You know what you want from life – but you look around and feel dispirited. There are many obstacles in your way. It seems very hard, if not impossible, to reach your goal.
The passion is there. But you just don’t know how to move forward. Many things are holding you back. And competition is one of them. You’re worried that thousands or millions of people are trying to achieve the same things you are.
After all, there are just 24 hours in a day. You have bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of, relationships to give time to, a job to focus on. It’s all so overwhelming; it seems hopeless.
With so much going on, it just makes sense to start tomorrow. Moreover, the learning curve is so steep and time so limited. What should you do? How do you get out of the rat race? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you become world-class at your gift when you’re stuck trying to start?
The truth is, it is very easy to surpass most people at a competitive level. They are dealing with the same practical and existential crises that you are. Most of them give up and quit before reaching mastery at their craft. They have little or nothing to show for their efforts. Others keep playing at the level of mediocrity.
With a few adjustments and tweaks to your lifestyle, you can quickly jump to the top 5-10% of your field. That’s where the real challenge begins. Your next target is to get to the top 1%. And it requires a change in your very being.
Getting to the top 1% also means you’ll have to alter your entire life to become focused on your creative expression. Every moment of your life will either take away from your performance or add to it.
Take the first step
Taking the first step in a new venture, whether it’s a business or career path, is always daunting. I remember how difficult it seemed when I wanted to start a blog. First, I kept thinking about starting it for months.
Then I got stuck trying to find the right niche because I’m multi-passionate. When I finally decided on one, I still had to figure out a load of technical stuff like SEO and keyword research.
There was just one obstacle after another. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted myself. I often wondered if my efforts were even worth it.
Suddenly I found myself in an unexpected situation; I got pregnant and had some complications. My doctor advised strict bed rest. I said goodbye to my fulltime job, but my mind needed something to focus on. I needed an outlet for my creative energy. That’s when I actually started the blog I had been thinking about for the past 2 years.
Everyone starts as an amateur. Don’t compare yourself with someone who is far ahead in her journey. Have humility.
Here’s a story I really like. Meet Kenzie and Harris. They both dropped out of Brigham Young University, got married and were working at an Apple Store. They were both passionate about music and kept recording music covers on YouTube and Vines.
They had enough money between them to last a year and decided to quit their jobs and focus on their music fulltime. They kept uploading videos for months – without gaining much traction or being noticed. At max, they had a few thousand followers.
Then one day, everything changed. They posted a Vine that went viral. Suddenly, they were being called by agents for contracts and other Viners.
What did Kenzie and Harris do that most people don’t? They put themselves out there again and again and again. They had the courage to take the first step.
Take your dreams seriously. Most people don’t. Commit to your dreams if you really want to be world-class in your endeavors. Get educated. Find a mentor. Join a course. Take a class. Go back to school if you have to.
When I first started my blog, I thought all I needed was to know how to write. And then I discovered writers who were so much better. Their work could cast a spell on readers, and I went on to spend hours each day studying how they crafted their pieces.
I immersed myself in the process to the extent that it was easy to forget about time when I was working on my blog.
I also had a mentor who helped guide me and taught me more in 2 months than I could ever learn on my own. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m confident that I soon will.
Be consistent until you have a breakthrough
To become truly world-class at what you do, be consistent. It is another area where most people fail. Everything meaningful in life is a marathon – not a sprint. It tests your willpower and commitment.
Most people burn out and quit. Consistency is the most fundamental virtue to becoming the person you most want to be.
“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” Cus D’Amato
If you want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Even a lack of results won’t stop you. In fact, obsessing over a specific result will make your efforts forced, instead of natural.
When you truly want something, you’ll be willing to forego sleep, lessen time with friends and hobbies and take risks. When you have that resilient consistency in you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly results start to show.
Transcend guidelines and follow your instincts
This is the final stage of the process of becoming world-class. Putting yourself and your work out there in the world will get you ready for this part. As you do that enough number of times, you’ll develop keen instincts. It is now easy, almost natural for you to transcend guidelines and bring the best of your art to the world.
At times, when you’re following your instincts, you’ll be told it won’t work. And regardless of how frequently you’re told this, the idea wouldn’t enter your head.
At this point, you are becoming more holistic about your art.
You’re going above and beyond what it takes to be great. Everything you do – the way you sleep, what you eat, how you organize your life around your work, how you spend your mornings and evenings – is focused on optimizing your performance. You’ll follow creative and insightful bursts of energy to get your best work out with consistency.
Most people have no structure to their lives. They are living a long bout of reaction to everything that happens. They open their eyes and check their email or social media, they talk endlessly about other people, they focus on the negative, they waste time, they eat unhealthily, they don’t exercise, and then they wonder what’s wrong.
Stellar performance requires: a mindset and 10,000 hours of practice
Skills, talent, and initiative are all required to be the best in your field. But there’s another element; the right mindset, confidence in yourself and your abilities, and faith. And then there’s the effort. Real, backbreaking hard work and sacrifice.
A now popular study was conducted in 1993 where three psychologists picked 10 of the best violin students who could become international soloists. They picked another group of 10 students who were good enough to be part of the orchestra and 10 more who could become music teachers.
All of them had started playing the violin at age eight, and had decided to become musicians at the age of 15. In addition, each of them spent 50 hours every week at their academy practicing violin.
The top two groups of violinists spent exactly 24 hours each week practicing on their own, while the bottom group spent 9 hours practicing outside the academy.
The difference between the very best in any field and the average ones is almost always the amount of time each person spends practicing their craft. And then there’s the mindset.
Phil Knight, founder of Nike and author of ‘Shoe Dog’ said,
“I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact.
People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.“