The Non-Negotiable Mindset of a High Performer
What do an Amazon exec, a neurosurgeon, and a Cirque du Soleil acrobat have in common? The connection isn’t immediately obvious.
- Amazon is one of the best-performing companies in the world.
- Neurosurgery is one of the most challenging fields of medicine.
- Cirque du Soleil is one of the most popular international live performance shows.
The hard skills and responsibilities necessary to perform each of these functions are vastly different. The training and education required to become a business leader don’t include neurochemistry or gymnastics. Despite the difference in what these individuals do every day, how they perform in their roles is very similar. The commonality between the exec, the doctor, and the entertainer is that they’re all high performers who live by a set of universal mindset attributes.
At Beanie & Blazer, we believe that a high performer is someone who lives deeply by the following seven performance principles:
- Growth mindset
No matter the endeavor, a person who embodies these seven characteristics will achieve immense amounts of success in their lives. Becoming a high performer takes a lot of work over long periods of time. The reason many people fail to achieve their big life goals is because they don’t reflect one or more of the performance principles above. In this essay, we’ll explore each of the principles and why they’re critical to improved performance across any field and objective, from business to action sports, performing arts to real estate.
Coachability is the positive receptivity of critical feedback from people with more experience and knowledge than you. In my experience as a business executive, this is the most important factor in the speed of a person’s learning curve. Imagine two salespeople who start their job at the same time. One schedules daily meetings with their manager to better understand the sales process. The other avoids those meetings like the plague, too fraught with personal judgement to learn from the managers who’ve successfully sold the product for many years. The first person will accelerate their education far more quickly because they seek real-time feedback and implement new strategies every day.
In his book, Ego is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday says this about learning:
“As we first succeed, we will find ourselves in new situations, facing new problems. The freshly promoted soldier must learn the art of politics. The salesman, how to manage. The founder, how to delegate. The writer, how to edit others. The comedian, how to act. The chef turned restaurateur, how to run the other side of the house.”
These skills can only be developed by learning from those more experienced than you. Underlying the ability to become coachable is the willingness to separate the ego from the learning opportunity. If your response to critical feedback is to become defensive or to rationalize your process, you inhibit yourself from a critical lesson. Be humble, recognize the success of others, and open yourself up to feedback. Becoming coachable is a critical step in the pursuit of high-performance.
There’s a fallacy that in order for there to be a winner, there must also be a loser. With sport as a massive part of our society, it’s natural that we’re conditioned this way. Only one team can win the World Cup. Only one athlete can win gold for their sport at the Olympics. Outside of sports, though, the pie is often big enough for everyone to have a slice.
Communication is proactively initiating dialogue with people critical to the success of your endeavor. In any team or individual pursuit, it’s imperative to lean into a tribe that’s designed to assist your development. This is done through open channels of communication; sharing best practices, offering and receiving feedback, and holding one another accountable.
Whether it’s Alex Honnold free-soloing Half Dome in Yosemite, or a start-up finding product market fit, there are innumerate interactions happening between mentors, teammates, and competitors. These interactions create feedback loops that shift you away from obstacles and decrease the time it takes to develop relevant skills.
A person can undoubtedly find success without the help of others, but the path will be riddled with mistakes that could have been avoided by leveraging the input of other people. In pursuit of high-performance, the road is far less arduous when you’re aware of challenges ahead. Without experience in a domain, the only way to see these challenges is to communicate with people who’ve shared in the journey with you.
My parents often tell me that when I was a kid, I was obnoxious with how many questions I would ask them.
- “Dad, why is the sky blue?”
- “Why do people yell at my basketball games?”
- “How old do you have to be to be a grown-up?”
It never stopped. I was an incredibly curious child, and I carried that trait into my adulthood. I love to read. Everyone I meet gets peppered with questions, and I spend an obscene amount of time on Google to learn about new ideas. My mentors credit my unusual early career success on my desire to learn.
Curiosity is having an intense interest in the skills and processes required to perform successfully. To be curious is to seek out new information knowing that it may disrupt your current assumptions about what’s right and wrong. Without the desire to learn, you’ll be stuck with a limited perspective on how the world works. Your growth will remain limited to what you think you already know.
High-performance is rooted in growth. Lebron James is surrounded by trainers, mentors, and friends who’ve not only developed his basketball skills, but also his business acumen, mental fortitude, and his activism. To achieve newfound levels of success, lean hard into your education. Become a lifelong learner and your personal growth will accelerate tenfold.
To be disciplined is to consistently prioritize what you should do over what you want to do. At first, nobody wants to work out every day to the point of exhaustion. Nobody wants to stay up until 5am to hit a work deadline. Becoming and remaining disciplined is one of the hardest traits to master because it’s an isolating exercise.
Holding yourself accountable to routines and self-imposed goals is a task of willpower and perseverance that wavers throughout the day and over spans of time. Discipline is made up of tiny habits that, over time, compound into a framework for performance.
Let’s say you have a goal to write a book. A book consists of thousands of words, organized into a chapter-by-chapter structure that leads the reader to draw certain conclusions in a compelling manner. To complete a book, words must be written and organized, so to accomplish this, you set a goal to write 500 words per day.
Without discipline, your work will get de-prioritized as other shiny objects crop up. You go out with your friends for a long night of drinking and the next day you’re hungover. An undisciplined person would tell themselves, “It’s okay, I can just get back to it tomorrow.” Someone with great self-discipline would wake up, rub the fog out of their eyes, and get cranking on the 500 words.
Your level of discipline will dictate the velocity at which you achieve your goals. If you regularly succumb to what feels good instead of what must be done, it will lengthen the amount of time it takes to accomplish the task.
To learn more about the habit of self-discipline, I highly suggest reading Jocko Willink’s book, Discipline Equals Freedom: Field Manual.
Closely related to discipline, grit is your willingness to remain in pursuit of an objective in the face of adversity. In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, she defines it as “the intersection between passion and perseverance.” Grit rolls up a lot of other traits like optimism, resilience, and persistence.
When I hear the word grit, I think of someone literally gritting their teeth as they sink deeper into the habits that drive them toward success. It’s not always sexy or fun, but embracing the struggle is a cornerstone of high-performance. Grit is the difference between walking the last mile of a long run and sprinting through the finish line.
If discipline is the act of consistently doing what you should do, grit is the element that elevates the routine. Instead of 500 words, a gritty person will write through the end of the chapter they’re working on, even if it takes an extra 30 minutes. Someone with grit doesn’t leave the office at 5pm if their work is incomplete. They’ll finish their objective before clocking out for the night.
To seriously excel in an endeavor, simply getting started isn’t enough. It’s about finishing what you start and finishing strong. This is grit.
Popularized in her book Mindset, Carol Dweck breaks down the difference between a growth mindset and a fixed mindset:
“A ‘fixed mindset’ assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A ‘growth mindset,’ on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.” [Source]
To put it simply, a person with a growth mindset sees failure as a learning opportunity. Someone with a fixed mindset sees failure as a negative reflection of their self-worth and abilities. Embracing failure is not an option when it comes to high-performance. Becoming the best version of yourself means pushing comfort zones and entering new, unfamiliar territory.
Maintaining an orientation for growth allows you to see failure as a stepping stone rather than a reason to quit. It’s okay to fail, as long as you learn the lesson it’s supposed to teach you. Don’t let missteps deter you from your vision.
Even the most savage people seek to find the positive in moments of great discomfort. In David Goggins’s book, Can’t Hurt Me, he describes his twisted sense of optimism in vivid detail:
“He saw an opportunity to get in my head, at last, and I was disoriented as I staggered toward the water all alone, but the cold woke me the fuck up. I decided to savor my extra hour of private surf torture. When the water was chest high I began humming Adagio in Strings once more. Louder this time. Loud enough for that motherfucker to hear me over the crash of the surf. That song gave me life!”
David Goggins is a former Navy Seal turned extreme endurance athlete. He’s often referred to as the “toughest man on the planet.” He’s able to find small bits of joy even as he’s being tortured by his leader in Navy Seals training.
The road to high-performance is turbulent. It’s full of highs and lows that nobody but you will experience on the journey. When discipline breaks down and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s imperative to maintain a sense of joy and optimism. Without being able to find the silver lining in whatever challenging situation you find yourself in, the negative voice in the back of your head will sneak in and tell you you’re not good enough.
Shut that down and stay the course. Odds are, you won’t find yourself exhausted and submerged in hypothermic waters.
These seven performance principles are non-negotiable when it comes to high-performance. They’re each strengthened over time with focus and attention. Although immensely taxing in the beginning, you’ll learn to love yourself more as you institute these qualities in your personal toolbox. Being the best version of yourself takes risk and the feeling of swimming in the deep end. Embrace the struggle, dig deep, and remind yourself why you started this journey. You’re not satisfied with the status quo, so push yourself way beyond what’s normal.
What is Beanie & Blazer?
Beanie & Blazer is a lifestyle engineering company built to align people’s personal values and goals with their habits and behaviors. Our methodology offers our community clarity of purpose, a tribe of mentors and supporters, and reclamation of time in their busy lives. We systematically train people to become high performers.
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