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What makes worldclass performers so different?

I have been reading Tools of Titans. I finally got around to it even though it’s been on my list for years. It was always one thing or the other but couldn’t make the time and bandwidth to deep dive into it. 

I wasn’t even sure it was going to be worth my time but I checked it out from the library anyway. As soon as I read the first few pages, I knew I wanted to buy it and add it to my library forever. 

I stumbled on Tim Ferris by accident in the early days of my professional career. I was reading a career blog where a coach with Asperger’s used her very out of the (social) box perspective to help people understand how the corporate game was built and how to win. She had beef with Tim Ferris, so of course I had to go find out who he was.

I wasn’t sure if any of his stuff was inflated claims but one thing was for sure: I was learning to think outside the system handed to us. I was learning to ask better questions. And more importantly, I was learning how to leapfrog the process. Something essential for an immigrant kid feeling stuck in a game of catch up. 

I took some of those questions to heart and it completely transformed how I showed up to life and began seeing results reserved for the American-born kids who were certainly not playing catch up.

One of the questions was: If there was a gun to your head, what would you have to do to accomplish your 10 year goal in the next six months?

This exercise was aimed at breaking through self-imposed timelines and requirements that hold us back. The people doing incredible things have realized that all this is made up and if you understand which rules to break (and those you must always follow), you will fast track the results you want for yourself. Because once you shed artificial constraints, you realize that reality is so much more malleable than you previously assumed. 

Word-class performers do not have some sort of special powers that the rest of us don’t have. But they have crafted their own rules that allow them to bend reality. Hardly any of them learned to do this on their own. Which is why I am always going on about the importance of having the right mentors and champions in your life. 

One thing I learned was to answer bigger questions for myself that would set the pace for any future decisions. This allowed me to get unstuck from indecisiveness. (I wanted to first consider all the possible outcomes to ensure that I was annihilating mistakes before they happened). This also allowed me to move with clarity and confidence in all aspects of my life because once you have decided on the big questions for life, as if by magic, the right people and the right opportunities begin to open up before you. 

Tools of Titans talks about how power is in the absurd; the more absurd, the more impossible the question, the more profound the answers. 

During one of our Strategic Planning sessions, the client couldn’t bring themselves to name their true desire for their Olympus Mons Summit. This is the big, giant, ridiculous goal for a future reality that we ask our clients to set during the session. As a nonprofit organization, they wanted to be free from government funding so they could continue to do work with best practices in mind rather than serving the requirements of the grant. They were feeling stifled and like they couldn’t serve the community as best as they could given their current constraints. But they were convinced that they required an endowment that was so much bigger than they could dare to hope for in this lifetime. 

It took quite a while of asking questions to productively break their mind out of the mold they were living in all these years. I wanted them to understand that they could renegotiate reality on their terms. 

This is always the hardest part.

This is also the most satisfying part of Strategic Planning. 

When people realize that most of their constraints are narratives they agreed to rather than factual barriers, something new and exciting sparks in the room. 

The energy shift in the room is palpable. These leaders realized that they were actually able to say “thanks but no thanks” to the federal government. They didn’t need the money. As we walked through the strategic plan, they realized how much more they were able to do by maximizing their current assets and didn’t need to compromise for more funding.

The goal setting process took on an entirely different energy after. I could see in their eyes that the leash had been broken. They were confident. They were in charge. They were protective of their organization and weren’t willing to compromise on serving and supporting the community with best practices. The passion, creativity, and commitment was flowing in the room.

When you expand your capacity to hold the absurd, you tap into a well of power that has been dormant until now.

My challenge for you is to look at where you are and identify where you want to be in the next 3 years. If you absolutely had to shorten the timeline to one year, what would need to happen for this to become reality? What are the most important actions that will move the needle the most in the next twelve months? What about the next six months?

World class performers know how to build mental flexibility and agility. They know how to spot the artificial constraints and build habits and thinking systems that make their preferred reality possible.

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