On page 22 in the book, The Good Neighbor, Fred Rogers is quoted as saying the following:
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”
I love that quote. It’s not enough just to make a choice. The real challenge is to make sure the choice fits with your purpose, values, character strengths, passions, and talents.
In other words, your choice should come from who you are rather than what you think other people want you to do.
The year is still fresh.
Before it really gets going into full swing, clean off your desk. Take everything off your desk, go through every item, and then only put back on what you really want on your desk.
Go through your closets and remove anything you haven’t used in the past two years. Just get rid of it or donate it to someone else.
Just those two actions can allow your brain to ease up, shift gears, and move forward.
For the past 20 years I’ve often said that the best book on leadership I’ve ever read is The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr., which was edited by Clayborne Carson.
It’s not really an autobiography. It’s a collection of speeches and writings by Martin Luther King, Jr. that essentially go from 1955 until the night before he was shot in 1968.
The reason why I consider it to be the greatest book on leadership that I’ve ever read is because it’s a pure example of how to influence the way other people think. King had no formal power or authority over other people. He was named the president of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) when it was formed in 1955 after Rosa Parks sparked the bus boycott, but that was not a big corporation or a government position. It was an organization that was formed to gain some momentum in what became known as the Civil Rights Movement.
Martin Luther King influenced people through delivering written speeches (including most of his sermons), through extemporaneous speeches (most of his I Have A Dream speech was different than his written text for that day), through letters (and his most famous letter was his famous Letter from the Birmingham Jail), though actions (his active involvement in many marches and sit-ins), through strategy (he based his approach of Non-Violent Resistance off of what he learned from studying Mohandas Gandhi), and through examples of personal courage (he kept on going even after his home was bombed and he received multiple threats on his life).
He did not have a lot of money, authority, or big titles in a big corporation. He was not a political figure. He simply influenced people all day long toward thinking differently about race, race relations, and equal opportunity for everyone regardless of the color of their skin.
I read this powerful book in the spring of 1999, and it has stayed in my mind ever since.
When you are on a quest to fulfill a purpose or achieve an objective, you take one step after another. Step by step by step. The reward is in the doing, the striving, the learning, the caring, the achieving, the failure, and the frustration. You won’t always win. You won’t always achieve the objective. It’s the sum total of the whole experience that matters.
Not winning doesn’t take away from the experience at all. Not even a little bit.
I love to watch Roger Federer play tennis. He’s my all-time favorite player to watch followed by Bjorn Borg. Those two tried, they worked, they prepared, and they gave everything they could in every match.
Today Roger Federer lost in the 4th Round of the Australian Open to a 20-year-old player from Greece named Stefanos Tsitsipas. He strove, he tried, he worked, he prepared, and he lost.
Doesn’t matter. The beauty is in the journey.
If you feel called to fulfill a particular purpose at home, in your extended family, in your community, in your work, or in the world, go for it. Don’t place your sense of self-worth on the outcome. Just go on the journey. Sometimes it will go well, and sometimes it won’t. Doesn’t matter. Just go. Built into the journey is the enormous value of being on the journey.
The first chapter of Anders Ericsson’s book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, is called, The Power of Purposeful Practice.
Ericsson notes that there are several key characteristics of purposeful practice:
Has well-defined, specific goals; Is focused; involves feedback; and requires getting out of one’s comfort zone.
This is not just doing something over and over again. What Ericsson found is that EVERY great performer that he studied, and he’s known as the world expert on expertise for a reason, had invested an enormous amount of time in purposeful practice before reaching a level of greatness in his or her activity.
The beauty of Ericsson’s work and why I admire it so greatly is that he has uncovered one of the critically important secrets to performance success. You need to invest your time and energy into purposeful practice.
When Bill Belichick was 8 years old he was breaking down film of football plays for adults. He was receiving feedback from his father and other adults on how he did. Robin Williams practiced in his attic using different voices while he played with toy soldiers. He then eventually got into open mic nights and improv groups where he received immediate feedback from audiences on what worked and what didn’t work. Fred Rogers experimented with puppets and music for over ten years as he worked to perfect his show on child development before he ever went national with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.
What skill do you want to master? Apply the principles of purposeful practice to it, and do so for a very long time.