Do You Want Higher Levels of Performance? Take a Lesson in Courage.

You and I both aspire to higher levels of performance.  Perhaps one of the best ways to think about how to make that growth happen is to reflect on something that drives most of us on a daily basis. The engines in our cars.

Let’s say you decide that you want to start using your automobile to pull your boat to the lake each weekend. You look under the hood of your car and you realize that you have a four-cylinder engine. No amount of wishful thinking will give that four-cylinder engine the power it needs to pull the boat. Instead, that engine needs to be modified to accommodate this new expectation. You would need to invest in the engineering capacity to increase the number of cylinders to maximize the torque output of the engine.

Motor city mechanics notwithstanding, this example illustrates how you should look at your own investment in improved human performance. If you have a new capacity in your life you are trying to achieve, such as higher level of business performance, or a greater degree of personal and professional happiness, that goal isn’t likely possible with the same engine within you today. As a result, you need to re-engineer the motor that drives you to accommodate the new expectation. That growth comes from investing in yourself in learning new things and developing new skills.

It Takes Courage and the Absence of Inertia

Inertia is the tendency to do nothing. In physics, things in motion tend to stay in motion while things unmoving and static likewise remain the same. Therefore, it is so important for you to push back against inertia and to be a force of movement, engagement, and growth in the universe. To do this, you have to have the courage to suborn those voices that would keep you in your seat or minimize the actions you might take to grow. Since courage is a theme for this month, I’m going to finish this blog by offering you a few suggestions as to how you can start your engine, reduce the inertia, and courageously grow the best version of you to take on the world in front of you—pulling whatever load you choose to pull.

First, Burn the Bridges

You were always told never to burn bridges, right?  Metaphorically speaking, bridges represent the connections we might have with others. They say when you leave a job, you should do so with grace because you never know if you will need to connect with your boss again. However, in a world as fast-moving and interconnected as we live in today, it’s clear that maybe the bridges analogy isn’t dynamic enough.

What you need are active, pulsating networks of connection that are continuously and dynamically renewing themselves. The professionals who understand this today live on LinkedIn groups, Twitter cohorts, and other ongoing network building entities designed to do more than keep a friendly bridge available. They are designed to continuously provide you with opportunities for learning new things and potentially growing your business.

What comes with all these opportunities to connect however is the power of choice. Thoughtful high performers today need to carefully choose who they need to connect with, and in some cases, strategically neglect those connecting points that don’t serve. In that case, burning an old and ineffective bridge, or at least abandoning it if that’s a more comfortable analogy, is exactly what you need to do in order to grow. Your time is what matters and in the case of high-performance, invest in multiple networks that allow you to grow rather than just hoping old bridges are enough.

Now Burn the Boat

In 1519, Captain Hernan Cortes landed in Veracruz with his men on a great and perilous conquest. They were going into battle and victory was uncertain. After landing on the shore, he ordered his men to burn the boats that brought them to shore. Keeping the boats was problematic because if they lost in battle, they could retreat back to their boats and go home. By burning the boats, they removed the opportunity to retreat. There was no other choice but to prevail, and so they did.

Before the end of today, take inventory. If you want to grow, get clear with yourself.  Are you strong enough and skilled enough to meet the challenges you expect in your life?  For most of us, the answer is no and we have to have the courage to remove the inertia and to learn what we need to learn to prevail.  To ensure that you prevail, burn those bridges and build that network.  And then, burn the boats behind you. Don’t give yourself a place for failure or retreat.  Make the actions you take a non-negotiable, and victory and growth will be yours.


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