You may enjoy this article by Deirdre Sanborn - drawn from an interview we had recently. Enjoy. (video link below)
I sat down with Vince on The Ambition Project Show to talk about five key ideas from his book, The Ant and The Elephant: Leadership For the Self. The book is a simple, but powerful metaphor of how to reach your full potential in life. Vince discovered these keys while on his journey from inexperienced athlete to record-breaking champion and Olympian.
Vince didn’t realize that he wanted to be an Olympic athlete until he found himself as a spectator, watching his friends and peers competing as he sat in the stands. Vince had a moment of clarity--an emotional bomb went off and he clearly knew that he had four years to defy the odds and compete in the next winter Olympics.
As ridiculous as it sounded, there was no turning back from his ambitious, albeit unreasonable, goal. And, sure enough, Vince would go on to set multiple national speed skating records and would compete in the next winter Olympics.
The determining factor was not that he was mildly interested in being an athlete--he was so fired up about it, it informed the way he lived his life from that moment on. If you’re not passionate about your goal, you aren’t passionate enough to see it through. *click to tweet*
What sparks a fire in you each time you think about accomplishing it? Write it down, set in stone, give yourself a tangible goal so the decisions made after that point are run through the filter of what you want to accomplish.
Remember--vague goals don’t count! Every business leader and manager wants to “increase sales" and "lower expenses”, so set yourself apart--be specific and instead say “increase sales by 35% by the close of the first quarter, while decreasing expenses by 5%.”
Clarity sets a visual end point, while vagueness muddles the finish line.
Anyone who has been married for more than five minutes understands that commitment is more than just good intentions set out on paper. Commitment to anything is a process and often means a significant change in mindset to see it through, day after day.
If you’re committed to this goal, what are you actively doing right now to reach it? Vince identified four key areas that when commitment and discipline are applied, guarantee success down the track.
Financial - Research what it takes to meet your goal. Prepare business plans, target budgets, manage cash flow, seek out investors, and align yourself with financial providers that will improve your chances of meeting your growth objectives.
Physical - Even if you’re not training for the Olympics, exercise, drinking plenty of water and getting enough sleep are proven methods to help you stay focused and on track with your goals. Even business leaders need to stay in shape physically since physical health correlates strongly with mental sharpness. Stay on your game!
Technical - Become a student--learn more about what it takes to cross that proverbial finish line. Read books by people who are leaders in their field who are already doing what you’re passionate to accomplish. Listening to podcasts like The Ambition Project Show that are informative and mind-expanding (shameless pitch) help make learning entertaining and fun!
Mental - The toughest of the four, commitment with your mind requires a unique understanding that delayed gratification is your friend. Saying “no” to anything less than what you are pursuing takes a sound discipline in staying focused on your goal.
At some point in your pursuit, you’re going to want to run away from it, if you’ve dreamed big enough. It’s going to be scary and your commitment to seeing it through will be tested.
Setting habits in place early on will be your backbone when your knees start to shake in fear or doubt. The four areas above (financial, physical, technical, and mental) are the easiest areas to stay consistent and focused.
Setting a budget, being accountable to a gym partner, or even scheduling reading time into your work calendar all give you a solid foundation to keep going, even when you don’t want to.
If your goal is to be the market leader in your industry, you need to be performing at your highest level. Since you’ve already been committed to researching what the current market leaders are doing to set themselves apart, you don’t actually need the experience to be confident to know what direction to take.
The quickest way to poor performance is by letting fear pervade your thoughts.
High Fear + Low Confidence = Low Performance
Low Fear + High Confidence = High Performance
Vince’s advice is to not let fear debilitate you, but instead let it motivate you. Fear is always going to ask you “what if”, so take that “what if” and learn from it.
“What if that new contract falls through?” Understand now, before heading into it, how you can be prepared so that it doesn’t. Research the client--why are they looking for a new supplier? What happened with their previous one? How can you use it to your unique advantage?
When you’re prepared and proactive, you harness the power of fear and focus it as a powerful motivator.
Even when you’re confidently practicing the other four points, control over meeting your goal may still not feel natural.
You may even find yourself in a situation where you feel out of control, but that’s never 100% true. You always have control of what you bring to the situation and your reaction to it.
Vince offers these practical ways to help set you up to be the most confident, high-performing, in-control person in the room.
- Get there early - Give yourself time to get settled and your work in order. Being rushed will only make you feel stressed, provoking a fear response.
- Breathe - Deep breathing is a proven and effective method for physiologically reducing stress. You’ll feel more relaxed, think clearer, and speak with confidence.
- Visualize the outcome - Going back to the first point, having a clear picture of your goal in mind will keep focused and motivated to achieve it.
- “The Vortex Technique” - This is the idea that if you bring your best energy into your mind it will translate into peak performance.
- Let go and have fun - As trite as this may sound, the more relaxed and comfortable you are, the more everyone around you will be. The key to feeling in control is to not let stress cloud your thoughts--having fun is a quick way to bring everyone’s stress levels down.
There was one point in particular that Vince shared that helped get him on to the ice as an Olympic speed skier--he was willing to more than what his competitors were.
While most were keenly focused on physical training, Vince threw himself into learning every aspect of speed skiing as he could, which meant investing time and money into reading and understanding his financial requirements.
Take time to really think about what your big goals are and clarify them. Once that’s done, it’s up to you to do everything in your power to understand what your competitors are doing and what they aren’t willing to do--that is where you will find your springboard to success.
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Deirdre Sanborn is a keynote speaker, business consultant, and executive coach. She is also the host of The Ambition Project Show. Subscribe to her podcast on iTunes or on the web at www.TheAmbitionProjectShow.