Common Attributes of Top Performers, and How to Apply These to Your Own Life.
Athletes at the top of their sport are doing something right. If we can emulate their mindset we can share in their success.
The demands of different sports vary. But many characteristics of the best athletes are similar. Embody their attributes and upgrade your achievements.
So what are these top performers doing?
They Push Their Boundaries
Let’s begin with a paradox. Become comfortable being uncomfortable. The edge of our comfort zone is where huge growth and learning can occur. Clocking time here will broaden this zone. Previous struggles become second nature. You gain the skills and confidence to execute these tasks in the future.
Challenging tasks are where flow states are achieved. Workplace studies suggest employees in a flow state are up to 5X more productive. It’s an exhilarating state of optimal experience and happiness.
You enter a state of bliss.
Execution is clinical.
We want to spend as much time in this state as we can!
We also need to learn how to try hard. Top athletes know how to turn it on and squeeze out that last 0.1% of effort when required. It is much less common for hobbyists and lower-tier performers.
Your ability to try hard is a bit like a muscle. Time spent at the edge of your comfort zone strengthens it. Whatever your endeavour, seek out appropriate opportunities where you can deliver 100% commitment.
Success is often related to growing our skillset. To do this we must push ourselves and strive for peak experiences.
They “Fail”… Lots
“Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm” — Winston Churchill
Failure is one of our best tools for learning. Failure breeds analysis – an opportunity to assess what worked and what did not.
What needs refining?
How can we improve going forward?
Challenge yourself to fail. Stack the odds against you. Make sure you spend time outside of your comfort zone and pick up some failures. Utilise the hyper-analytical state failure puts you in. Ask yourself: how can I improve?
Failure also means you are trying to enhance or learn new skills. New skills broaden what you can achieve.
Elite athletes also overcome adversity. Whether it be injury, defeat, a bad day, or other events outside of their control. The ability to bounce back becomes part of their arsenal.
Failure, combined with critical analysis, breeds success. This is epitomised in one of the greatest legends of basketball — Kobe Bryant.
Bryant missed more shots (14,481) than any other player in the history of the NBA. 1064 more than second-placed on the list. Bryant flipped this stat on its head and turned it into something positive. He celebrated topping out the missed shots list.
Bryant’s success story was built on repeated “failures.” His dominance and will to compete meant he would take shot after shot. He disregarded his first 5 misses in one game, going on to score more than 60 points. His ability to overcome failure made him one of the greats of the game.
Don’t let repeated failure get you down. See it for what it is. A chance to learn. A method for future success.
They Develop Deep Self Awareness
Awareness is another multiplier in the growth equation. It allows us to analyse failure to refine our technique or method.
Athletes require fantastic bodily awareness. This intuition guides vital refinements. Many athletes profess the majority of their success is due to their mental game.
Meditation: Tim Ferriss estimates >80% of guests on his podcast have a formal meditation practice. Meditation can reduce anxiety in high-pressure environments and increase focus. Many top athletes are outspoken about recent breakthroughs after starting a mindfulness program.
Others have been meditating for a long time. At 19, Bianca Andreescu had clocked 7 years of mindfulness training. She says it helps her court performance. She recently defeated Serena Williams to win her first grand slam title.
Lebron James meditates on the sidelines — despite noisy crowds. Michael Jordan worked with a meditation teacher throughout his career. So did Kobe Bryant. Stephen Curry meditates before games to give himself the mental edge.
Performing under intense pressure requires supreme focus or mastery of the mind. The elite train their minds as well as their bodies. Why not follow suit?
They Set Effective Goals
Effective goals might include a range of short, mid, and long-term goals.
Don’t shy away from a few moonshot goals. Aiming to be a world champion means you have to pull your finger out. Facing the toughest competition in the world is a great motivator.
Create a few goals for each time frame. Make them inspiring. Goals can generate motivation and focus the mind. They highlight the processes required to achieve them. They give you direction.
They Care Little About What Others Think Of Them
Being outspoken about your moonshot goals can be hard if you think the world will laugh at you. But if you simply don’t care, you’ve unlocked an extra tool in your kit.
Sometimes a crazy training technique can provide a breakthrough.
Ignoring the opinions of others can unlock the ability to push through on bad days. Don’t be embarrassed to be seen struggling.
The elite also experiment in a free manner. They find what makes them perform better. This is much harder to do if you care what the crowd thinks of your ‘daft’ warm-up routine.
They Find Mentors And Learn Constantly
It’s easy to think you’re the expert if you have been doing something for a long time. Chances are you probably aren’t. Remember that — the elite do.
They maintain an open mindset and strive to learn wherever they can. New techniques, methodologies, and technologies are constantly created and changed. Maintain a beginner’s attitude. Find and learn from mentors. Be open to new ideas and new ways of training.
Just because something has worked in the past, doesn’t mean you should keep doing it. New stimuli are great vessels for growth.
They Make Great Sacrifices
This one goes without saying. You can’t do it all at once. If you want to excel, you have to dedicate yourself to that pursuit.
Sacrifices may include ditching social media in favor of a stretching session. Staying sober on a Friday night to get the most out of Saturday. Being more precise with your dietary choices.
You have to assess what will help you achieve your goals.
Elite Athletes give up a lot! They want to be the best in the world and this requires some tough decisions. We don’t have to be so ruthless, but it’s worth figuring out your kryptonite and distancing yourself from it.
Finals Thoughts: A Note On “Success”
What does success mean to you? Success relates to your personal goals.
What if Sir Richard Branson’s goals were for a quiet life. A life where he could tend to his vegetables and remain unknown to the world. What if he keeps generating businesses as an addiction instead. In that case, he wouldn’t describe himself as successful.
Come up with a personal definition of success. Aim for this. Don’t rely on someone else’s agenda! Good luck.