In high school, I ran track and was gifted in sprints. I excelled at the 100 meters, 200 meters, and the 4×100 relay. I was not the most talented athlete, far from it. It was more, I had a world-class track coach that taught me one of life’s most important lessons. He taught me the importance of showing up every day.
John Dolan was my algebra teacher in 9th grade. He was also my sprint coach throughout high school. As I got to know Coach Dolan, I learned that he was also a sprint coach for the Dallas Cowboys and the US Olympic track team.
The two most important lessons that I learned from Coach Dolan are:
- Whenever you want to learn something, learn from the best.
- Have the right mindset for success.
Both principles are related and can accelerate your success.
His reasoning for learning from the best is a simple concept. When you learn from the best, it accelerates your learning curve. Plus, there are only slight differences between professional levels of success and the elite. But these minor differences are what differentiate “the best of the best” from the rest of the pack.
Achieving elite skills and becoming one of “the best of the best” requires a different mindset. It’s Tom Brady being interviewed before his eighth Super Bowl and talking about the importance of performing in every practice like its gameday. It is the relentless pursuit of perfection along with the daily repetitive actions that establish the behaviors and skills that separate “the best of the best.”
It’s showing up every day. It’s each day pursuing your goals no matter how good, or bad you feel. It’s persistence and constantly working on getting better each day. It’s staying focused when life throws you curve balls that can derail what you are trying to achieve.
The biggest benefit of showing up is accountability. Being accountable in business and in life is critical to success.
Accountability presents itself in many forms. It’s telling people what you are going to do and then doing it. It is staying true to your word and delivering on your promises.
Being accountable is also being accountable to yourself.
This is one of the most important aspects of success. It is believing in yourself when you are first developing new skills and abilities. It is believing in yourself when the odds are stacked against you. It’s never giving up and taking the next step. It’s showing up each day and doing your best.
But the biggest part of being accountable and showing up each day is that over time, your skills and abilities improve.
And even if you are developing new skills before you know it, people will be asking you “How?” and then paying you for the good work you do.
Being accountable applies to your team.
Consider how professional athletes prepare their bodies each day. Think of the people on an athlete’s team so they can perform at their optimum level each game. A head coach, a position coach, a strength and conditioning coach, a nutritionist, a cook, an agent, a financial advisor, a mindset coach, the list goes on and on. All so the athlete can focus on performing at their highest level.
I mentioned earlier that I wasn’t the most talented athlete and I never became a professional sprinter.
Some teammates were naturally faster than me. But how did I lead the team in sprints? Coach Dolan told me my freshman year, the athletes that make it to pro-football aren’t always the most talented. Talent does play a role, but it is not the most critical component of becoming a professional athlete. The athletes that go pro work the hardest. It’s the daily dedication to getting better and perfecting their skills and abilities. It’s those who show up every day, who are accountable to themselves, their teammates, coaches, and everyone else.
How did showing up lead me to become one of the fastest sprinters in high school?
My sophomore year, Coach Dolan started coaching the girl’s sprint team, instead of the boys.
This frustrated me because I wanted to learn from him. So, after practice, I stayed late. When everyone else had gone home, I was still working with Coach Dolan. I was perfecting my form, running more sprints, and getting better. Often, I ran an entire second workout. Plus, I went to his speed camps during the summer. Upon graduating high school, I was asked to be one of his speed camp coaches..a true honor.
Do you remember the NBA Finals game on June 11, 1997?
It was the pivotal game 5 between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls. The series was tied 2-2. Whoever won would likely win the championship. Michael Jordan delivered one of his most incredible performances. He scored 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 1 block. Plus, he made the 3-point shot at the end of the game, that gave the Bulls the lead for good. The Bulls won 90-88. Jordan willed his team to victory. What made this game different was Jordan played with the flu.
Call it will power, determination, dedication, never giving up, or any other adjective. I call it desire, perseverance, having an elite mindset, showing up, and being accountable.