Everyone wants to be “exceptional.” The 15-year-old high school basketball player who aspires to be an NBA player as good as Kevin Durant. The 24-year-old who dreams about becoming a successful entrepreneur like Marcus Lemonis of the TV show The Profit. Or perhaps the young woman who aspires to be like Ann Dunwoody, the first woman to become a four star general in the U.S. Armed Forces. But becoming exceptional doesn’t just happen. Here are 5 things that can help make you exceptional.
1. Invest in your character
You can be one of the best athletes or top business leaders in the country, but if you consistently come up short in your character, you will eventually fail. Pride, arrogance, entitlement, greed, and dishonesty are some of the common character flaws that bring talented people down. Humility, honesty, generosity, and authenticity are some of the character traits that lead to true exceptionality. Remember, every day we are given newsworthy illustrations of very exceptional people doing very dumb things. Avoid this by investing in your character development as much as your talent development.
2. Surround yourself with the right people
Bill Gates said, “Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast, or a bridge player.” Exceptional people find the best coaches, select great mentors, and stay away from those who will not add positive value to their lives and abilities. Why? Proverbs 22:24-25 tells us that surrounding yourself with the wrong people is like getting caught in a trap! When you surround yourself with the people who add to your life instead of take away from it, you will be on the path to becoming exceptional.
3. Work extraordinarily hard
There are no shortcuts. Even the most talented people work hard, very hard, at becoming exceptional. Practicing. Taking classes. Reading. Networking. Experimenting. And more practicing. Think of a person who you aspire to be, and you will likely find that they invested extraordinary amounts of time and even money to be their best. There really are no shortcuts to hard work. Average people live vicariously through others (ie. Fantasy Football players – you know who you are!). Exceptional people get off of the couch and work hard!
4. Build on your strengths
Everyone has strengths – they only have to be discovered. Relational. Athletic. Insightful. Mathematical. Verbal. Mechanical. Artistic. These are just a few of the possibilities. But let’s not kid ourselves. Some people have been given extraordinary talent in one or more of these. The kind of talent that cannot be developed by only hard work and practice. Regardless of whether you have strengths or are one of the unique individuals who have super-strengths, build on those strengths you have rather than fixating on what you are not so good at.
5. Develop disciplined focus
I recently watched a documentary about one of the of the world’s top rock climbers. When he was young, his parents were told that he would have difficulty in life because he was developmentally delayed. Over time, he became hyper-focused on conquering some of the most challenging rock walls in the world. His focus was intense! Even after he lost a finger in a saw accident and he was told his climbing days were over, he went on to accomplish climbs that had never been done before. Disciplined focus is the ability to invest serious time and energy on becoming extraordinary. We call this becoming a laser not a flashlight and it is what differentiates the exceptional from the good.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.