By Donald Latumahina
When I was a kid, people would constantly speak in admiration of those who were excellent in whatever they were doing. These could be students who achieved academic excellence, successful business people, top athletes, celebrities, and so on. Envy aside, no one ever spent any time to think about why or how they were excellent. It was seemingly natural for most to just accept that certain people were meant for excellence while others weren’t.
As I grew up, I started to form personal goals which I pursued fervently. I would set different goals, generally anchored on academia and performance-related goals, since the country I lived in (Singapore) was a meritocratic society. In the process of my goal pursuit, I would experience the natural process of success and setbacks.
As I gained more experience and observed people who achieved excellence, I started to identify a certain pattern that linked up successes – a pattern of certain principles and beliefs. And when I acted in accordance to these, I would experience excellence in whatever I did – whether it was being on the dean’s list, graduating as the top marketing student in my Business School, nabbing a job offer in a Fortune 100 company against hundreds of applicants, delivering historical record-breaking results when I was working there, creating my personal excellence blog which has tens of thousands of readers after a short-span of months, getting overwhelming demand for my coaching services (which currently has a waiting list of 3 months), and so on. As long as I keep focusing on these key principles, results would be eminent.
If you have ever looked at the achievements of others and thought “Wow, if only I can do that!”, or if you have ever wished that you can perform better, earn more money, make more friends, have better health, achieve higher level of success, and so on, here’s the holler-out to you: You are capable of all of that. Everyone has all the potential in the world to do whatever it is they dream of or want. Following these key principles of personal excellence will go a long way in bringing you to excellence:
1. Have the hunger for excellence
You need to want to achieve excellence. The emphasis here is on what ‘you’ want, not what others want. Make sure the goal is something you set for yourself, because unless it is, chances are you don’t really want it. And if you don’t want the goal badly enough, it doesn’t matter what you try to do since the drive will not be there to keep you moving forward. It’s pointless to sign yourself up for something and put in a half-baked effort, because a) it’s not being true to yourself b) it’s just wasting your time at the end.This is why I always make sure I aim for the best in whatever I set myself to do.
2. Benchmark against the best
What is it you are working on? Who are the people who are the best in this area? What are the results they have achieved? Set your targets to the same level as their best results, or even higher if you are feeling up to it.
At the moment, I’m setting up my school of personal excellence for anyone who has a passion for personal excellence. My long-term vision for this school is to be as big as the Xavier’s School in X-Men. ;) (In fact, I have the picture of Xavier’s School up on my vision board since last year!) While this vision may seem far-fetched to many, it’s a vision which I’m working towards and one which I have absolutely no doubt will come to life given time and effort.
3. Believe that you can do it
Self-belief is paramount to every success. You need to first believe in yourself to get somewhere. If you don’t have self-confidence, who is going to believe in you? If you have often experience low self-belief, look back at the times when you achieved something, regardless of how big or small it was. From there, build up your confidence and leverage it as you pursue your goals. As you begin to see results, your confidence will increase over time, which will create an upward spiraling effect.
4. Build concrete strategy & plans
Every goal needs a proper strategy and plan for it to come to life. Setting a goal and not following through with proper planning is like getting into your car to drive to your destination without knowing how to get there or even having a driving license. Many people fail in their goals because they fail to follow-through with planning. The bigger your goals, the more important that you invest proper time in building your plan.
5. Learn from the best
Hook up with people who are the best in the field and learn from them. They have the best practices, insights and tips which will be extremely valuable in your pursuit of excellence. Rather than trying to learn everything from scratch, it’s easier to leverage on the learnings from others and build on from there. This will jumpstart your learning curve by a huge degree.
6. Do not limit yourself
Don’t be afraid to try every single thing that might take you to your goal. In fact, be more concerned about the potential opportunities you might be missing out on when you don’t try something. Opening yourself up to possibilities will enable you to pick up on things which might be fundamental to your success.
7. Go all out; Work really hard
With every success, comes hard work. Without hard work, you cannot achieve results. People who try to find the easy way out are kidding themselves if they think they can achieve excellence without putting in hard work. If you observe around you, the people who seek out ‘get-rich-quick’ methods are also the very people who don’t achieve much in their lives. Hard work is the universal quality that will pay off in the long-term. Once you invest the due time and effort, the results will start coming in.
8. Focus your efforts
Once you have finished trying out every single thing that you can see, now focus your efforts in the areas which bring you the most results. I subscribe to the 80-20 principle, where 20% of causes lead to 80% of effects you see in a situation. Focus your energy in the few key drivers of success which will lead you to the results you want. This way, you will utilize your efforts more effectively, which can be subsequently channeled into more value-added activities.
9. Be adaptable.
Adaptability is one of the essential pillars of excellence. As you may already know, change is inevitable – You can either cower in the face of change, learn to deal with it or even turn it into your favor. Be ready for change at all times and develop a friendly relationship with change.
This also applies to changing your plans. Don’t be overly attached to your plans and be prepared to alter them where needed. If there are certain things you are doing which are not very effective, be prepared to improvise them or drop them totally.
10. Never give up.
There is no failure except in no longer trying. - Elbert Hubbard
Don’t ever give up. Remember that defeat never occurs unless you accept it as defeat. If a certain problem is too big for you to handle, break it down into smaller pieces so it’s easier for you to tackle them. As long as you keep trying, you will eventually achieve your goal.
A favorite story of mine is Sylvester Stallone’s rags-to-riches story of how he overcame overwhelming odds in his life to be the international movie star we know him to be today. When he was a baby, he was born with a half-paralyzed face due to birth complications, which led to a slurred speech. This was the key reason why he was rejected thousands of times by casting agents. Because he never gave up, he finally got his big break as the star of Rocky one day – and this only came after years and years of relentlessly trying.
Work on embodying these 10 excellence principles in you and start seeing yourself soar to excellence.