In search of Excellence: Lessons from a professional athlete
In search of excellence
Editor: This is a guest post from Matthew Bailey. He is a professional hockey player in Europe, a living testament to discipline and one of the most driven people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Learn how to pursue excellence directly from someone who has come closer than most people ever do. You can read more about Matthew on his website, Evolving Excellence.
I believe the key driver which has allowed me to achieve many goals in my life is to hold myself accountable to a very high standard. It is also my belief that it was my parents who instilled this attribute in me at a young age.
I was very blessed to have parents who were amazing mentors to me, and continue to be to this day. My parents were extremely hard workers. My sister and I grew up in an atmosphere where hard work was considered a key ingredient to success. It was emulated by our parents every day.
My parents were instrumental in framing our mindsets. They taught us the secret of gratitude. If you are not grateful for what you have, you cannot attract more of what you want. We were taught to dream big and chase our dreams. We were taught that if we wanted something bad enough we could achieve anything. I am grateful to have such supportive parents.
We all come from different backgrounds
Now I am completely aware not everyone is as blessed as me with great parents. Can those people still reach the heights of personal success without a great support system? Absolutely. It may take more work, but it is very much possible. What is important is cultivating your own support system if you weren’t born into one.
Let’s look at what it takes to achieve high performance. Is hard work enough to achieve success? The hard truth, is no. Hard work is not enough to achieve sustainable high performance and happiness. A lot of people work hard. So what separates the ‘best of the best’ from the rest of us?
What makes someone successful?
I have done a lot of research on what makes people successful and how they achieved sustainable peak performance. Through my own experience, a lot of reading, and numerous encounters with top performers here is what I believe are the requirements to achieve long lasting elite performance.
Maximize Your Health
We are given one body for our life. You can’t buy a new one, you can’t trade it in, it’s our one true vehicle for life. Without good health it’s hard to enjoy everything the world has to offer. If you do not make health your number one priority I feel you are leaving a level of success and happiness on the table.
If there is only one take away from reading this article, is to make your health your number one priority. My advice to stay and remain healthy is simple. Sleep 8+ hours every night. Eat healthy, eat whole and minimally processed foods you enjoy 80% of the time, eat whole and minimally processed foods you don’t necessarily like but don’t hate 10% of the time, and the last 10% eat whatever you want because food is awesome and we should live our lives to the fullest.
Lastly, move every day. If you don’t move it you lose it. Make exercise a habit which you enjoy. Find joy through motion. I believe success starts right here.
Clarity is not a personal trait that you are born with. It is developed by asking yourself questions, researching, trying new things, and taking the time to think in detail of the life you want to live. Successful people know who they are, know their value system, know their strengths and know the areas they need to improve.
They set goals and develop a plan on how to achieve those goals. It’s absolutely essential to have clarity for what you want in life. Clarity provides the fuel to overcome obstacles along your journey.
Know Your ‘Why’
If you have taken the time to look for clarity in your life you have chosen a path which is in total alignment with who you want to be. It is important to verbalize your why. Do it often, speak it to yourself, recite it out loud, and say it to others. Remind yourself of your why all the time. By always reminding yourself you’re providing the necessary motivation to keep moving forward.
Set an intention for every task and each personal interaction you have. Ask yourself who do I want to be? How would your best self-handle this situation or task? Would your best self-give 100% effort? If you aim for the standard of your best self all the time, you may not achieve perfection, but you will definitely achieve high performance.
Now that you have high standards for yourself ask yourself who else needs you on your A game right now? Extend the benefit beyond yourself. Who else would benefit from you striving to be your best self? Your family, friends, and co-workers rely on you to be the best you can be. You cannot become exceptional without a sense that it is absolute necessary to perform for yourself and others.
Know What Matters.
Invest your time and energy on what matters most for you to achieve your goals. What are the key skills required? What are the major moves you need to start taking right now to achieve your goals? Each major move will be broken down into a series of activities, goals, and projects. Determining the major moves and skills which move the needle the most are not always easy to figure out.
The moves may be very different from what you think they might be. So first, you must figure out the moves and skills. If someone out there has achieved what you have set out to achieve, Ask for help. Search for them, then ask the questions. People who ask shall receive. What were the major moves that led to their success? Which skills did they think were most important? Once you are clear on the skills and major moves write them down.
Put the steps and plans into your calendar. Remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Ask yourself if what you are doing right now is part of your major moves? Then get to work and enjoy the journey.
Lastly, It is important to level up your squad. “You are the average of the 5 people you hang out most with”- Jim Rohn. What am I am trying to say is excellence is contagious. Spend more time with positive and successful people. We can achieve a lot more together than we can alone. Surround yourself with people who push you to grow and chase your dreams.
Develop Your Influence
“We’re not who we say we are, we’re not who we want to be. We are the sum of the influence and impact that we have, in our lives, on others.”- Carl Sagan.
Having influence means you can get people to believe in you or your ideas, follow you, buy from you, or take action on your request. If you want people to like you and respect you must become a great listener. Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Be generous in showing your appreciation. Everyone has a need to be appreciated. Be grateful for people. Have compassion. Forgive quickly. You will be remembered for how you made people feel when they were around you.
Teach people how to think. Challenge people to grow and contribute. One of the steps to mastery is teach others what you are learning. This is how you create a win-win situation you are helping others which gives your life purpose and meaning. It helps you master what you are teaching. In my opinion the best way to increase your influence is to lead from the front. Be a role model for the best way to live, for everyone to see.
Courage to me is being free to express your true self, and aggressively pursuing your dreams. Go after what you want in life, we only get one shot at it. We truly don’t know when it’s our time to go. Live life to the fullest every day. Do not aim small in fear of disappointment. Failure is mandatory on the road to success. Every failure is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Embrace and enjoy the struggle. Nothing in life worth anything is easy. Get excited for challenges, as they eventually cultivate excellence. Having a growth mindset will allow you to remain motivated and positive on your path to greatness. Have a noble cause to fight for. Do more for others than yourself, and in turn you will cultivate more for yourself than you could ever imagine. Ask yourself what type of legacy you want to leave when you are gone?
I want to be remembered as a loving family man, who chased his wildest dreams, loved deeply, expressed gratitude, had a positive attitude, was a curious learner, was hardworking, and inspired others to be the best they can be.
Choose to be the best version of yourself
I challenge you to be the best you can be. Live the life you’ve always dreamed of. It’s never too early or too late to start. No matter your situation, past or present. You have the choice to live your best life. “Success isn’t owned. It’s leased. And rent is due every day.”- J.J. Watt
Written by Matt Bailey – Evolving Excellence