Going with my “Break a Leg” theme, taking chances, smart chances, calculated risks is one of the fundamental hallmarks of high achievers. But if you’re one of them you know this, right? My point in writing about it now is to ask you, are you still doing it? Are you maintaining your edge? In my keynote (with music and comedy) I always point out that coasting is fine for a while, but it only happens downhill. You’ve heard the phrase, “Good is the enemy of great,” right? Let me ask you a few questions that might help you check in on yourself, so to speak.
1. When was the last time you asked a question to which you don’t know the answer? This is often a pitfall of teachers, trainers, and high achievers… we’re so used to asking rhetorical or leading questions in sharing knowledge we neglect our need for never-ending improvement.
2. When was the last time you did something for the first time?
3. What is it about your career (or life) that makes you good, but keeps you from being great? What if you dropped it? [This is hard sometimes for me because I have a funny bit I know works, but I could replace it with something funnier or better]
4. What area of your career have you put off, almost sub-consciously, which you could stand to learn more about, perfect?
5. Are you driving with the breaks on? Are you sure? I teach this in my keynote because I need to remind myself every day to keep the edge, keep moving forward. When you’re good at something it’s easy to get by on talent and ability and forget the value of skill, working it, every day.
In high school I was pretty smart so I could get by without doing homework. I was surprised to find I could mostly do the same for my first year of college. Well, that caught up with me in Music History class. I HAD to do the homework, I didn’t, and I failed the first semester. FAILED! IN MUSIC! I couldn’t believe it. I then resolved (again as I speak about in my keynote) to be the best I could at it, to do whatever it takes. The next semester (second half of music history) I earned a B, but the professor gave me an A for the massive turnaround. The semester after that (repeating the failed semester) I earned an A so solidly I didn’t even have to take the final. Now I try to do whatever it takes to keep the edge, prepare, keep taking chances, even when I think I’m on the right path.
We all need a wake-up call, we need to remember to do what got us there in the first place, to risk, to take chances, to keep moving forward.