This is a guest post by Michael Keiser.
Do you want to be a peak performer?
I’m never sure if it’s a good idea or not to start an article off with a confession.
While I would like you to believe that I’m an expert in my field, I feel compelled to confess that most of my expertise is born out of messing things up. Well, more than messing things up, I would describe it more like trying to wish away reality. That pesky word…reality.
I think there’s even a psychological term for the stress we feel from the gap that exists between how we think the world should be and how it really is; how we think people should behave versus how they really do, etc.
I can’t remember what that term is right now. And if there isn’t such a term, there probably should be.
The Reality Gap that Weakens Our Performance
But I digress. We all feel it to varying degrees and at different times. But we all feel it nonetheless.
If you ever say any of these following things to yourself, then you too suffer from this unnamed condition:
“I wish you could count on people to keep their word.”
“My work/life balance is so blurry.”
“I hope the future becomes a little more secure.”
“We need to put less pressure on ourselves.”
“Corporate America is so unfair.”
Or just plug in the word “unfair” in a number of different scenarios.
You get the idea.
I’m describing those times when you simply feel frustrated, upset, or stressed out at reality. Not reality exactly but that gap between reality and how we wish things were.
Embrace Reality to Achieve Peak Performance
In my experience, this is one of the most insidious conditions that keeps us from performing at our best, from being our best.
We use a tremendous amount of mental energy wishing things were different.
This is energy that could be used working on ourselves, acquiring new skills, building relationships, or enjoying our lives. But no, we insist on wasting it.
I would have to say that learning to embrace reality had a more dramatic impact on my own performance than anything else I’ve done. It actually lead to the creation of our business philosophy, which is “optimistic realism”.
The great entrepreneur, Ray Dalio, wrote an eBook called Principles. It’s his 160 (or so) principles for success. Guess what #1 is? Be hyper-real.
So, I’ve compiled what I believe are 12 of the most important realities to embrace if you want to reach your best.
1. We Need to Learn More Skills
Too many of us haven’t really updated our skills or attitudes since school. We somehow create this weird illusion that we know enough, that we don’t need to always be learning. Wrong, wrong, and wrong. As we progress, there are new complexities and demands. There are new situations. The knowledge that got us “here” won’t get us “there”. The most successful people I know are life long learners.
2. Acknowledge Fear and Uncertainty Exist
I know a lot of people that wish they didn’t have to experience fear and doubt as regularly as they do. But the truth is, if you’re not experiencing any doubt or anxiety, you’re not really up to anything important. Our brain is hardwired to look for everything that could go wrong, that is, fear. That doesn’t mean we should ever allow fear to consume us or halt our progress. We simply need to face the reality that sometimes feeling fear is part of the human experience.
3. You Need a Plan
The world is changing so dramatically that planning and prioritizing with so many unknowns is difficult. But this is what makes the need for a plan to improve your life all the more important. Going through each day by the seat of our pants never leads to peak performance. It leads to “more of the same”.
4. There Is More Pressure to Perform
Paying lip service to performance will no longer do (especially if you’re a small business owner). Customers and employers have become more demanding about the level of quality that they’ll accept. Information is easier to come by. People can buy things almost anywhere. Word travels fast through social media. We need to be operating at our best and not just saying we’re the best.
5. Work/Life Balance Is Somewhat a Myth
Yes, I said “somewhat” a myth. What I mean by this is there is a definite need to balance out work, family, and personal time. We require all of these. But sometimes one thing takes priority over another thing. Those of you who are business owners know that for sure. You’ve worked some 80 hour weeks in your day. Let’s not get bent out of shape if, on occasion, you need to miss the rerun of Gilligan’s Island to get some work done. That’s how it goes. It will all balance out in the end.
6. Being a Good Communicator Is the Key to Success
I understand that you’re successful because of your brilliant idea, your flawless execution, your unmatched business acumen, and your unwavering rightness. But, for the rest of us, our success is mostly based on our ability to get other people to buy-in to what we’re doing. We need the support, ideas, friendship, and expertise of other people in order to perform at our best. Being an excellent communicator is a major step in getting that support.
7. There Is No Such Thing as Job Security
At the risk of sounding a bit harsh, career security is a thing of the past. We need to create our own security, which generally means striving to be the best at what we do. Getting to a point where people just can’t live without us is real security.
8. Manage Your Mind, Manage Your Life
One of the biggest areas I’ve seen people neglect in their quest to become a peak performer is mind management. Throughout our day-to-day lives, we are working with a mind that essentially has no desire to be managed. Our ego thinks it’s got it all under control. The truth of the matter is that we spend most of our time trapped in our stories and perceptions and “believe” everything we think. In order to perform at our best, we need to have more control over our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
9. Vision Will Set you Free
I know, you’re way too busy to think about what it is you REALLY want. After all, you have a demanding job, bills to pay, mouths to feed, etc. Vision is for those new-age people with waaaay too much time on their hands, right? Well…no. Not that your vision needs to be extremely grandiose like saving the world or curing cancer (but it doesn’t hurt). What I’m more referring to is making sure that you are engaged in things that have real meaning to you, not just to make a buck. Of all the entrepreneurs I’ve worked with, the ones that are the most clear about what they want out of life achieve the most success. Vision is never a whimsical afterthought. It is the foundation upon which peak performers build.
10. You Need to Be a Producer
Wealth creation in the United States has stalled because we have become more consumers and less producers. I think we need to wake up and create something everyday for our business, our life, our family, our community, or our world. We need to focus more attention on execution and innovation. Peak performers are always searching for a better way. They’re never satisfied with the status-quo. Keep your productive juices flowing at all times.
11. Talent and Confidence Matter
I had an amazing conversation recently with a highly successful Division 1 college basketball coach. I asked her what the single biggest factor was that would tell her if a player was going to be good or not. She said, “that’s easy, it’s confidence”. She said that our own belief in ourselves is the biggest factor in performing well. So, it begs the question, how does one gain confidence? By gaining talent and skill. By working hard and practicing our craft all the time. By actually being better than most others in our field. It becomes a cycle that feeds off of itself. Confidence leads to practice, which leads to skill, which leads to more confidence, and so forth. If you lack belief in yourself, its imperative you find a way to get it.
12. You Need to Keep Score
In order to perform at our best, we need to be working against metrics and measurables, or what I refer to as “performance based measurements”. It’s always amazing to me how many people don’t really know at any given moment how they are performing. Where do you stand in regard to goals? Are you financially where you need to be? Is your career progressing the way it should? I know it’s an obvious question but how can you get any better if you don’t really know how you’re doing in the first place? Keeping score makes us accountable as well. It’s a major component in being a peak performer.
Let’s not be afraid of reality. Let’s embrace it. Let’s accept it. And let’s whip that reality into submission as we become our best selves. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
About the Author
Mike Keiser has been a business owner since 1997 and uses his business knowledge and experience to assist clients in building profitable and valuable companies. You can reach Mike via his website at Mental Compass: Influencing Peak Performance, Growth, and Productivity.