The Official Blog of Mike Rayburn

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The Mastery Mindset: Expect To Be Good, Do What Great People Do!

Ok, I searched my heart before sharing this. It is a prerequisite for success to be honest about one’s mistakes and failures. But is it not just as important to be honest about what works and share it? At cursory glance the following might seem self-proud, but I assure you, that is not what I feel.

I am interested in lots of things… sports, places, people, acquiring different skills. I am blessed with usually being good at them. Someone recently asked me how that works and here is what I realized…

When I go into something new I expect to be really good at it. I don’t know why, I just always have. I expect to rise to the top. I believe beforehand I’m going to be surprisingly better at it – whatever it is – in a shorter amount of time than anyone expects. I expect to exceed expectations.

I expect to be great not with conceit as if it will be easy, but with a humility and drive about doing the work required; a total focus on how-to, honing, and brutal honesty in assessing my performance.

Surprise! This turns out to be a trait common to people who have achieved far more than me. Michael Jordan, Winston Churchill, George Foreman, Steve Jobs, Jack Welch, Olympic Medalists, and many others have all shared this trait.

My observation is that this expectation of success does two important things: 1. It focuses me on learning the endeavor with excellence as the end goal, rather than mediocrity. 2. It creates momentum in the right direction. This second part cannot be overemphasized!

Life spirals up or down, it is never stationary. Interestingly, it is not outside events or circumstances that decide which way our lives spiral. It is our choices, actions and reactions that decide.

Therefore, when I choose excellence at the outset I tell life that we’re going to be spiraling up now. I let God and the universe know I’m serious and committed, thereby setting myself in a positive direction.

Here’s the cool part: That dedication to excellence attracts help, it invites input from experts, it draws to your life what you need. You see, the payoff that experts have in helping others is seeing their coaching and counsel applied and successful.

I am 53 years old and a year ago I decided to learn to surf. I mentioned this thought in passing to my friend, Bill Bachrach who, as it turns out, is an excellent surfer. He immediately took me to a great surfing school and instructor in San Diego and the next day I was on a surfboard… and I got up the first time! I am now surfing every chance I get. Bill knows that when I do something I aim at excellence! Had he thought that I regularly do things halfway, I don’t complete what I start, that I am easily satisfied with mediocrity, he’d have likely responded to my desire to surf by saying, “Yeah, well, good luck with that.”

The same has been true for everything from hobbies such as surfing, skiing, and whitewater kayaking, to the professional endeavors dearest to me: Speaking, Guitar, and Comedy.

One extremely important practice integral to the Mastery Mindset is always to find models, those who do well what you want to do. When I learned to whitewater kayak we would go in small groups of 3-5 people. As a passionate beginner intent on being great, each time we went I chose the best kayaker (paddler) and did what he or she did. I followed them, took their routes through the rapids, tried the play-moves that they did, and paddled the way they paddled. In short order I became one of the best paddlers in the group, but not from some innate ability. I simply maintained the Mastery Mindset. I expected to be great and did what great people do.

Expect to be great, do what great people do. That is the Mastery Mindset.

Remember… This is not merely a hobby or professional point. Use your Mastery Mindset for your marriage. For parenting. For all relationships. For your health. For your faith.

Finally, expecting to be great is not necessarily a comparative thing. Your most important benchmark is YOU. One award for which I am extremely proud is, get this… my third place plaque for a 5K run for the YMCA, just in my age-group, just in my home town. Compared to others? Not a big deal. But your see, while I run a lot I am flat-footed and not very fast. What it took for me to come in third was an amazing amount of work. For me… that was excellence, that was great. For the world? Not so much. But the real battle is always internal.

Action steps…

  1. Adopt the Mastery Mindset. Stat expecting to be great, aiming at greatness, and modeling those who are great. Make the decision right now that when you say yes to something new, you are simultaneously declaring to be excellent at it. You’ll probably start slowly, that’s fine. Most do. But learn with excellence, not mediocrity in mind.
  2. Excellence always fosters humility rather than arrogance. It is with humility that we realize excellence requires doing the work. My kayaking teacher once reminded me that if you’re not flipping, you’re not learning.

One Response

  1. Thank for the post. I have struggled in the past due to the expectations of my loved ones… Their expectations created self-doubt within me. After trying my ass off… when I failed, I finally gave up. Gave up on meeting their expectations. And that’s what worked for me. In the absence outside expectation finally I dared to have my own expectations on myself.

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