Are you willing to perform beyond expectations?
Success is grueling work. Effort. Repetition. Delayed gratification. We sacrifice now for a theoretical reward in the future. Most of us lack the grit to achieve the life of our dreams.
“My teacher always tells me to dance full out. Now I understand what she means,” said my 10-year-old Lucia. Her first dance competition was eye-opening. Top dancers from all over the state arrived. She learned the ‘big fish in a small pond’ life lesson.
With a combination of envy and awe, Lucia watched one particular girl dance “full out.” She extended her movements, exaggerated her expressions, and exuded energy. This competitor raised the bar. Lucia explained she thought she was already dancing “full out,” but recognized she needed to step up to the next level to reach her goals.
I had a similar experience when I was 12. The summer after 6th grade, I attended a basketball camp at Southern Methodist University. The starting center was John Koncak, who went on to play in the NBA for the Atlanta Hawks. During a lunch break lecture, he revealed his practice habits. John’s answer overwhelmed my 6th-grade mind.
He practiced two hours a day, taking 500 shots and 100 free throws.
I felt shocked and dejected. I thought I was working hard shooting baskets in the driveway in between episodes of Bewitched and Three’s Company. To get where I wanted to be, I had to step up my game.
Like Lucia, I had to rise to the next level. In John Koncak, I saw a successful person and decided to copy his path. I wanted to be him. My “100 free throws a day” habit started the next morning and continued through high school.
For the next six years, I danced “full out.”
“Only 20 of you will make it to medical school.”
A similar moment happened when I was an 18-year-old freshman at Trinity University in San Antonio. Two hundred students met in a lecture hall for pre-med academic counseling. The professor led with a discouraging reality check. Of the 200 ambitious kids sitting in the room, only 20 would be left applying to medical school at the end of the program.
He was not exactly a motivational speaker.
I scanned the room and evaluated the other kids. The room was full of biology and chemistry students. They had an academic edge over my Spanish major. I knew they were smarter. I decided I would be one of the twenty who made it to the end of the road.
I needed to find my edge
My edge was going to be over-the-top, extraordinary effort. I would outwork everyone. My “100 free throws every morning” routine changed to evenings of organic chemistry flashcards. I transitioned my daily commitment from the hoop in my driveway to a hidden back corner on the fourth floor Coates Library.
I was willing to do what others were not — consistent, daily efforts. Total focus on the long term goal. The professor was correct. Only 21 students applied to medical school. I was one of them.
For four years of college, I danced “full out.”
Goals and dreams are just the first steps
Lucia’s passion is dancing, but aspirations do not achieve success. Only a select few have the tenacity to make their dreams come true.
Will she be willing to do what it takes to achieve her goal? Is she ready to put in the work to get to the finish line?
I asked her how she plans to get to the next level. Her answers impressed me. She increased her required 10-minute daily stretching to 30 minutes. She has started imagining her dance moves in her head. She also is working on recognizing moments in rehearsals were she is slacking off so she can correct it. She plans to dance as though every dance is an audition, giving it 100% every time she steps on the floor.
Such beautiful words of wisdom from a 10-year-old.
A self-help guru might frame her four-step plan like this:
- Working beyond normal expectations
- Practicing with intention
- Fully committing to maximum effort
What if we all approached our life this way?
Imagine the life we all would lead if we approached our days with this level of commitment. Determine what it is that we want. Study and emulate those who have come before us. Visualize success and take the necessary action daily. Live with intention.
Whether or not we achieve the goal does not matter. Along the way, we grow and become better versions of ourselves.
We live our lives without regret.
We dance “full out.”
Blog Author: Dr. Jeff Livingston