When we talk "BEYOND COMPARISON" we think, Johnny Depp; Nelson Mandela; Madonna; Desmond Tutu; Michael Schumacher; Oprah Winfrey; Vladimir Putin, and many others… But there is also Jorge Wilson the accountant, Willie Shabalala the sales executive, and John Naidoo the artist, whose names you will never hear.
Whatever your trade, there will be people who struggle, people who make it and there will be super stars. This is as true for accounting and sales as it is for acting and music. You can be mediocre, supersede, or fail in anything.
But what are the secrets? How do you excel where others fail? How do you move from good to great? Here are ten steps…
"Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing that it is stupid." - Einstein. Sometime back I walked on a shore in Accra, Ghana. I recall seeing a few fishermen pulling out their nets. One of them tossed an eel aside. It struggled to breath, desperately trying to move on the dry sand. The sight of this was unbearable, so I took it to the sea. It recuperated and then beautifully and graciously swam into the deep. This made me think. If I took a monkey to the see, it would be very disruptive. I would have to give it huge incentives. It would surely be high maintenance. The reason? Monkeys do not belong in water! Yet, give any monkey a tree, and it would need no motivation or incentive to climb.
Monkeys climb trees and fishes swim. It is what they do best. Similarly, humans have different aptitudes. These are mental and physical abilities and preferences with which you are born. E.g., a born accountant might experience the same discomfort in acting as an actor who must do accounting.
It is sad that many people might never find their purpose. Who knows, the greatest actor of all time might not be Robert de Nero, but possibly James Smith. Unfortunately, James was too busy preparing for a "real job" to realise this. Any person can be successful and happy. That is if you can learn how to be you.
Jack of all trades is master of none. Jack is a butterfly that will never enjoy the aroma of one flower. Always moving on to the next.
It is decisively important that you find something that you are good at and stick to it. Csíkszentmihályi, an Austrian psychologist, dedicated his life to grasp a state called "flow". He explains it as optimal focus. To focus, a person must have enough skill to face a challenge. He further says that to master any skill, one will need 10 years of technical practice and knowledge. A widespread belief is that it takes 10 000 hours to become an expert. It seems that you must stick to your knitting for a while, before you be dubbed the knitting master.
Four things drive success. These are purpose, intelligence, energy, and intent. Purpose will guide focus. Intelligence will allow you to grasp a complex world. Energy will afford you the resources for your task. Lastly, intent will motivate you to continue in doing what you love most.
I got good advice from a friend once when I wanted to know how to get published. Mostly such advice will explain "tricks of the trade". He said: "Write a really good book." It helped me to understand that there are no shortcuts. To succeed, you must be good at what you do. There is no way around this. In this way the world will find you. You cannot hide talent.
To be good at something, you must create intelligence. This means that you must be highly conscious in a particular area. The more you focus on something specific the more intelligent you become in that thing. Being "WoW" at anything, thus takes focus.
If you do things the way that most do, others will remember you the way they remember most. The word "outstanding" means that you stand out. This is not possible when you are simply "part of".
We remember extraordinary people because they were different and impactful. Think Lady Gaga, Salvador Dali, Snoop Dog, the Dali Lama, Keith Richards, Muhammed Ali, Einstein, or any other name that everyone knows. They stand out!
Often, standing out relates to freaking out. This is hyperbolic behaviour. It can be personality; wardrobe; mannerisms; thinking; verbal expression; written expression; or anything else that makes "me" other than "we". Comedians must ridicule popular thinking, otherwise they are not funny. Engineers must be micro pedantic on detail. World leaders must think three or more times before they speak, etc. Overdoing things, without doubt, gets a whole lot of attention.
We all wish to be paid well. Mostly skilful people are. With "cheap" I mean doing things that are not your thing. Saying "Yes" is often a short-term benefit but a long term dis-benefit.
At times in my career, I was a "professional prostitute". This is when you do things purely for money. Of course, you must be paid, but not for things that conflicts with your purpose and values.
The times I have engaged in services that I was not an expert in; it was always to make ends meet. What I did not realize, is that any customer always remembers you by your last gig. Once, I presented a "disaster management" training workshop. This is not my speciality, but I needed the money and went ahead. I must have done an excellent job since they asked me to do so again. Through that I ended up as the "disaster management trainer" for this client. This might sound good. The problem is that even though these workshops were good enough, they were never great. Hence, I was regarded as an average trainer. If I stuck to my field, I would be "the top trainer".
Say "NO" to things that will leave a mediocre memory. Say "YES" to things that will make you shine. NEVER BE CHEAP!
Getting stuck in the past is self-endorsed victimisation. Moving on after a disturbing experience is personal growth. Once I sat next to a man who was sobbing over his wife who left him. Seeing him like that, I thought it happened this morning. Yet, this took place six years ago. He was in a self-created twilight zone, which entrapped him. His ex-wife most probably rarely thinks of him.
It is a hard and painful to realise that being a victim is a choice. Life happens within the moment. What you keep alive from the past is your choice.
A more powerful position is to not negotiate. E.g., when Apple created the iPod, their strategy was to not negotiate. It was a time when Sony Ericson's Walkman controlled that industry. Instead of cutting the pie, Apple baked a new one. If you own the entire pie, you do not have to negotiate a bigger piece. Any negotiation will create uncertainty of outcome. This means that the most powerful position is always to not negotiate. Where you must negotiate, you have failed to position yourself to not negotiate.
An Impala peacefully grazes. Suddenly is smells the scent of a lioness who is slowly closing in. The Impala now snaps into survival mode. This is a physiological state of fight or flight. Stress will now override all other systems in its body. This will drive all major organs to give quick energy and increase its alertness to potential danger. Adrenaline and cortisol will flood its bloodstream. This will increase its body's metabolism to overcome the effects of fatigue. Its breathing will become shallow as it increases oxygen to its muscles. Heart rate and blood pressure goes up to rush blood to its arms and legs. Its liver will convert sugars, fats, and cholesterol into fuel for quick energy. Its saliva will dry up, and the digestion and elimination systems will stop to work. The purpose of this is to direct blood away from internal organs to the muscles and brain. The Impala now becomes tense and ready for action. Perspiration will cool its body, allowing it to burn more energy. Also, blood clotting mechanisms are activated to protect it from blood loss in case of injury.
Normally, the duration and intensity of a threat will control these reactions. This is exactly the problem. For an Impala, the threat is external, physical, and real. As soon as this danger disappears, its physiology will return to normal. In so, it will continue grazing as if nothing ever happened. This is very dissimilar to most human stress. Humans will stress about a report; or a divorce; or excessive debt. These things pose no physical danger. We trigger emotional trauma from within. There is no external cause. Where you create your own stress, but believe that an external entity is responsible, it can never stop. The entity that you blame has no awareness of it. The person responsible for starting something is also the best person to stop it. Denial of responsibility for your own stress will cause it to continue.
Humans are the only species that keeps self-imposed stress alive. Often for excessively prolonged periods. One can only suppress your immune system for a short while. Prolonged stress will enhance tension, irritability, and an inability to concentrate. It will also cause lack of sleep, headaches, and increased heartbeat. None of this is good for you.
Renowned physician, Deepak Chopra, relates as much as 80% of all disease to stress. In so, to live longer you must stress less. If danger is not physically threatening, life will go on. Your self-imposed mental state will have no effect on the outcome.
Alec Baldwin; Beyoncé; Marlon Brando; Jim Carrey; Helena Bonham Carter; Ray Charles; Winston Churchill; Kurt Cobain; Charles Darwin; Ellen DeGeneres; Princess Diana; Charles Dickens; Bob Dylan; Ernest Hemingway; Anthony Hopkins; Angelina Jolie; Stephen King; John Lennon; Abraham Lincoln; Michelangelo; Mozart; Trevor Noah are all successful people who suffered or still suffers from depressive disorders. It is thus difficult to make a case that successful people are not depressed. There seems to be evidence that depression enhances creative, mathematical, and philosophical thought in some people.
There is not much evidence that one can end depression. However, one can manage and live with it. People who suffer from depression must be extremely careful of the choices they make. E.g., substance abuse will increase a depressive mood, whilst physical exercise will decrease it. My advice is to firstly acknowledge a depressive disorder. Secondly, consciously manage it.
In conflict, the ability to create it, is as important as the skill to manage it.
Companies often simultaneously promote innovation and a conflict free environment. They most probably have some plan, but I have yet to see how you will be innovative without conflict.
Successful people challenge ideas, structures, constructs, and processes. They are in the business of conflict. Teams will experience conflict. Yet, to grow and learn they must resolve it. Unresolved conflict mostly results in demise.
I do hope that these 10 steps will help you in your journey to being beyond comparison.
© 10 October 2016: CFT Hendrikz