I have been thinking about the world class athletes coming to compete in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics. It is going to be a great time in the city celebrating the best of the best in sport. I have also been thinking about what it takes to be the best. Not just in sports, but in anything.
How did these athletes become the best? While I am sure that genetics has something to do with it, the research seems to point to something at least as important. The 10 year or 10,000 hour rule – that states it takes 10 years or 10,000 of extensive training to excel at anything. Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book Outliers (which is a good quick read) brought more attention to this scientific research, but as you can see here, it is something that National Coaching Institutes and Advanced Training Organizations have used for years in athlete development.
10,000 hours is not a small amount of time. It requires focused practice to reach this level and it is of critical importance to becoming the “best” in sports.
Why do athletes spend their lives striving for the best?
The “best in the world” is celebrated. People talk about the best. The “best in the world” makes most of the income and the “best in the world” scales easily.
We don’t often see athletes in the Olympics that are the best in the world at two completely different sports? Say figure skating and downhill skiing. I think that again, we see the 10,000 hour rule and that it is extremley difficult to practice the required amount in two different disciplines. Being the best then, means specifically choosing what you want to be the best and then committing to development in that specialized area.
It means focus and discipline. It also means saying no to things that are outside of your focus.
This is a video of Tiger Woods at 2 years old putting against Bob Hope which probably tells a story of a golf focus.
I wonder what things he or his parents had to say no to in order to maintain this level of focus.
Moving away from sports, I think that the same rules apply to business and more importantly, to every role inside a business. The “best in the world” is celebrated. More income is available to the “best” because they drive exceptional results. People talk about them. They are in demand. What organization wouldn’t want the “best” receptionist, the “best” salesperson, the “best” customer service representative, the “best” in operations, the best leader?
I am extremely fortunate to work with some talented people that if they’re not there already, they are on their way to becoming the best in the world, and my job as the CEO is to always be on the lookout for more of these types of people.
If you know someone, please drop me a line through the comments section of this blog. If you have a comment on this post, I would love to hear it.