I love asking sports experts what they say it takes to become a world-class athlete, one of the first things they say is this:
“To be successful, you need to be both talented and passionate about your sport.”
I do the same with successful entrepreneurs and usually get a similar answer:
“To start a business, you need to use your strengths and do what you love.”
This makes sense:
We spend so much time in our professions, so why not do something we love and something we are good at?
However, from my experiences, I noticed something does not match up:
When I track the careers of world-class tennis players, there seems to be the following pattern.
- Parents send their kids to tennis lessons, as a tryout to see what activities they like.
- Their kid plays tennis and seems talented and has a lot of fun.
- A coach tells the parents how good their kid is, so the parents start encouraging the regular training regime.
- Now the kid gets exposed to repetitive drills that can be a little bit more difficult and at times even can be boring.
- Parents keep encouraging the kid.
- Many kids lose interest here or struggle.
- Some kids keep getting better and actually enjoy being admired by parents and peers for their skills. This can make them more competitive.
- The better they get, the more pressure they face. Many kids can’t handle this and quit the dream of playing professional tennis.
- Those who continue to keep training very hard. They become obsessed with taking their game and their career to the next level. One reason they manage to do this is that they shift their focus from seeking pure pleasure to becoming passionate about pushing their limits. Regardless of how good they become, they benefit from their pursuit of becoming professionals.
- The very best tennis players earn themselves the freedom to do more of what they like. They can choose where to train, what events to play, and how hard they want to work.
In other words, it’s the passion to work hard and their passion to push their limits that define the top performers.
So how can we apply this to our own careers?
Step 1: Know yourself
Very few people really take the time to think about what it is they could see themselves become obsessed with so they can pursue a successful career. Ideally, this will be something that aligns their strengths, their interests, and their initial passion.
Step 2: Develop rare and valuable skills
To become a world-class performer, you can choose two routes:
- Become a Roger Federer of your industry, which is obviously extremely difficult and will by definition only work for very few of us.
- Combine skills that give you a unique and valuable edge. For example, I know a tennis player who was not good enough to become a top pro. He was great at making spectacular shots, so he became the world’s best tennis freestyle player, and makes performances around the world.
Step 3: Become obsessed with growth
We all want to make money and experience recognition. However, what top performers do differently is that they become obsessed with growth and improvement. They no longer compete against other people within their industry, but mostly with themselves. This is how they befriend the pain and the struggle of their relentless training regime.
Passion is a topic I think about a lot, and I’d love to hear what you think.
Let’s engage in the comment section. 😎
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