They win Super bowls. Gold medals. The Pulitzer Prize.
How do they do it?
I have personally been told on many occasions that I am a fantastic writer and public speaker. It’s weird to hear. When I survey the work that I have done I don’t see anything special; I am too busy perfecting it —critiquing it.
The way to become great at anything is not a mystery. It’s hard work, but it is not a secret. It doesn’t matter what your field is, the same rules apply. If you want to be the best at somethings there are 3 things you MUST do:
1. You need to study it like crazy.
I heard a quote once that said, “Ordinary people have big TVs, but extraordinary people have big libraries”. There is some truth to that (but having a big TV is super cool).
You have to read, research and study the topic you are trying to master. There is no way around it. You are not the first person to do it, so only a fool would go it alone. Listen and sit at the feet of the experts in your area. Read liberally from those that are doing it. Soak in as much as you can and when you think you can’t absorb anymore — do it again.
2. Don’t just read about it, do it.
Practice, practice, practice. Make mistakes and learn from them. Let people say what they want. You are a rookie and as green as can be. It doesn’t matter. Pretty soon you will get some momentum and you will make mistakes less and less (but you will never be flawless). A Christian leader once put it this way:
“Keep on posing questions and you will evade the necessity of obedience” – Bonhoeffer
Don’t stay in the classroom. Get out there and get busy. Don’t be afraid to suck because guess what? You will and all the greats did once too. Welcome to the club.
3. Teach it.
Share what you have learned with others. If you can’t easily explain what you do and how you do it, then you don’t fully understand it yourself. I have found that in trying to teach others I even “Wow” myself. It keeps you humble and always learning.
It’s simple, but it works.
Most Importantly: Don’t try to do everything great. A good tip I was given once was “You know what you should be doing when you don’t have to be doing anything”. What does that mean? It means to go where your passions are. What would you do for free? Do that. Don’t worry about income. That may very well come in time.
You wake up and they are always there — whispering and filling your mind with all sorts of nonsense. You have tried to ignore them, but their voices and demands are too strong to resist.
Who are they?
Enemies. Bullies. The Mental Mafia. And they don’t take “No” for an answer. It’s time for them to die.
I’m speaking of a “metaphorical hit-list” of course, but these three adversaries are destroying your potential and we are gonna kill them together.
First up is Mr. Perfectionist.
You know him. He is the one who cannot stand for any play or creativity to evolve. The minute he sees the slightest error or stack of bundled up crinkled paper he winces in agony. Trouble is, none of us want to be sloppy or turn in work that is unfinished and unpolished, but what he needs to understand is, before the “perfect” comes, the imperfect must arise. Creative brainstorming is the atmosphere he hates the most.
He plays on your fears. Fears that someone is watching while you try and create your masterpiece. Maybe it’s your first draft, an email, a presentation or even a sermon. Guess what, it is going to look like total nonsense before it’s the brilliant and spotless gem you want others to see.
Put this dude to death. Let your creative juices flow and be unhindered. The more he screams in your ear to stop, the more you should disobey him. Every great idea grows up as a child right before your eyes. Before it reaches full maturity, it’s a toddler throwing tantrums and spilling milk and crying for mommy. Pretty soon it’s a teenager exploring the unknown. These stages are difficult but necessary. Your joy is that you know you have given birth to something great and you must parent this idea by keeping the legalists from hurting it.
Second isMr. Procrastination.
He and Mr. Perfection are very close indeed. If you are not in the daily habit of putting the first one to death, then the second one is going to get stronger. He is a sleepy one. He poses himself as busy, but never really gets anything done. He is a muscle man on the sofa. His job is to make sure Mr. Perfection stays happy at all times.
I once saw a post a friend of mine made on a social media site asking, “How many of you struggle with Procrastination?”. I saw the answers, but I assume those that truly struggle are still waiting to answer when they get time. “Do nothing until you are fully optimal to do it”. Sound familiar? This is his motto. You can kill him the same way you killed his friend — do something! Always be moving and resist the urge to reroute. Once you choose a course and know what you want to do — stay on it. Don’t make a U-turn and head back the way you came.
I hope you are hearing the shots being fired.
Do the opposite. Don’t listen to fear. Don’t make assumptions that later on you will have more time. You can take my word for it; there will be the same amount of time tomorrow as there was today.
The third is Mr. People-Pleaser.
He is a nervous wreck. Watch him because he will take hours of work and preparation and literally burn the whole thing down. They say that the number one fear is public speaking. I disagree. The number one fear is displeasing others (which is probably why many don’t wanna speak in public). Well guess what? If you are not displeasing anyone then chances are you are not doing jack!
Mr. People-Pleaser will keep you in public relations when you should be in the lab.
The reason is that they are always looking over their shoulder and worried that any assertion or incentive on their part might make others look bad or look at them with disdain. Forget them. If they want to remain mediocre, so be it.
I read once of a man who went to work for a magazine. On the day of his interview, he met with the editor and as he sat there watching him look over his resume, he just nodded and hummed. He put the resume down and looked up at him and said, “I want you to go outside that door and tell the first five people you see to ‘F – – k off”. He left and did exactly that. When he came back in, he asked him, “What was that for?”. The editor told him, “I don’t want anyone working here who is afraid to speak their mind or make enemies”.
Crude, but he made his point.
To kill this last enemy you have to resist the fear — and even directly challenge him on a continual basis. Don’t get me wrong. If you are rude and insensitive you won’t last long at all. Don’t be a jerk. But understand that for you to succeed at what you do, you are going to have to get pretty darn comfortable with the fact that you are going to have those who critique and dislike what you do. Let them hate. Remind yourself that it’s because you are on the move and climbing, and to be honest — people hate to see others do well when they are not.
Keep moving. Keep creating. Let yourself play a little. Be bold and above all; tell those voices in your head to “Be Silent!”. You are trying to win.
Now if you will excuse me, I need to go spend the next few hours proofreading this thing.