Lightning in a bottle for achievers

Lost and Confused SignpostIn this 24/7 faster than the speed of thought world on steroids, it is no surprise everyone seems to have too much to do, not enough hours in the day, and running just to barely keep pace.

Is that worse than 10 years ago? Research on attention spans, stress levels and other related factors shows it is. Will it get worse in the next 10 years? Almost certainly.

So how do a few people (we all know someone at least) seem to achieve way more than most, but seem to do it at an unruffled pace and still have more time off than anyone else we know?

A former boss told me the secret, but I didn’t believe him at the time. So I watched him to catch him out, and couldn’t help be more observant than I had been of other high achievers.

Eventually I had to admit, that despite this secret contravening what I had previously believed best practice, this secret was lightning in a bottle for achievers.

What is it? They had committed to a single overarching purpose. Not a random purpose, or just any old purpose. But a single purpose whose pursuit would simplify and supercharge everything else they did. Sounds complicated? Unreal? Yes it does, but no it’s not.

For many professionals, I see it strongly in those who commit to becoming preeminent in a specific aspect of their field or with a specific strategic purpose or idea.

Take an architect for example. Most architects spend a great deal of time trying to get on the right lists for major project tenders, and to attract quality referrals for smaller commissions. This may involve many hours networking and other forms of marketing outreach; many hours writing proposals to ensure enough proposals are competing that they get the wins needed to sustain their businesses; and of course many wasted hours dealing with clients who want to second guess every recommendation they make.

In contrast, an architect who has committed to becoming and sustaining preeminence in some aspect of their field is in far more control of their business and life. They are on the top quality lists for proposals; they get more wins and therefore have to research and write fewer proposals; they get way more referrals; and they have to market less because they already have a competitive advantage. Plus they have the bonus of working on more premium projects, which boosts their experience and skills even faster, and of course enjoy much higher fees.

The equivalent in the corporate arena is the CEO or senior executive who stands out amongst his or peers on a matter important to all of them. This often confers greater influence on industry issues, more clout with Government, and more access to the most influential commentators. For example, when Hugh Morgan was running a medium size global minerals company he was seen as a leading thinker on the industry’s future. He became a member of the Board of the Reserve Bank of Australia, and later President of the Business Council of Australia.

Sure, to be preeminent, Hugh Morgan and his ilk got there and stay there by thinking and working their way to it. But they would point out it is even harder for those who spend their hours picking up the crumbs left over from the main table.

You see, having a major overarching purpose drives every decision and every priority. It means you do some extra work to follow it. But on the flip side, you can avoid even more work on stuff that is no longer necessary because your preeminence does the heavy lifting for you.

Most professionals don’t get this. Sure they understand the power preeminent professionals have. They just think it happens when someone finally notices how good you are and anoints you to Mt Olympus. I worked closely with Hugh Morgan for six years, and have had the privilege of advising and learning from many others. None waited to be anointed. All created their influence through good thinking and focussed work. And they all made a start at some point.

So if you want the same thing, now is a great time to start. I suggest you consider the following question and make a project around distilling an answer that suits you and your field:

“In the context of my profession or industry, what is the single thing that I could do that would make everything else easier or redundant?” Take your time with it. Often it is useful to get other perspectives, especially from outside your own industry or field. You can go very deep with this question, so don’t sell yourself short.