On Becoming The 1%

There’s been a lot of protests recently about how awful it is to be the 99%. The central complaint is that the lion’s share of success is going to a small percentage of the population. People are upset that a select few over-achievers (the 1%) get a disproportionate share of the rewards.

No kidding! In fact, that’s how Darwin made a name for himself.

Instead of grousing about whether or not the world is fair and droning on that we should all live in a state of socialist equality, why not focus your energy on being the 1%? Not an evil 1% that lives in opulence off other’s broken backs, but being in the top 1% of your field. Making the top 1% of impact on the world. Reaching the top 1% of your potential.

Everyone knows who Lance Armstrong is—he achieved top 1% status in the world of cycling. Ever hear of Heinrich Haussler? He’s ranked the #9 cyclist in the world and undoubtedly is highly talented and committed. Besides Haussler not being recognized at the grocery store, I’d guess that Lance Armstrong earns 100 times what Haussler makes. Is this fair? Should Haussler camp in a tent for weeks demanding that Armstrong give up some of his fame and wealth to the less "fortunate" Haussler?

As I see it, the top 1% have always snagged a disproportionate share of life’s rewards. In venture capital, only one out of three hundred entrepreneurs receive funding. In Hollywood, for every Tom Hanks or Jennifer Aniston, there are tens of thousands who don’t make the cut. I don’t see the reason to protest; it is simply the way life works. It’s like protesting winter in my hometown of Detroit because it isn’t fair my friends in San Diego are in the top 1% of weather.

So the real question becomes, how do you push yourself to reach that rarified territory in your own pursuits? How do you become a champion instead of an also-ran?

Most of the expert advice boils down to two things: passion and persistence.

The greatest achievers in the world are driven with unbridled passion. That intense desire enables them to overcome their demons, and push through the rough spots even when it’s uncomfortable. This passion drives them to sprint toward their dreams with urgency and fire, passing the wannabe’s along the way.

Persistence, grit, and determination fuel the 1% through their inevitable adversity. In the words of Vince Lombardi, "It’s not whether you get knocked down. It’s whether you get up." While the 99% are bowing out when circumstances get too tough, the 1% forge ahead, unwilling to accept defeat no matter the sacrifice.

We all have a choice. We can point fingers, complain the world isn’t fair, and swim in a lukewarm pot of victim soup. Or we can push ourselves and our organizations to earn the coveted 1% position. And in doing so, we achieve nearly limitless potential.

Why accept anything less?

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[Image: Flickr user uonottingham]