Excellence, simply put, is doing something better than most other people. It’s being on top of your game, being the go-to-person to get a task done, being a guru. You have the ability to be excellent at almost any skill or a task you put our mind to.

In fact, what leads people to achieving excellence at something is the time and effort they put into it. Let’s face it, as a species we love to take the easy way; the path of least resistance. Few people are willing to make the commitment it takes to go to the top. But if you are willing to be one of the few, you can separate yourself from the crowd.

I Used to Suck!

In college I was terrible at making presentations. Like most people I was scared of getting up in front of the room and never felt I had much skill at keeping people awake. In college I thought maybe joining the drama club would help me get over my fear. It didn’t.

It wasn’t until I started working that I learned that presentations were the best way to get noticed in a company and accelerate your career upwards. I also started seeing really good presenters who were very charismatic and persuasive. I decided that I wanted to be a great presenter too. So I started reading everything I could find on the subject and learned how important preparation was. I also took a course on presenting skills. And I started practicing.

Today I’m a confident speaker and I coach executives on their presentation skills. It’s not because I was born with the talent. Its because I worked hard. Some people try to dismiss it as something I was born with, but it just isn’t true.

6 Keys to Excellence

Here are 6 keys to achieving excellence status at anything:

  1. Choose the right task. First do something you are passionate about. This is the ultimate motivator. It will keep you focused on the road ahead.
  2. Excellence takes effort. Practice, practice, practice, and then practice some more. The toughest part about being really good at something is making the practice part of your routine so you dedicate the time required to gain the expertise. So make a schedule. Stick to it.
  3. Take regular breaks. Relaxing gives us the opportunity to rejuvenate and to digest what we have learned. All night cramming sessions may help you pass college algebra, but it won’t make you top of the class. So plan regular breaks into your schedule.
  4. Excellence is a State of Mind. Act as if you are already the best. Having a healthily dose of ‘attitude’ that you are on top of things goes a long way to convincing yourself of how good you truly are.
  5. Reading is key. Be aware of what is going on in your field. It doesn’t matter if you want to be the top CEO in your industry or the best French pastry chef on the planet. Knowledge is essential to your pursuit of excellence. And don’t just read about your field. Read about things that can affect your field as well. If you are a Pastry Chef, you may want to know how climate is affecting the strawberry supplies this year, or which new wines go well with certain deserts.
  6. Get a coach. If you are the kind of person that can get off schedule, in other words if you are human, getting a coach may be a great way to keep you focused and on track. If you can’t find a coach, find someone who shares the same goal to work with. It’s very important to have regular feedback from someone else about what you need to do to.

No More Excuses

One final note. If you are convinced that talent is essential and that people are only born with excellence, then Dr. Andres Ericsson may disagree with you. The psychology professor dedicated to studying ‘expertise’ says “…a lot of people believe there are some inherent limits they were born with. But there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it.” (New York Times Magazine, ‘A Star is Made’ May 7, 2006).

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So, are you willing to put in the effort?