Lesson #1. The Best know what they truly want.
They know what they are working toward. It’s often in the distance, but they have a clear picture of it in their mind and they can see it. Some formulate this vision because of a role model that inspired them and showed them that greatness was possible.
Yes, there were some that always knew what they wanted, ever since they were young. But for many who became the best, they didn’t always know what they wanted. They were just doing something they loved and didn’t realize they were excelling.
Then there were those who were simply settling for mediocrity. They created a nice, average life with something they were average or good at, with a feeling in their gut that there is something more—something missing in their life—something that was left unsaid and undone. They wrote down goals because people said you need to do that, and yet the goals had nothing to do with what they truly wanted. They knew there was more, and thankfully one day they found it … or rather their vision and purpose found them. Instead of being one of the sheep that followed the herd, they became shepherds who saw the way.
But the common thread between all these stories and people is this: Regardless of when and how, whether by practical experience, role model, spiritual insight, or lightning strike, the best of the best all had a moment in their lives when their vision became clear. When they said, this is what I truly want, this is what I want to strive for and I will pay the price to make it happen. It was as if they looked through a telescope and saw their future. For some, it came when they were young. For others it was much later in life. But they all had that moment at some point when they had mountaintop experience. t’s like they went to the mountaintop, pulled out a telescope, and saw their destination—the big-picture vision.
Lesson #2. The Best want it more.
Everyone has a desire to accomplish something meaningful and have an impact. But here’s the difference. The best of the best are willing to do what it takes to be great. The best don’t just think about their desire for greatness, they act on it. They have a high capacity for work. They do the things that others won’t do, and they spend more time doing it. When everyone else is sleeping, the best are practicing and thinking and improving.
Lesson #3. The Best are always striving to get better.
Time and effort are essential, but what it really requires is a willingness to be uncomfortable. Here’s the deal. If you are always striving to get better, then you are always growing. And if you are growing, then you are not comfortable. To be the best, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable and embrace it as a part of your growth process.
Lesson #4. The Best do ordinary things better than everyone else.
But how do they do the ordinary things better? By practicing and practicing, focusing and improving every day on the little things. One day of practice isn’t much. But if you practice every day, over the course of a year you’ll get really good. And over the course of a number of years, you’ll be amazing.
It’s not rocket science. There’s simply no substitute for practice and hard work.
Lesson #5. The Best zoom-focus.
A player couldn’t run or jump or play at their best if their shoes weren’t tied. Success is all about the fundamentals. And the fundamentals are little and ordinary and often boring.
But to be the best, you must master them. You must become a master of the ordinary. In every act of greatness, whether in sports, business, science, or the arts, the best of the best accomplish extraordinary feats by doing ordinary things with extraordinary consistency, commitment, and focus. As in baseball, you must decide what will help you get 1.7 hits more per week. You must decide what fundamentals require your zoom focus. In football the fundamentals vary by position. In life they vary by the work you do and the job you have. Every job, whether you are carrying a football, a briefcase, a musical instrument, a computer, or a shovel, features fundamentals that can be mastered, and if you master them you will become the best at what you do.
Lesson #6. The Best are mentally stronger.
Becoming the best is a process. It’s a long and difficult process and it takes loads and loads of positive energy. First and foremost, you’ll need to stay positive and focused during all those hours of practice that greatness requires. There will be days you don’t want to practice. There will be times when you just don’t feel it. That’s when your mental strength kicks in and you do what it takes and you pay the price. You do so because you are more committed and mentally stronger.
You’ll also need to be mentally tough because as you strive to be the best you’ll face many distractions and pressure from the outside world and negative noise from your own self-doubt. It’s a process that will test who you are and what you truly want. Mental toughness is a big part of the answer.
Lesson #7. The Best overcome their fear.
We must first confront the issue of fear before moving on. It goes to the heart of greatness. It’s the ultimate battle. Too many people retreat from this battle and fail to achieve their dreams. But those that succeed, those that reach the pinnacle of greatness, are able to face this battle and win.
Lesson #8. The Best seize the moment.
The best seize the moment because they don’t allow their fear of failure to define them. They know this fear exists, and they overcome it. Their faith is greater than any score, performance, or outcome. Even if they lose, they are still on the path to greatness. And even if they fail, they are one step closer to the perfection they seek.
Ironically, even though the best have a dream and a vision within their sights, it is the journey, not the destination, that matters most to them. The moment is more important than any success or failure. The moment is the success. The moment is the reward.
Lesson #9. The Best leave a legacy.
You leave a legacy by living and working with a bigger purpose. You leave a legacy by making your life about more than just you. You leave a legacy by moving from success to significance.
Lesson #10. The Best make everyone around them better.
They do this through their own pursuit of excellence and in the excellence they inspire in others. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards of everyone around them. And they do this both in their work and life.
No one is going to live forever, and the outcome for all of us eventually leads to a funeral. After all, even if you become the best in the world at what you do, it’s short lived. Eventually someone will come along who is better. Being the best doesn’t last. But the person you become and the impact you have on others are timeless.