Two weeks ago, we discussed The Magnificence of Excellence , and last week we focused on finding your gift and doing that One Thing . This week, I am going to delve into the most crucial aspect when it comes to finding your One Thing so you can exemplify The Magnificence of Excellence. It is called WORK.
Ouch. Not so glorious and feel-good, huh?
The ability to do the one thing that absolutely must be done over a LONG period of time to achieve excellence in any field is what separates the best from the rest. The work it takes to hone your skill and talent to become the best IS arduous, repetitive, time consuming, boring, demanding, sometimes painful and can be fraught with frustration. It IS NOT sexy, glamorous, feel-good, exciting, dazzling or filled with the oxytocin of immediate gratification. Yet it is precisely the very prerequisite to mastery in ANY field of endeavor. In the seminal Fortune magazine article, “ What it Takes to Be Great ,” by Geoffrey Colvin, Colvin illustrated the critical importance of work. He writes:
“What makes Tiger Woods great? What made …Warren Buffett the world's premier investor? We think we know: Each was a natural who came into the world with a gift for doing exactly what he ended up doing. As Buffett told Fortune not long ago, he was "wired at birth to allocate capital." It's a one-in-a-million thing. You've got it - or you don't.
Well, folks, it's not so simple. For one thing, you do not possess a natural gift for a certain job, because targeted natural gifts don't exist. (Sorry, Warren.) You are not a born CEO or investor or chess grandmaster. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that's demanding and painful.”
Though most of us realize that hard work is necessary, why is it that so few actually do it? There is a secret to this that I shared last week…it’s the One Thing. The only way a person will be willing to do the enormous amount of work that is necessary to achieve the magnificence of excellence that is possible, is by doing something that they love. When you love what you do, you stop considering it work…it is just part of living. Buddha summarizes it best when he said:
“The master of the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his education and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which; he simply pursues his vision of excellence in whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he is always doing both.”
This labor of love is what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary. Miyamoto Musashi, who I introduced to you last week as the greatest Samurai warrior in history, is a perfect example of this. A great mentor of mine, the late Olympic Champion and subject of the movie, “Foxcatcher,” Dave Shultz, shared this insight about Musashi:
“I wouldn’t call Musashi ordinary. But he is. That’s what’s extraordinary about him. He’s not content with relying on whatever natural gifts he may have. Knowing he’s ordinary, he’s always trying to improve himself. No one appreciated the agonizing effort he’s had to make. Now that his years of training have yielded such spectacular results, everybody’s talking about his “God-given talent.” That’s how men who don’t try very hard comfort themselves.”
Listen to the voice inside you that reveals to you your One Thing and then commit yourself to The Magnificence of Excellence. Once you are clear on this…git off yer’ butt, and git to workin’! Ahem…let me rephrase that. It’s time to begin your labor of love.