January 2, 2019

I Want to Be the Very Best… Teach Me How

No matter how you want to be the very best, this is your guide.

When you were a kid, did you want to be the best?

I wanted to be the best at so many things. The best in my class, with the highest grades and the teacher’s favor. The best singer, the lead actress, the best writer, and the best friend.

As we grow up, the idea of being the best gets more complicated.

How can be we be the best when there’s so much competition? And, why be the best when you can be yourself? What does it actually mean to be the best?

If there were no limits, no fears of looking stupid or egotistical or of never actually reaching your potential, at what would you want to be the very best?

You were made to be the best, and here’s how you do it.

We put together this guide to help you take a look at where you want to be the best in life:

  • As a professional
  • For your family
  • As a student
  • In your community
  • As a creative
  • In a competition

We are going to help you define what it means for YOU to be the very best, and then we’ll help you plot out an action plan to get there.

How to define what it means to be the very best

Too often, we set goals that have unimaginable or unrealistic ends. When what you’re striving for is not clear, how can you ever be sure you’ve arrived?

In your planner or on a sheet of nice paper, declare what best you aspire to be.

In this instance, be as specific as you can.

  • The best professor.
  • The best barista.
  • The best social media manager.
  • The best version of myself.
  • The best engineer.

Now think about the examples of the best professors/baristas/managers you know. What do they do? What makes them the best? Why do you admire them?

Expand that out and start thinking about what they do to make themselves the best. Did they read a certain book? Go to a conference? Practice a skill? If you aren’t sure, ask. Ask people you know, or send emails to people you don’t. (You might be surprised how many relatively high-level people will actually reply.)

Your next step in the journey to becoming the best you’ve outlined for yourself is to identify your metrics for success and quantify them.

  • Who will determine you are the best? You, a small group, the media?
  • How will you be judged? By your skill, accomplishments, or volume of experience?
  • What do you imagine it to look like if you already were the very best? Draw or write an illustration of what you see.

Basically, you are defining the finish line.

The quest to be the very best can be hard, because there are always ways to improve or become better. Even the very best can get better. So you need to set goalposts that you can check in with along the way, and determine how your success will be measured.

After you’ve identified this broad overview of what you want and where you are going, it is time to get into the nitty gritty details.

Collect examples of the best to which you aspire

When you imagine being the best, do examples come to mind? Are there individuals or organizations in your field, other artists or creatives, even co-workers or friends who inspire a sense of awe and appreciation for their prowess?

Make time to search and collect these examples, creating a Pinterest board or file folder filled with printed articles or mini-bios of individuals, organizations, or movements that inspire a sense of the very best when you see them.

If you’re aiming to be the best in a position, professional or otherwise, a great place to start is with the greats who came before you.

Keep in mind that the best in your field or in your specific search may not be massively recognizable. The best software engineers may be harder to find than people who are in more outward-facing careers.

And if the best to which you aspire is a concept, like the very best student, mother, coach, or at-home baker, combining a mixture of individuals who inspire and tips on the subject can help broaden your perspective.

For example, being the best manager is a difficult concept to outline because the meaning is different for everyone. But, try researching:

  • Qualities of the best manager.
  • Lessons I learned from my managers in the past.
  • Lessons I’ve learned as a manager myself.
  • Tips for overcoming ______ (common issue) as a manager.
  • Inspirational wisdom for/from managers.

Collect tidbits from those impacted by your being the very best. Interview those who may have an opinion on the matter, and always take opinions with a grain of salt. You don’t have to do everything someone suggests, but give each idea consideration.

With all of this information information at hand, your perspective what it means to be the very best at whatever you choose will start to sharpen and take form, becoming more accessible with implementable actions.

Understand the commonalities across the field of “bests”

Taking a broader perspective than your industry or your aspiration, consider those who are universally considered to be the best: Oprah, Walt Disney, Salvador Dali… These are people who are seen as almost inhuman in their prowess. A combination of natural talent, pure grit, and a lifetime of pursuit have anchored these names in history and inspired millions across the world.

So… what’s their secret sauce?

  • Salvador Dali had such rigid regiments for creativity, even though they were abstract and irreplicable by the common person. He had his methods and he repeated them over and over again to refine his vision and his craft.
  • Read any article about Oprah and you’ll hear about how she’s extremely protective of her social interactions and will not maintain any relationship she finds detrimental to her life’s purpose.
  • Walt Disney spent his life building an empire that employed new technology, invented technologies, and pushed the boundaries of what was possible simply by having the right tools.

Copy each of these prompts into your journal and consider how you can implement these common themes of excellence into your lifestyle.

Cultivate positive habits and routines

Many people who are widely known to be prolific and successful tend to wake up around the same time every day – whether that is 4 am or 10 am, they have a routine. They automate their habits such as their wardrobe, business practices, and end-of-the-day routine. They eat like-foods they know will make them feel fantastic. They return to places and spaces that nurture their soul.

They sacrifice variety for things they know will work for them — freeing up their mind to focus on important decisions that move them forward, rather than spending time deciding what to wear, eat, etc.

What can you do to automate your day? What processes and routines can you add to your day to make it easier for you to succeed?

Refine your habits and routines to free up mental space to pursue your vision. The less time you spend on menial, redundant tasks like deciding what to have for lunch, the more time you have to become the very best.

Surround yourself with the best people

Ever heard the quote, “You are the sum of the five people closest to you?” Be thoughtful in who you surround yourself with and how they nourish your experience.

There are people we know and love who continue to bring us down. They are negative, naysayers, or fearful, often under the guise of being caring. They don’t want us to get hurt, to be disappointed, to look foolish. So they shrink our efforts or our abilities into a manageable size such that we can still do, we just can’t excel.

By no means do we expect you to get the axe and start hacking off friendships. Instead, make a list of the closest people in your life, the people who you see or speak to at least once per month, even if those people are just online.

Circle the people who are kind, encouraging, open-minded, generous, and who you feel genuinely believe in you. Draw a box around those who are cautioning, negative, detracting, belittling, or generally uninterested in your pursuits.

Those whose names are circled, spend more time with them. Share your ideas with them, ask for their feedback, and consider deepening your relationship and communication as you endeavor on this journey to greatness.

Those whose names are boxed in, consider omitting your most sensitive ideas from your conversations with that person. Instead try to get to understand them better, to understand where their fear or jealousy may come from. Reserve your self-development and ideation for those you know to be supportive, and protect your heart from those you know to be detrimental.

Equip yourself with the tools you need: real-world artifacts and a mindset to match

When we talk about tools, we’re going further than paintbrushes or technology. It’s absolutely imperative to have what you need, but it’s arguably more important to have the mindset you need to be the best.

Start making a list of the tools you believe you’d need to become the very best. Make this an exhaustive list. Refer to your collection of examples of those people you see as the very best and consider what tools they have from technology to a positive attitude.

Transform this list from a pipe dream to a shopping list. Prioritize the purchases by what will make the most impact first.

If you’re looking to be the best wedding photographer in your city but you don’t yet have a great camera, prioritize a great camera or a series of rental experiments to find the best camera for you. Then prioritize your lenses, your website and branding, business coaching or classes. Whatever will make the most impact first, and whatever is most accessible of the most impactful items, focus on those first.

In order to become the very best, you must have the mindset that anything is possible.

“Why anything?” you might ask. Don’t I only just need to believe I can be the very best?

Broaden your perspective – to be the very best, you must be willing to accept however it looks, however it comes to you, and to be willing to accept it once you’ve arrived. The mindset of not just pursuing being the best, but actually becoming it, mean that you’ve relinquished perfectionism and are trusting the process.

In order to do something well, we must be willing to do it badly.

Over and over and over again.

As we take a look at the activities and endeavors of those whose level of best we aspire to meet and exceed, it’s important to remind ourselves to never compare our novice work to their masterworks.

If you’re looking to become a sci-fi filmmaker, don’t compare your first films to 2001: A Space Odyssey. That’s Stanley Kubrick’s masterwork and he made plenty of crappy, lame, boring, low-budget, nobody-will-ever-see-this films. Instead, research Stanley Kubrick’s first films, his works from film school, his short films, screen tests, his reel.

No matter your industry, research how the individuals from your collection of examples first started on their journey. Read their early drafts, ask them about their formative experiences. For those pursuing a conceptual best, research biggest fails, hilarious mistakes, lessons learned, stumbles, fumbles, and first attempts.

These are the examples by which you can benchmark your early works; not as a tool for comparison, but as a means of reminder that we all start somewhere, and no matter what we’re born with or privileged to have, we all start as beginners and go from there.

Create an action plan

As enormous an endeavor as it may seem to become the very best, you’re giving yourself the best possible chance by clarifying your intent, visualizing all the possible options, and fine-tuning your vision into an action plan.

Rather than setting off on a road trip with no map or GPS, hoping to see the wonders of the world, you’re bringing with you an all-star journey that, no matter how specific the destinations, will still be richly filled with surprise developments.

Establish accountability methods to keep you focused, on-track, and with a record of your experience

Look for small steps you can take every day to improve. Maybe it’s 5 minutes of practice every day. Maybe it’s reading one book a month.

Begin prioritizing and penciling-in the most accessible and immediately relevant activities to your journey. Even if it’s only one activity per week, one purchase per season, one class per year… you must start somewhere.

Your pursuit of becoming the very best is now part of your calendar, your budget, and your lifestyle. It’s up to you to make incremental investments in this journey, pulling from all of the information you’ve gathered and regularly referring to your definition of the best.

Record your progress and experience

Keep a portfolio, a journal, or a video log. Talk about your experience candidly, record your efforts and lessons learned. Keep track of all of your work, not just the good stuff. After three months, six months, a year, review how far you’ve come. Remember: you’ll only go as far as you travel, and you only travel as far as you’re willing to depart from your comfort zone.

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