not by birthright, luck, or superhuman skill. What I found was that high performers simply thought about things that gave them more confidence than others, more often did things that gave them more confidence than others, and avoided things that drain confidence more often than others did.
So what did high performers think, do, and avoid to develop such strong confidence? I can bucket my findings in three areas: competence, congruence, and connection.
While most people think of confidence as a general belief in oneself, the kind of confidence that is most tied to performance improvement comes from belief in one’s abilities in a specific task.6 This means that the more knowledge, skill, ability, or talent—that is, competence—you have at a given task, the more likely you are to be confident and perform well.
High performers are learners, and their belief that they can learn what is necessary to win in the future gives them as much confidence as their current skill sets.
High performers ponder the lessons from their wins. They give credit to themselves, and they allow those wins to integrate into their psyche and give them greater strength.
I recommend you spend at least thirty minutes every Sunday reflecting on the previous week. What did you learn? What did you handle well? What do you deserve to give yourself a pat on the back for?
The drive for congruence forces you to ask yourself, “Am I being honest with who I am?” “Am I trustworthy—true to myself and others?” “Do I practice what I think and preach?” “Do I follow through on what I know of myself?” “Do I make a stand when the world challenges who I can become?”
They shaped their identity by conscious will and have aligned their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to support that identity.
Instead, high performers seem to wake up each day and have a clear intention of who they really want to be, and then they go out into the world and give that intention real focus and energy.
Confidence comes from being truthful with yourself and others. You have to avoid the little lies that can easily tear at the fabric of your character. If you lie about the small things, you will cause a catastrophe when faced with the big things. Your heart and soul want to know you’ve lived an honest life.
Simply put, high performers have learned the tremendous value in relating with others. They’ve discovered that it is by connecting with others that they learn more about themselves and the world.
It doesn’t matter whether you are natural with others. What matters is this: “Do you want to learn from others? Will you take the time to do it? Will you genuinely try to engage someone and learn about how they think, what they need, what they stand for?” If you can summon that curiosity and talk to enough people with that intention, you will gain confidence.
What drove the development for high performers in each of these areas was curiosity. It was curiosity that developed their knowledge, skills, and abilities. Curiosity drove their self-examination. You have to ask a lot of questions of yourself to see whether you’re living a congruent life. Curiosity made them want to seek out others. Perhaps, then, there is a formula at play: Curiosity x (Competence + Congruence + Connection) = Confidence
So what now? Keep the checklist of the six habits by you at all times. You can find the Summary Guide at the end of this book, and you can also get a separate daily planner at HighPerformanceHabits .com/tools. From now on, before every meeting you go into, before every phone call, before you start any new project or pursue any new goal, revisit the six habits. Then, every sixty days, retake the High Performance Indicator to track your progress and identify the habits you need to continue focusing on.