June 30, 2017

Cultivated Advantage is the Secret to Success

They’ve got it! It’s noticeable and drips of something you dream of spilling over to you. You can’t put your finger on precisely what it is. But they’ve got it! It’s compelling, captivating and amazingly genuine. Swagger comes to mind, but it’s different. It’s a cool quiet confidence.

Our first thought may be they possess something that is a secret to be discovered. As a result, we might believe it is untouchable and unattainable because it is a byproduct of elite talent or status. But elite talent does not guarantee it and status only borrows it.

Maybe the strangest truth of all is that it is that the secret to victory is not a secret at all. What elite and breakthrough performers possess is a cultivated advantage.

Cultivated Advantage

A cultivated advantage results from making intentional choices aimed at a specific targeted outcome. Focusing on a particular talent or skill and engaging in the process of improvement through education and training is the pathway to developing a cultivated advantage.

We all know levels of natural talent vary. But each of us possesses talent thus making it common by definition. What is truly uncommon are the people who pursue the development of their talent in order to cultivate an advantage that allows them to produce and sustain elite results.

The Cultivated Advantage of Champions

Elite performers share an advantage they have cultivated through defeat. They use the experience of failure to cultivate and nurture a competitive mindset.

We can all agree that no one likes to fail. Failure is also common. Everyone fails and this is where the learning begins. People who have learned how to manage failure more effectively cultivate a competitive mindset that yields a distinguishable advantage.

The Advantage of a Competitive Mindset

A competitive mindset is a measure or reflection of how you respond to defeats and setbacks. The lack of a competitive mindset may top the list of reasons why people possessing awe-inspiring talent are unable to produce talent-matching results.

A competitive mindset is not something you are born with—it is a cultivated advantage. Failure brings you face-to-face with your greatest fears. Failure presents you with a choice. You either lean into it and push through your fears or you quit.

What you find in elite performance are people who leaned into failure and used it as motivation.

Developing Expertise

K. Anders Ericsson is a performance expert. In his wonderful book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, he writes, “the development of genuine expertise requires struggle, sacrifice, and honest, often painful self-assessment.”

This is why a competitive mindset is a cultivated advantage. You can develop it but only by way of experience that involves putting yourself in situations where you can and will fail.

But once you cultivate the will or desire to win it is something that you control. No one can extinguish it without your permission. You can look at a scoreboard and acknowledge loss. But you don’t accept it as defeat because it simply reflects singular data point. It simply says, “Not yet!”

Cultivating the Advantage of a Competitive Mindset

You are always free to choose. But you are never free from the consequences of your choices. Every day you have decision rights over three things—win or lose.

  1. Attitude.
  2. Effort.
  3. Response to problems and adversity.

In every walk of life, you find the people who have “It” (that quiet confidence that is compelling, captivating and amazingly genuine) consistently choose well when it comes to their attitude, effort and response.

They keep score (cultivating their competitive mindset advantage) by consistently asking themselves three questions.

  1. Did I do my very best to choose and maintain a positive expectant attitude?
  2. Did I invest my very best effort?
  3. Did I look for the next best step in the face of adversity or problems?

What is Your Goal?

If defeat and failure is not an option, you are not competing. And if you are not competing, you will never discover how much impact you could have with the people we love and lead.

Accept that you are not going to win every time. Don’t make it your goal to win. If your aim is a fail-safe record of victory you’ll miss out on living and producing life changing impact.

Your goal should be an increasing pattern of improvement and effectiveness you fuel by cultivating the advantage of a competitive mindset.

A Spark—a Bit of Inspiration

I am sure it is no surprise to hear that we all need a spark from time to time? Sometimes I need to remind myself to focus on my attitude, effort and response—to control what I can control. And sometimes I need to be reminded that failure is not final. Sometimes I just need to Use Defeat as Fuel.

Take another 1:07, and draw some inspiration from Michael Jordan, TJ Watt, Serena Williams, Peyton and Eli Manning and Matt Ryan.

See you at the finish line—finish strong!

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