“I’m Doing the Best I Can!”
I hear this comment from time to time on coaching calls. In fact, I have said these very words myself. Then recently, when reading the latest release from author Andy Andrews, he asked a great question – “But, are you doing the best that can be done?”
The answer to that question is always “NO!” No matter how well you are doing, there is always room for improvement. Even people at the very top of their profession know that if they continue to work hard, they can raise their game to the next level.
There’s a Next Level??
Author John Ortberg tells a story about when he and some friends were urging another friend to ride on of those mechanical bull rides at a local carnival. The friend finally agreed, but he was very nervous. Just before he mounted the mechanical bull the operator of the ride gave the man some advice on how to stay on the bull for the required 8-seconds. The man heeded the advice and was able to successfully complete the ride. As the man dismounted the bull feeling proud and successful, he looked to the ride operator and thanked him for the wonderful advice. The ride operator waved and called to the man, “Great job! That was level 1 of eight possible levels. Would you like to go to the next level?” The man ran in the opposite direction.
This can be true for many of us; we become proud and pleased with our success and fail to realize there is a next level. I think of this often when I come off a stage after delivering a keynote presentation and find myself thinking I was pretty good. The question we (I) need to ask ourselves as we celebrate our wins is, “What would it take for me to go to the next level?”
Questions for Taking Yourself and Others to the Next Level
Question #1 – What does the next level look like for me?
Awareness that there is a next level in your area of expertise or career path is one thing, determining what the next level looks like for you can be more complicated.
Tip: If you are not already reading in your area of expertise or desired career path, you should be. Books, blogs, articles, trade journals are all part of keeping yourself up to speed on the latest workings in your chosen field. It can also introduce you to people who are ahead of you on the journey. Once you learn of some people doing high-level work in your chosen field, begin following them using social media platforms or other tools where they display their work.
Question #2 – What skills would I need to possess that I don’t have today to go to the next level?
Learning to identify specific skills that will take you to the next level is the important next step in your journey.
Tip: Once you know what others at the top levels of your profession are doing, and you get a feel for how they do it, perform a two-phase skill assessment. Phase 1, what skills do these expert-level people exhibit? What do they do that makes them perform at a high level? In Phase 2, evaluate your skill levels against this benchmark. Identify the gaps between where you are and where you see these other experts. Even if you are the top person in the field, there is a gap between where you are and what’s possible. Mind the gap!
Question #3 – Who do I know of that I could learn from that is operating at the next level?
Is there a way for you to observe the people operating at a higher level in your area of expertise?
Tip: Search Google looking for places the top performers in your area of expertise showcase their work. YouTube can be invaluable when looking for examples of high-level performers.
Question #4 – Who do I know that could coach me or provide feedback to me on my progress?
Next level performers often invest in third-party help to take them to the next level.
Tip: Finding a performance coach can be a great way to help you uncover blind spots and develop a path from where you are to where you want to go. You could also lean on some of your inner-circle relationship (those relationships where you have given a small number of people the authority to tell you the absolute and often difficult truth in your life) to provide feedback and insight that you know you can trust.
Question #5 – How will I measure my progress toward the next level?
Knowing whether you are making progress is an important step in the process of getting to the next level.
Tip: Small steps, done daily, consistently, over time, is the best way I have found to continuously raise your game. Where most people struggle is with the “done daily” component of that powerful formula. We often intend to take the steps, yet our execution in actually taking the steps is something different. Determine 2-3 small actions you will begin taking on a daily or weekly basis and track your results. Jerry Seinfeld called it, “Don’t Break the Chain.” See how many days or weeks you can go without breaking the chain of successive days/weeks taking the actions you determined to take.
Don’t Be Fooled
It is easy to be consumed with simply surviving the day-to-day of our lives. Don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all there is. While you may be doing great work, it’s not the final level. Even the top athlete in every sport I know keep working hard to take their game to the next level; you should too. Are you doing the best that could be done?