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During the time I was able to join a martial arts class, I noticed that some students were able to do better during the harsh physical conditioning part of training. Those regulars who joined the class almost every session completed the hundreds of push-ups, sit ups, squats, and long planks faster and with better form than students like me who were only able to attend a couple of Saturdays a month at most. Some of them started training later than I have but, unsurprisingly, they quickly grew stronger as time went on.
If you’ve ever started a certain career, sport, or hobby, do you ever wonder why some people become better and more successful than you over time? Ruling out “luck” or “natural talent”, did you know that there’s something else at work and that you can use that something to improve just about all areas of your life as well? That’s the lesson we’ll learn here today. Keep reading as you might learn something amazing.
The Thin Line Between Success and Mediocrity
By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.
I was reading chapter 8 of Bob Proctor’s book You Were Born Rich and the author mentioned that the line between winning and losing (the margin of greatness) is as thin as a razor’s edge. That means there’s a very small difference between what’s ordinary, and what’s mind-blowingly great.
Jack Canfield used a baseball example of this “Margin of Greatness” in principle #20 of The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be. If you’re a good fielder and you hit a bat average of .250 (one hit every in four), you’ll likely do well in the majors. If, on the other hand, you are able to hit a .300 batting average (one hit in every three or four), then you’ll be considered to be one of the legends, the ones who get the multi-million dollar contracts and commercial endorsements.
How “big” is the difference between those batters exactly? The “good” ones hit five every twenty, while the great legends hit six. Just ONE more, and that makes all the difference.
How to Improve at Just About Anything
The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.
— Jimmy Johnson
When I took up weightlifting as a hobby back in college, I learned the importance of doing at least one “rep” (repetition) beyond your 100%. When you can’t go on after lifting a weight 10 times, you HAVE to go lift it an 11th time, or a 12th. The mind gives up long before the body does and you’ll always be tempted to stop and quit well before you reach your real limit. To gain muscles you need to go a little BEYOND your “best” so muscle fibers break down a bit and they’ll then be replaced with better and stronger ones. If you stop before that point, you’ll simply have to settle for worse results.
That doesn’t just apply to weight training. It applies to all areas of your life as well.
- Do you do your job just well enough to not get fired, or do you consistently try to do excellent work that gets noticed (and therefore leads to promotions)?
- Do you prefer staying at the dead end job you’re used to, or do you start aiming for a better company which can give you a better chance of advancing your career?
- Do you operate your business with the goal of simply keeping it afloat, or do you constantly plan on improving your products and services to better serve customers’ needs? (Who knows what would have happened if Henry Sy Sr. never moved beyond his sari-sari store)
One of the best examples I’ve heard is from Bob Proctor (from the same book mentioned above). If you’re a salesperson and you sell three units a week, what difference would it make if you start continuously selling a fourth? It might not seem like much when you start, but for an entire sales career it’s said to be equal to over 2,000 extra sales or at least 10 YEARS worth of income in a 40 year career.
Most great things don’t look like much at the start, but over the course of decades it all adds up, similar to how the power of compound interest works on investments. Giving just a little extra effort in life can put you well above everyone else as the years pass.
Do What Works
It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
— Mark Twain
One harsh fact of life is that hard work is not enough. Like how “working hard” while training with bad form can give you terrible injuries like broken backs or worse, you need to remember to do what works and avoid unnecessary danger or risk.
One way of learning what works is by studying what professionals do. Through personal experience and experimentation, they’ve learned what’s effective and what’s harmful or dangerous. For example, if you want to invest to earn more money, you buy well-priced stock shares of companies who do their respective business well AND avoid terrible businesses or things you don’t understand. You might well lose your money on bad investments and scams.
If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always gotten. It’s said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Similar to how weightlifters and athletes change training methods to improve their performance, you may have to change some things in your life as well if you also want to become more successful.
Learn to sense when you are stagnating at your job so take a leap and change careers if necessary. For businesspeople, remember that markets can change drastically and what worked for you once may soon never work again (e.g. if you’re in the VCR rental business these days, you might lose money). For investors, don’t forget that past performance won’t guarantee future performance and the best investments before may become bankrupt over time (just look at previous giants like Enron and Blockbuster, and the dot-com bubble of the 90’s).
If you dream of winning and becoming successful you have to remember that a little extra effort (as Napoleon Hill called it, “go the extra mile”) can mean the difference between success and failure. One extra point can mean passing that test or repeating a grade, and one extra sale can mean the difference between expansion or bankruptcy. Know where that extra effort needed is, and continue doing it until it becomes a habit. It’ll pay great dividends over time.
Give a little extra effort in everything you do.
Do what works and avoid what won’t.