How do you measure your efforts? Some people neglect their talents by comparing themselves with others, saying: "If I can't be Number 1, there is no point in taking part.”
Great performers focus on ‘playing their own game’. They aim to be the best kind of person, artist, inventor, chef, scientist or parent they can be. Let's explore three ideas for pursuing this route in your own way.
1) You can clarify what you do best.
Some people live in the world of creation; some in the world of competition; some in both worlds. How can you compare which of the following is best? A rose or a daffodil? Mozart or Beethoven? As William Blake wrote:
"I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's. I will not reason and compare … My business is to create."
So how can you become the best in your class? One starting point is to focus on your unique talents. You can then aim to become the best you can be.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the deeply satisfying activities where you deliver As, rather then Bs or Cs. For example, you may be writing, cooking, gardening, teaching, solving certain problems, leading teams or whatever. Try completing the following exercise.
2) You can aim to be the best in your class.
Peak performers feel a sense of duty towards their talent. Francis Ford Coppola, the film director said: "I was the kind of kid that had some talents or ability, but it never came out in school." But he had the desire and determination to make full use of his talents. We know that:
Peak performers spend the majority of their working week doing – or preparing to do – what they do best.
Certainly it can take time to build up to this percentage of the week. Great performers become obsessed by pursuing their vocation, however, be it playing the trumpet, redesigning builders or solving maths problems.
The question is: "Do you choose your vocation? Or does your vocation choose you?" Whatever the answer, it can be satisfying to focus on pursuing your A talent. How can you make good use of your gifts?
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. If you are good at singing, you may want to put more energy into being in a choir, in a rock group, recording your own songs or whatever. If you are good at teaching, you may want to find ways of passing-on your knowledge. Describe how you can make full use of your talents. Try completing the following sentence.
3) You can encourage other people to be the best in their class.
Everybody is an artist, everybody is creative, everybody has something special to give to the world.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French aviator and writer, believed we should become 'gardeners' of humanity. Writing in Wind, Sand and Stars, he recounted travelling by train one day and looking at a small child carried by his parents. Antoine wrote:
“This is a musician's face. This is the child Mozart. This is a life full of beautiful promise. Little princes in legends are not different from this. Protected, sheltered, cultivated, what could not this child become?”
“When by mutation a new rose is born in a garden, all the gardeners rejoice. They isolate the rose, tend it, foster it. But there is no gardener for men. This little Mozart will be shaped like the rest by the common stamping machine.”
Antoine believed in 'the gardener's point of view'. Many people still define themselves in relation to others – whether it is in terms of school results, body size, career or whatever.
People can build on who they are, rather than worry about who they are not. A rose can become a better rose, it cannot become a daffodil.
Try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things you can do to encourage people to blossom into the best they can be. They can then aim to become the best in their class.