Outstanding performance is one of the keys to success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success. If you want to become an outstanding performer, you need to do three things: 1) Stay technically competent by becoming a lifelong learner; 2) Set and achieve high goals; and 3) Get organized.
If you read this blog, you know that I am a big fan of SUCCESS Magazine. I read it cover to cover every month, always picking up some great success tips – many of which I pass along here. The new issue of SUCCESS has a great story on lifelong learning entitled, “Focusing on Improvement When You’ve Reached the Pinnacle.”
The article relates a story about Tom Coughlin, Head Coach of the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Before this American football season began, Mr. Coughlin called Joe Torre and John Wooden. Mr. Torre managed the New York Yankees to three consecutive World Series Championships, and Mr. Wooden won seven consecutive NCAA basketball championships when he was the coach at UCLA.
Mr. Coughlin wanted to learn what to do to motivate a team that had already reached the pinnacle of its sport. Mr. Torre had some interesting things to say:
“Leading when everyone expects you to win requires that you convince every member of your team that last year doesn’t matter. And that’s tough to do because all year long they’re seeing the words ‘defending champions’ placed before their names. The only thing that winning last year means is that your opponents are looking forward to playing you. None of them are intimidated by what you did a year ago, and none of them are going to roll over. Your team will have to learn that quickly.”
In other words, you can’t rest on your laurels. You need to keep on learning and improving. Your past success does not guarantee future success. Things happen quickly in today’s business world. If you’re not learning and growing, like Tom Coughlin, you’re going to fall behind.
Roy Williams, Head Basketball Coach at the University of North Carolina says:
“It is human nature that once you get to the top, or when it appears that you are better than your opponent, to take a breath and enjoy the moment. What we are trying to teach (the willingness to keep learning and growing) runs counter to human nature…I remind each player that the way you deal with expectations is to focus only on today.”
The implication for lifelong learning is simple. No matter how much you know, you can always learn more. Earl Nightingale once said, “If you will spend an extra hour each day of study in your chosen field, you will be a national expert in that field in five years or less.”
Recently, I saw a great quote from Henry Ford that applies here. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Another good reason to keep on learning. Don’t become old before your time.
The common sense point here is simple. Successful people are outstanding performers. Outstanding performers are lifelong learners. Like Tom Coughlin and Roy Williams, they keep learning, even after they’ve had great success. Follow Earl Nightingale’s advice. Spend at least one hour a day studying your chosen field. This extra effort will pay off in the long run. Besides that, as Henry Ford points out, you’ll stay young.
That’s my take on lifelong learning and outstanding performance. What’s yours? Please leave a comment sharing your experience with us. As always, thanks for reading – and writing.