The people who stand out from the crowd and change the world we know, are remembered most for breaking the rules. There are those who break rules for evil and there are those who break the rules for good. Obviously, you want to be on the side who breaks the rules that change the way we think, act, live and move for the better.
We were all put on this planet for a purpose. Many people don’t fulfil their purpose, because it is uncomfortable to break the rules and taking the leap into the unknown tests our emotional fortitude.
Life is about realising who you are, trusting that you have what it takes and allowing the fire inside of you to roar loudly. Your inner drive is the key ingredient to your recipe. Without lighting the flame, you will not know if you are cooking at the right temperature.
You need to take charge, put the pen in your hand and begin writing your own story. Too often people live someone else’s dream, or don’t even have a dream to live. It’s all about owning the dream and not allowing other people to interrupt it.
Until you have become the path itself, you cannot travel the path. You must become one with your story and write it with true conviction. Everything you do and say tells the world about what is going on inside of you. Remember, a tiger hunts best when it is hungry!
The most powerful people in the world are the storytellers. A storyteller gets to set the view, the values and the way we achieve it. They get to set the agenda for the way next generation get to live in the future.
If you own your own story, you get to write the ending. If you leave it to others, you can only be the subject. If you believe in it, you get to narrate it.
How do you want to be remembered?
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A comfort zone is a wonderful place, but nothing ever grows there.
Successful people have the unique ability to perform under high levels of pressure. Pressure comes from internal and external expectations, and as the stakes rise, fear grows. Being able to deal with fear and the uncomfortable feelings that are associated, you have to be better prepared to control your state of mind.
Why do we feel uncomfortable? That uncomfortable feeling comes from going into a place where you have never been before. You are making a change and disrupting the way your mind and body are used to doing something. It might be doing something for the first time or doing something you haven’t done for a while. It could be doing something you are used to, but the conditions or parameters have changed.
When you first experience a struggle and you feel uncomfortable, you start to second-guess yourself. Remember nothing in life comes easy and the greatest satisfaction is the result of overcoming something that takes us out of our comfort zone and takes us to a whole new level. You need a mindset of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is the price of progression.
“If you want something in life that you have never had, you will have to do something that you have never done.” UNKNOWN
8 ways to take you beyond the comfort zone:
You will feel most uncomfortable when you take the first step and make a decision to start. That commitment to get off the start-line means the battle is half done. Most great ideas never get started, but once you have taken the first step, the real work begins. You made a choice, a commitment, and now you need to show up.
ONE STEP IN FRONT OF THE OTHER
Sometimes your actions don’t go to plan. You may not be seeing results, the progress is slow, and you are being told that it won’t work or self-doubt is kicking in. This is the point where everyone considers giving up and start asking themselves, “why am I doing this?”. At this point you have to be brave and be ready to answer honestly. Your purpose needs to be crystal clear, because this is when the true battle begins and it is the time to shine.
FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT
Fear kills more dreams than failure, so you have to control the controllable’s and brainwash yourself with lots of positive affirmations and thoughts. Pretend to be confident and visualize how it will look. Preparation and belief are your best friends.
EMBRACE ‘THE SUCK’
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Deal with the adversity, the challenge, the pain, or the uncomfortable feeling by welcoming it with open arms. Make it your friend, as ‘the suck’ is the reason that is going to make you better. You are building your mental and physical toughness, which leads to greater levels of resilience.
Create a team and environment that supports the challenge. An environment that is positive and provides you with the feedback required to deal with the positive and negative thoughts, and perceived obstacles to achieve your goal.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE
To continually extend the boundaries of what you thought was possible, you need to understand how you overcome uncomfortable experiences in the past. Use your understandings to build your confidence. Start to notice the patterns of your thoughts and record them. Record the characteristics of your fears, such as when does it appear, where does your mind wander, how do you cope with it and how you construct your intentions to deal with it. Create an internal culture of reveling in achievement and understanding how you deal with situations.
Your mind and body are comfortable with familiarity. The more you perform in an uncomfortable state, the more confidence you will develop. It is a mindset you have to develop, so you can allow your thoughts and emotions to adapt and grow.
What rituals and behaviors can you create, so that each day you feel more comfortable with the uncomfortable? Once you have developed these actions, you need to be patient and be prepared for the long-game, as it will take some to become an automatic part of your life. Over time you will feel more confident, empowered and prepared to face the uncomfortable more often. The result of this process is a life of growth, excitement and success.
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It doesn’t matter what industry, the high performers are far more effective at cultivating more powerful traits. We touch on eight highly effective traits that unleash their potential and rise above the rest.
MORE WITH LESS
High performers look to consolidate and improve the efficiency by focusing on the increasing the ‘outputs that matter’. They reduce products, services and other outputs that don’t matter and focus on making the main thing, the main thing.
Being able to see four or five steps ahead, understanding what the needle-moving requirements are that will get them there, and determining what the distractions are that they need to avoid, allows a high performer to always be in control of their destiny. They are also effective at identifying the must-have skills needed to accomplish those steps, and then will work obsessively to develop them.
PROACTIVE LISTENERS & OBSERVERS
To perform at your best you need to be a proactive listener and observer. If done effectively you can extract up to three to five times more information than the normal person.
Improving your listening and observation skills requires the discipline to reduce distractions and be proactive in focusing your attention. Most people aren’t aware or don’t understand how unobservant they are.
Keep phones and other attention seeking distractions out of meetings, conversations and other communication tasks. Take notes during conferences and meetings, and keep a journal to record your activities and reflections. Make eye contact during interactions with others and practice active listening skills.
During times of hardship, taking a large risk, facing fear, dealing with the unknown or coping with judgment, high performers speak up for themselves. They share their truth and also speak up for others more often.
High performers honor the struggle, as they know that struggling is a natural part of the process when dealing with challenges. They can handle the struggle, because they expect it. They show up and appreciate the hard times and don’t complain during the process.
Rather than focusing on changing the world, decide on whom you’re doing it for and then work hard for them. Be prepared to serve for someone who needs help and then develop the kind of character that will help them deserve the outcome they desire.
High Performers view themselves as imperfect, and allow for mistakes and subsequent learning. They embrace failing, tend to fail fast, and use failure as a learning opportunity.
Under pressure they have the ability to assess their actions differently than the average person. They are able to let go quicker, whereas low-achievers tend to fall into a ‘broken record’ of embarrassment, guilt and shame.
Do you know what your purpose or what your underlying reason why is? Determine ‘why’ it is important to succeed every single day. Be bold, put yourself out there, and place your identity on the line.
A deep sense of identity, with performing with excellence, is a necessity for high performers. They will bring their focus back through raising the necessity so they enter with a high level of intention, so they perform with excellence. They will ask themselves “who needs me to be on my A-Game right now?”, whether it is family, team, peers or athletes. How often do you prime your mental ability to perform an activity well?
Fully Commit & Seek Clarity
Most people avoid expressing all their thoughts and feelings when dealing with situations of high pressure. This can lead to unnecessary miscommunication and tension as the recipient feels they have heard all that was meant to be said, and responds accordingly.
A high performer seeks clarity more often as they want to understand why. The average person will jump to judgment based on only 5% of the available information, and therefore can easily mis-read the tone of an email or conversation. These judgments can truly harm us, especially in the digital age, where we can be quick to read and respond with emotion.
It is valuable to grasp what the intention is, what is important and what matters? By using self-reflection, evaluation, and making changes more often, you can sift out distractions and refocus on what is important.
You learn more about yourself when you teach others. Through teaching people how to think and challenging them to grow, you change their lives. When you impact someone else’s thoughts, in a positive way, you have influence. Remember to tell them to be their best.
The more comfortable someone is around you, the more likely you are to be able to influence them. Be relaxed and create rapport with the person you are trying to influence, as you are more likely to persuade them if they like and trust you. Listen to the people you are trying to influence, ask the right questions, be aware of their body language and be patient.
Generate More Energy
If you want to perform at your best you need to develop the ability to switch off, recharge and maximize your ‘transitions’. Transitions are the times in your day when you switch from one task to another, such as the time in between meetings, driving to and from work, grabbing a coffee and eating lunch.
High performers will generate energy during the day, rather than losing it. Try giving your mind and body a break every 45-60 minutes. Where possible, plan and schedule chunks of time to recharge. Take a quick break, close your eyes, or meditate as the short psychological break can release tension and focus, so you are primed for the next activity.
Nature (our DNA) and nurture (environmental influences) both need to be taken into consideration when trying to understand how a leader is formed. The way I like to look at whether leaders are Born or Made, is by looking at leadership capability through the concept of a bell-curve.
At the bottom of the curve, there are ~10% of people that will struggle, no matter how hard they try, to be a good leader. Their DNA is just not wired to lead and every amount of training is unlikely to get them to a position where they can lead effectively. On the top of the bell curve are the ~10% of people who are born to lead. They are born with an innate instinct to lead. As they grow and develop they tend to continue getting better and better.
The other ~80% of people in the middle have the potential to be good leaders, if not great leaders. They have to be prepared to work really hard on their leadership skills, especially self-awareness. This involves learning how to take a ‘birds-eye-view’ of yourself, be open to asking for feedback and developing great listening skills.
However, I do believe that the world’s most exceptional visionary leaders are highly likely to only come from the ~10% of people who are born leaders.
To try and understand some of the discussion points around whether leaders are born or made, let’s look at some of the theories and evidence that support either side of the coin or both sides.
“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. They are the one who gets the people to do the greatest things.”
Ronald Reagan (Adapted)
According to the Great Man Theory, popularised in the 1840’s by Thomas Carlyle and Trait Theory, people inherit certain qualities and traits, which are aligned with leadership. People are born with different qualities that predispose them to be a leader, which is similar to someone who with the natural qualities of a gifted musician or talented athlete. They will naturally excel and thrive when confronted with the appropriate situations, whereas other people will struggle. The most exceptional leaders, don’t become overnight successes, they were leaders from the onset.
Behavioural Theories emphasise that the process of teaching, learning and observation allow people to become leaders. They believe the concept of leadership is something that can be learnt, like a skill through training, practice, perception and making observations over a period of time. But, to what level can a person achieve, from a leadership point of view, if they don’t have the natural charisma, ability to influence, natural integrity, and ability to motivate and inspire?
“Leaders aren’t born, they are made. And they are made just like anything else, through hard work. And that’s the price we’ll have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.”
Some people are very good leaders in certain environments, but not others. They may lead well when they know and trust a small team they are working with, whereas they struggle in a larger team of people they don’t know so well. Even exceptional leaders are only effective when they are in specific locations or environments, for example they could be in a family, societal, community, national, or global environment.
Leaders, sometimes, don’t always stand out from the crowd. They are the quiet achievers, who have an uncanny ability lead people away from the limelight and in a very subtle way. Their quiet, softly spoken and under-the-radar approach may have a profound effect on the way people behave, how they perform and decisions they make.
“Leadership is not magnetic personality – that could just as well be a glib tongue. It is not ‘making friends and influencing people’, that is flattery. Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.”
There are bodies of research that imply that 30% of leadership is genetic and 70% is learned. Although the percentage of genetic versus learned is likely to vary quite a lot between individual leaders, but it still implies that there is a major learning component to leadership.
Many leaders, tend to have an extroversion trait. They also tend to have high levels of empathy as well as social and emotional intelligence, whereas IQ is not always an important characteristic for a leader. As I discussed earlier, introverts can also be great leaders.
“Leadership is an observable, learnable set of practices. Leadership is not something mystical and ethereal that cannot be understood by ordinary people. Given the opportunity for feedback and practice, those with the desire and persistence to lead can substantially improve their abilities to do so.”
JAMES KOUZES & BARRY POSNER
Great leaders tend to be in constant growth, as they aim to improve every day. They tend to seek new experiences and a greater understanding of themselves.
People who are adjusted, social, ambitious and curious are more likely to become leaders. Their curious nature leads them to learn through mediums such as books, informal training from coaches or mentors, interpretations of life experiences, websites, observations, listening and formal training in an academic type setting.
“The leader must be able to know what followers want, when they want it, and what prevents them from getting what they want.”
Leadership is a reflection of who you are and how you want to improve the world for the better. No matter whether leaders have come from a background of hardship and personal struggles or they have endured leadership through an abundance of resources, everyone can continue to develop their leadership skills through deliberate practice and experience.
Developing as a leader is no different to any other expert, where they grow through deliberate practice, struggle, sacrifice, hard work, and regular self-assessment.
Your role as a leader is also to be one step ahead of your team and ensure that you prevent a culture and environment that spirals out of control. Catastrophes and scandals can, most of the time, be prevented by developing a cultural environment that cultivates growth, harmony, team work, prosperity and enjoyment.
“Culture is the only sustainable competitive advantage that is completely within the control of the leader.”
A successful leader will have their finger on the pulse and gently tighten the leash when the team or a team member begins to stray. They have a unique ability to sense divergence and be able to pivot the team back towards convergence.
Quite often successful people, teams or organisations find their feet become too big for the shoes they fill. In sport – success breeds success – but it also breeds a sense of invincibility that if not managed well, can spiral out of control.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t gather people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”
ANTOINE DE SAlNT-EXUPERY
A recent example of this is the Australian Cricket Team, where over a period of time had pushed the boundaries on what is and isn’t acceptable in the sport of cricket. They had become arrogant, over-confident and had developed belief that they were somewhat untouchable. Constant sledging, that became extremely personal, aggressive antagonistic behaviour and a focus on winning at all costs lead to the demise of the team.
A decision by David Warner, Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft to tamper the cricket ball during a recent test against South Africa, led to all three receiving length playing bans, captaincy bans and major financial implications that had never been seen in the sport before. The results of their actions have become a priority in the public eye with fans and media first wanting blood and then a feeling of sympathy when the discipline announced was a devastating blow to the players involved.
“Are you willing to take responsibility for your team’s culture or do you treat it like the weather – something that happens to you!”
What we have witnessed is not dissimilar to drugs in sport. Ball tampering can have a major performance enhancing effect on the result of a game. Ball tampering has been a part of cricket for a very long time, possibly since the beginning of the sport. When Steve Smith said that it was a big mistake and the first time Australia had ever tampered the ball, it was highly likely a big white lie, and therefore is it any different to the Lance Armstrong case in cycling? When cricket players tamper the ball, like taking drugs in sport, you are committing a form of fraud. Defrauding the spectators, players and fans of a legal result, and in many cases the fans money to attend and prizemoney that the other team could have won.
James Sutherland, the CEO of Cricket Australia, dealt with the situation in a very swift and professional manner, which may have saved his job. As a result of the players being disciplined, Darren Lehman resigned as the Australian coach, accepting that he was responsible for the overall culture of the team, which had spiraled down a very slippery slope.
“Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.”
GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
Sutherland gets a second chance to prove his leadership credentials as he is in charge of ensuring the overall culture of Australian Cricket returns to a positive environment that aligns to the “spirit of the game”. He may have dodged a big fall from grace, as the quote says “the fish always rots from the head”. He now has to pull off a reactive approach to rewriting the culture of the Australian Cricket team for the better of the game and restore the pride of the Australian public and faith of the cricket community.
As a leader you need to be a student of human behaviour and team dynamics. You need to be constantly observing and understanding where your team culture is trending. The team culture is established by the behaviours you, as the leader, cultivate through leading by example, motivation, inspiration, reward, recognition and also setting clear boundaries. Values that reflect the team need to be agreed on, adhered to and aligned to every decision that is made. Anyone veering off track needs to be quickly brought back in to line or moved on to ensure that there are no further negative effects and the long-term culture is destined for success.
“High performing team members generalize their attitude to team performance. They see the big picture and how they fit into it. They feel responsible for their performance, for others performance and for team performance. They become leaders.”
We, as leaders, are the moral and ethical police who control the destiny of our team, company or organisation. It shouldn’t be left to the fans, clients or a legal jurisdiction to bring it to our attention. Be a step ahead of the game to ensure that when the wind blows you can withstand the strain.
Remember that if you do not develop your culture, it will develop itself. Culture doesn’t happen by accident and if it does, you are taking an irresponsible risk.
How will you be a step ahead of the game? You cannot take a backward step or watch from the back of the bus. Firstly, you will only ever see the back of your competitors and secondly, you will be too late to correct the wheel when the bus overshoots the bend.
If you are a leader, then you need to be a step ahead of the game when it comes to the future and having a winning culture.
STEP 1 – FUTURE
As a leader it is your role to identify – What problem has yet to be solved? A problem that, if solved, has a positive impact on the way people live.
You need to create a solution that shapes the future and gives you the competitive advantage. Taking a proactive lead ensures that you set the standard for everyone else, who, if not on their A-game, will turn their focus to chasing and following you, rather than keeping their eye on the prize.
“A GOOD hockey player plays where the puck is. A GREAT hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” WAYNE GRETZKY
Most overnight successes occur through clever foresight, smart planning and a lot of hard work, rather than the one in a million lottery ticket approach. You need to look ahead and know what the game will look like in 5, 10 or even 25 years time and then you need to do everything possible, to be the first across the line.
Starting with the question – Wouldn’t it be great if we … ? – allows you to establish a starting point for determining what problem has yet to be solved. Apple asked the question – wouldn’t it be great if we could sell singles rather than albums? This led to iTunes and the iPod being solutions to the problem of not having an easily accessible platform, which the music industry trusted, to access and listen to singles rather than albums.
“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can do what others can’t.”
Your role is not to follow and react when something goes wrong or your competitors get the first run on the board. Kodak learnt the hard way when Don Strickland presented the idea of the digital camera. The Board of Directors were split on the idea and it was turned down, knowing they owned the 35mm manual camera market. Don left Kodak and took the idea to Apple, who said yes. They successfully acquired the intellectual property from Kodak and Apple changed the way we viewed and stored our memories forever, while Kodak suffered a cruel death over the following years.
“If it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably not dreaming big enough.” TONY BURCH
So how will you lead the future of your industry, company, team or community? Remember, the easiest way to predict the future is to create it. A great leader personifies the future and has the ability to create a world that reflects their inner world. They live in the future they invite us into.
Do you know who you are and what your identity is?
Four years ago I was fortunate enough to deliver an impromptu presentation on Branding and Marketing for Coaches at the Triathlon Australia Performance Coach Course in Canberra at the Australian Institute of Sport. I was pretty excited to be able to speak to the next generation of performance coaches on this topic, as it is an area that isn’t given much time in the coaching world, but is extremely important to succeed in a world of limited opportunities.
“If you don’t know what you stand for, you will fall for anything.”
What follows is not only practical to sports coaches, but also to business coaches. managers and leaders.
It is common for coaches to launch into coaching as a profession, with a world of passion and emotion, and fall into the trap of coaching everyone, no matter what age, ability, desire and characteristics. Coaches are like kids in a candy store without any boundaries, and before they know it they have consumed too much and are barely able to tread water, let alone have enough energy to lift the weight off their shoulders.
A coach is a salesperson, whether they know it or not. To sell something effectively they have to know its heart and soul. To convince, motivate and inspire an athlete and team of athletes effectively, a coach needs to be able to deliver messages authentically and consistently. They need to know what it is that separates themselves, to stand out, from the rest.
It doesn’t matter whether a coach is a volunteer, works on a performance program or sets up their own coaching business, being able to clearly define and nurture their identity will allow them to cultivate a successful career and most importantly deliver an environment where success, for the athletes, is inevitable. The coach needs to position themselves in a way that allows potential and current athletes to perceive, think and feel more connected to them compared to other coaches or coaching businesses. (Bence, 2012)
“Your SMILE is your logo, your PERSONALITY is your business card, how you LEAVE OTHERS FEELING after an experience with you becomes your trademark.”
Photo Credit: David Sun
Leave Your Mark
So what is branding for a coach? It’s about creating a consistent message through the way they talk, move, act, deliver, motivate, inspire and bring the best out in the athletes they are working with. It’s about developing an underpinning philosophy that the coach whole-heartedly believes in and is passionate about. It’s a way of life for the athletes the coach works with. Most importantly, it’s the distinctive aspects of the coaching style, personal characteristics and environment that leaves a mark on everyone who comes in contact with the coach.
It is important that a coach can identify what types of athletes (markets) are most suited to their coaching identity and market effectively to them. Whether it be speaking with a potential athlete for the first time or setting up a new website, the messages need to be clear, consistent and from the heart. A successful coach-athlete relationship, the foundation of coaching, is based on factors such as trust, emphatic understanding, acceptance and respect (Jowett, 2005). A clear, concise and consistent coaching brand will go along way to ensuring a successful relationship is created and developed.
People Sell, Not Products
For those starting a coaching business, it is important to know, that it’s the “person” that people are attracted to, not the product. Athletes are attracted to the personal characteristics of the coach and the business. The coaches ability to sell the products requires a consistent and powerful (coach) brand that they can passionately communicate. It is important a coach doesn’t just copy what other successful coaches are doing. They need to create their own identity.
“ Every time you shake a hand, you market your brand.”
You may notice that the worlds geniuses, gifted people and creative artists are different. They have unique characteristics that seem quirky, a bit weird and don’t quite fit into the normal way of life. So why are they somewhat social misfits, renegades and a real challenge to deeply connect with?
People who have a higher level of intelligence, creativity, willingness to contribute to society and possess an amazing talent, are those who change the world for better and sometimes worse. Let’s clarify who we are talking about:
As an athlete, it would be a multiple Olympic Champion, World Champion, and/or World Record Holder.
As an entertainer, it is someone who redefines musical genres; and produces multiple Emmy’s, Grammy’s and Oscars.
For an academic, it could be someone with high intelligence, a Nobel Peace prize winner or discover a scientific breakthrough.
In business, it is people who have revolutionised the way we work, a billionaire or successful multinational CEO.
In society, it is those who build communities, effect social change or pioneer inspiration.
Everyone is unique and possesses their own blend of characteristics, but for some reason the high achievers of this world have something different that stands out in a crowd. It is not always the same characteristic/s but there is always some awkwardness to them. A good way to describe this is like trying to put the rectangle peg in a square hole as a toddler. It looks like it should fit, but just doesn’t quite go in there.
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.” Arthur Schopenhauer
The game changers of our world, start with a search for ideas, not necessarily for a known problem, but for a pure sense of curiosity. They tend to ask more questions than the every day person, as they seek to find a higher level of understanding, and an ability to outperform and deliver something never seen before or are even aware of. Their desire to contribute, create something different and go somewhere that no one else has been before fuels them to begin a long series of trials and errors. They do not fear failure, they in fact thrive on it as they know that with every failure they are learning and trending towards a world of clarity.
“Exceptional thinkers, it turns out, stand on common ground when they launch their arrows into the unknown.”
Margaret Thatcher (www.theguardian.com)
Life is not simple when it comes to creativity. Creative ideas have a tendency of rising to the surface whether we have the time or attention to deal with them or not. Expression of creativity is enjoyable but can also be a burden or a great challenge to those who are gifted, as ideas usually arrive in multiples. A creative person needs to make important decisions on which idea to explore further, ideas to shelve and those to disregard. They have to determine what is real and what is not, especially when no one else sees the idea through the same light.
“Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.”
Highly talented people tend to be divergent in the way they think, as well as their interests, values and behaviours. Their appetite for learning is raised, as their minds run deeper and faster than the average person. They are often aware that they don’t fit in, but are unsure why. Their thoughts and feelings sit outside the box, and are uncomfortable and strange to most people. Tall poppy syndrome is prevalent in society and quite often the highly talented people are seen to have a somewhat unfair advantage over the every-day-person due to jealousy of them having higher observable abilities.
“High intelligence entails not just being able to learn new things quickly and easily, but affects a person’s entire experience of life. People with unusually high intelligence take in and acquire information differently, process that information differently. They frequently experience emotions and physical stimuli more intensely than others. They have motivations and drives, which others often find odd or bizarre.”
The high achievers tend to be optimists, who see puzzles and problems as opportunities, whereas others see them as barriers. They have a curious nature that thrives on multiple questions and ideas. Their instinct is to look at puzzles from a variety of angles, come up with multiple potential strategies and have a great hunger to find the ultimate solution.
“They may realize that they learn things more quickly and easily than others, but may be wholly unaware that others don’t share their endless curiosity and may not have the strong feelings about things that they do. Highly intelligent people may also find themselves odd man out because it is in their nature to think and work outside of the box. They may know that they are doing this, but may not realize how threatening and disconcerting this often is to others. They can be blindsided by the negative reactions they receive for doing things which they see as positive.”
Gifted people often feel a sense of loneliness, awkwardness, alienation and deep anxiety as they find the pace and intensity of their thinking exhaustive, and their struggle to deal with most people finding it difficult to comprehend their abilities and actions. They may become impatient with those who are critical or unable to keep up with their problem solving ability and thought processes. As they are dealing with fundamentally different ways to interact with information they can feel ostracized from the rest of the world. Awkward social interactions can be common as their higher level of thinking, understanding and futurism is typically misunderstood and underestimated by peers, society and usually themselves.
“Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you.”
Mental illness is commonly associated with the highly intelligent, gifted, creative and talented. Sometimes they can be high achievers as a result of their mental illness and other times they occur a mental illness because of the high levels of achievement. Common diagnoses of mental illness associated with high achievers include bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, alcoholism and drug addiction.
“I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself.”
High-achieving athletes, entertainers and leaders tend to have an aura about them, be charismatic, enthuse energy and be very engaging. They have a natural ability to influence, lead and inspire people with ease. They may not always be the ideal role model, but have that ability to take you on a journey and sculpt your ideas and ways of thinking, for better and sometimes not.
“I like weird people… The black sheep, the odd ducks, the rejects, the eccentrics, the loners, the lost and the forgotten. More often than not, these people have the most beautiful souls.”
From a cognitive point of view, high-achievers generate original, creative and unusual ideas. They have an innate ability to connect seemingly unrelated ideas, think abstractively and have complex and deep thoughts. Their imaginations are vivid, rich and have superior abilities to reason, generalise and problem solve. It is common for them to have excellent long-term memories, learn things quickly and think fast.
“Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality. Creativity is characterised by the ability to perceive the world in new ways, to find hidden patterns, to make connections between seemingly unrelated phenomena, and to generate solutions.”
Emotionally, high-achievers are highly sensitive, introverted, have a quirky sense of humour, a child-like sense of wonder, and are good observers. They perceive the world differently as they are aware of things that most people aren’t, and have a high tolerance for complexity and ambiguity. It is normal for high-achievers to be very passionate and experience intense feelings.
“Successful people never lose their sense of wonder and possibility. Instead they retain a childlike quality to see the world of opportunity.”
Roger Federer (www.brilla.com)
Setting high standards for themselves and others, as a perfectionist, is common among high-achievers. They are usually very independent and autonomous. The search for meaning in life, finding patterns and seeking the ultimate truth, is a key driver for high-achievers. It is common for them to be overwhelmed by a wide range of interests and abilities. Their high drive and sense of destiny fuels their visionary outlook on life.
“I haven’t failed. I’ve just found 10,000 things that won’t work.”
Needing times of solitude and contemplation allows high-achievers to deal with their complex world of thought, understanding and spontaneity. Their persistent nature leads to sustained concentration on topics of interest as well as holding long attention spans.
Why do people like Steve Jobs, Margaret Thatcher, Roger Federer, JK Rowling, Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey, Bono, Lady Gaga, Leonardo de Vinci, Marilyn Munroe, Robin Williams and Richard Branson not fit inside the box?