The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.
I was reading Jack Welch's autobiograpy titled, 'Straight from the Gut' where Mr.Welch mentions that right from his initial days at GE (General Electric), he has had this urge to get out of the pile - to be different. So he did! Out of the 40 years he spent at GE, the last 20 years he served as the CEO and Chairman. During his tenure, the company's value rose 4000% and he implemented a lot of revolutionary ideas. All the great associations that we have when we think about GE, like the 6 Sigma quality, efficiency, etc., all these were conceptualized and executed while he was at the helm of affairs at GE. In short, most of the world's leading corporations stood to learn a lot from GE, all thanks to Mr. Welch.
That book got me thinking - there is one thing common in all the celebrated personalities - the specifics might vary but the storyline remains the same, which is, To be successful, you have to stand out from the crowd and excel in your chosen field. In the next 6-7 minutes, I am going to tell you why it is important to get out of the pile and how we can achieve that in 3 simple steps.
Once upon a time, there was a beggar. Everyday, he sat under the same tree pleading for pennies from passersby. Obviously, this beggar was going through a very difficult life amid poverty - he had no home, no family; he practically lived under that tree. After that rather long and difficult ordeal, one day, he dies. People gather around him thinking of what to do with his dead body. He had no home, no relatives, this entire life was linked to that tree. So they finally decided to bury him there itself - right under the very tree where he used to sit and beg. They started digging the ground and do you know what they found? One huge pot of gold! Imagine living your entire life in destitution while sitting on a pile of gold!
Most of us are like that. The pot of gold signifies lost opportunities. More often than not, we are too occupied with the vagaries of our lives that we completely miss out on the opportunities that life offers us.
Here are three things that successful people are always good at:
Pro-actively taking up challenges
Successful people are keen on taking up new challenges and additional responsibilities. They take charge of their professional lives and try to change things around them confidently and pro-actively. They find effective ways of expanding their role and impact. Like one of my favourite quote says, Promotions are not given to prompt you to take on more challenges; they are given as a recognition that you have already assumed more responsibility
Focusing on impact
The most successful people are the ones who have redefined their roles and responsibilities. They don't just do what they are told, they focus on what needs to be done. For example, in the Indian Army, the jawans (soldiers) are taught to understand the strategic intent of their superiors and act accordingly. This is because, on the battle field, the officers won't be around all the time - and the jawans have to understand what they are supposed to do and not wait to be told what to do! Successful people learn to trust their instincts more often and are confident being in the forefront of action.
Focusing on others' successes
Successful people take interest not in just their own successes, but ensure that the others around them are successful as well. While they are assertive in gaining the resources and redefining their roles, they are not overly aggressive and focus only on their personal gains. These leaders inspire others to perform at exceptional levels and they lead them from the front - researchers call this behaviour, Benevolent Leadership. But remember, being focused on the successes of others while not being assertive or confident makes you a good team player, not a leader. So there has to some conscious effort to develop the right attitude and the skill sets that will take you to the next level.
Think about any of the great leaders you know, and you will find that these stay true for all of them. Getting out of the pile just doesn't mean being different. It means doing things that others might not dare to do and being comfortable with it. It is about taking calculated risks that improve your overall impact. And it's definitely not a one-time activity, it's an attitude that has to be developed over time. So dear Toastmasters and guests, let's make it a point to learn from the great leaders. Like Albert Einstein once said,
The person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before
We still have a lot to explore and learn on our own! Thank you.