Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

How to Become an Expert

image_time-new-style-leadershipAlthough I focus mostly on business topics, I do read a good bit on the psychology of success and expert performance. Several years ago I read one particularly interesting book called, “The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance,” a 918-page book written by the world’s leading experts on how to become an expert! Since that time have read dozens more books on the topic from authors such as Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Matthew Syed and many other experts on expert performance, and after reading all of this material on becoming and expert, working with some of the top business leaders in the world and interacting with several elite athletes it has become clear to me that there does seem to be a “system” for achieving towering expertise in a given area. So, if you want to be in the top 10% in the world at what you do, here are some things you are going to have to focus on.

The 4 Ps

Passion: You will never become world-class at anything unless you truly love doing it. I’ve studied the lives of people who achieved at exceedingly high levels and to a person they were all deeply passionate about their area of expertise. It did not matter if they were in sports, music, chess, business…they all loved their craft, they enjoyed their work, they were passionate about pursuing excellence in their chosen field. It was FUN for them! (By the way, many of them did not have any special talents or unique abilities, they were NOT born to be great, but they were passionate about becoming great).

Persistence: There’s been so much research done on this, by so many very talented and serious researchers that it’s hard to dispute that it requires a minimum of 10 years or 10,000 hours to achieve expertise in a given area. Even when you talk about child prodigies such as Mozart, Tiger Woods or Bobby Fischer, a close examination of their life will show you that they indeed invested massive amounts of time from a very early age, allowing them to accumulate the necessary 10,000 hours much faster than those around them. But it isn’t just putting in the time; you have to do something very special during those 10,000 hours, which is…

Practice: People who achieve at a very high-level are extremely disciplined about putting in hours and hours and hours of practice. But the thing that separates them from other people is that they employ what I call purposeful practice, or what many researchers call deliberate practice, which is making sure that every single practice session focuses on improvement. They use coaches, mentors, trainers, peers and unflinching self-evaluation to push themselves to improve every single time they practice. They seek out critical feedback, they challenge themselves constantly, and they spend endless hours practicing for continuous improvement.

Pattern Recognition: After 10+ years of dedicated purposeful practice these experts achieve a level of knowledge and understanding about their chosen field that surpasses 99% of their counterparts. This is how a great athlete “sees” the entire field, how a virtuoso musician can look at a piece of sheet music and hear the composition in their head, or how a chess grandmaster can think hundreds or thousands of moves down board; they see a pattern that is unrecognizable to the non-expert. Let me use chess as an example, when an ordinary player looks at the board they see a jumble of pieces and open spaces, but when a chess grandmaster looks at the board they see a very clear and recognizable pattern that they comprehend as a single picture. Let me explain further, if I asked you to memorize 12 letters in three seconds you would probably have a hard time if they looked like this: LWCTRKMPDXUB. However, if they look like this: INTERMEDIATE – it is very easy. This is how experts see things differently than you and I, their deep knowledge and years of practice and experience allow them to quickly identify patterns that are invisible to us. The Wimbledon-level tennis player can tell by the angle of their opponent’s hips where they are likely to hit the ball and can then anticipate the shot and be ready for a superb return, before the shot is even taken. A world-class musician can hear a single off key note from an entire orchestra of players. A chess grandmaster can play 10 games simultaneously and determine within two seconds what move to make on each board. It is not that they are super human or have an IQ that is in the stratosphere, it’s because they have dedicated a decade or more of their life to passionate purposeful practice in order to achieve a level of understanding and mastery that transcends all others in their field.

So what does this mean to you and me? To me it says that if you put enough time, energy, focus, effort and deliberate practice into something that you love, you have the opportunity to achieve a high level of mastery.

I recently read a statistic that said if you read one hour a day on a specific topic, seven days a week, for seven years…at the end of those seven years you would be considered a national authority on the topic! That sounds crazy, but I’m a living example of it, I have read a minimum of 100 business books year since 1989, listened to thousands of hours of audio books, attended dozens of seminars, read thousands of articles and blogs on leadership, business strategy, business excellence…and have recently been named one of the top 100 business thought leaders in America and one of the top 500 leadership development experts in the world. This does not mean I am a genius, it simply means that I practiced the four Ps on the topic of business for 20+ years. Awesomely Simple, no?

One last note, I turned 50 this year and as I read through all of this material on becoming an expert, I realized I still have a chance to pursue expertise in several more areas before I’m too old. I figure I could probably pick two things and spend 10 years on each and at least become pretty good. So I decided to give something I’ve always wanted to do, but am terrible at, a decade of effort: painting. My wife and I have collected a lot of original art and a good number of them are landscapes, I love landscapes, I’ve always wanted to be able to paint one that was nice enough that I could give it away to a friend and they would actually want to receive it! So, starting this year I’m going to give it a decade of effort, lessons, practice and focus. I have absolutely no intention of trying to become an expert at painting, but if I practice the four Ps on landscape painting I should be able to produce something of decent quality by the time I’m 60. That sounds like fun! I’m not sure what the other topic will be, but I’m positive it will be fun too.

QUESTION: What do you want to spend the next decade of your life practicing the four Ps on? What would you love to be an expert at? What would add value to your life and the world if you chose to invest 10 years or 10,000 hours to become truly world-class at it?

I look forward to your reply – John

* 7 hours of reading a week x 7 years = 2,555 You can do that!!!!

The 4 Ds of success

I recently read several motivational, success and self-help books and listened to a fantastic podcast by Brendon Burchard where he talked about the 4 Ds of Achievement. I agreed with 75% of his talk, but wanted the change the last D. So here is my take on the 4Ds of success, I hope you find this of great value, add your own ideas and share it with your network. I wish you every happiness and success – John

The Three Keys to Success in Life and Career

Tom MorrisYears ago I stumbled across a book called True Success by an author named Tom Morris…and it changed my life. I read and re-read it and worked hard to apply the ideas it shared and they made a BIG impact on how I approached my desire to achieve success in my career and life. I then devoured every new book that Tom Morris wrote and continued to learn and grow from his writing. About three years ago I had the great good fortune of being asked to speak at a conference where Tom was also going to deliver a talk. He was amazing…great content, passion, energy, connection – a truly world-class presenter. I approached him after the talk and told him I was a huge fan, we sat down and chatted at length and now I am extremely pleased to call him friend. In this blog I wanted to share a sort of conversation between Tom and I on the three most important elements of creating a successful life. I hope you find this very valuable and share it with your entire network!  Thanks – John

 

John: What do you feel are the three MOST important elements of building a successful life and career?

Tom: Ah! John! You are indeed a master of simplicity. Three things. Let’s see. Ok, here goes: Good values, good people, and good instincts.

Or to put it more fully: Good values within you, good people around you, and good instincts to guide you.

Successful lives and careers are built on the foundation of the right values, perceptive and healthy perspectives on what really matters in this world. Good values to start with will give you a strong sense of purpose, which we all need as a touchstone for decision-making. We can’t just let ourselves unconsciously absorb the values around us, unless we’ve already taken care of the “good people” imperative, and the values that are the most immediately around us are deep and lasting. We need to engage in the age-old process of self-examination that was recommended by Socrates. What are my values? What are my priorities? What means the most to me? Achievement without the right values can be self-destructive. With the right values, it can be deeply satisfying and ultimately fulfilling.

John: Perfect, let me summarize with one of my very favorite quotes, “When values are clear, decisions are easy.” Works well in both business and life.

Tom: It’s also impossible to build a successful life and career without good people around you, people to inspire you, spark you, encourage you, and sometimes question you and correct you. Who counts as good people? Good people are, simply, people with good values, connecting this element back to the first one. Family, friends, great colleagues – these individuals, as life elements, are primary ingredients for personal happiness and also for life and work accomplishment. Rarely does anything worth doing get done absolutely solo. We need other people. And they need us. I’m always saying, “Relationships Rule the World.” And I think that you, my friend John Spence, are a great example of this. You’re a relationship guy. You seek to serve others. And that sets in motion a virtuous cycle where others seek to serve you as well. You don’t do good things for others in order to get them to do good for you, which rarely ever works, in any case. It’s just who you are. You’re a relationship guy. For great perspectives on building a community of such people around us, I’d recommend to your readers the book Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and Adam Grant’s new book Give and Take.

John: Thank you for the compliment, I am simply following what I believe is the MOST important thing I have ever learned, “You become what you focus on and like the people you surround yourself with.” A major reason I reached out to you Tom, because of the amazing work you do and the incredible value you and your work has added to my life.  By the way, I would also I would add in Linchpin by Seth Godin, Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk.

Tom: Number three: We need good instincts about what’s appropriate, what’s healthy, what’s needed, what’s helpful, and how to get well positioned for attaining our goals. Instincts are taught mainly by being caught. We become like the people we’re around. Great artists, tennis stars, golf sensations, top business builders, and Nobel Prize winning scientists typically get to a point of mastery by hanging out with masters and watching them. I think that intuition or instinct is a natural endowment in us all, but that to be most effective, it has to be cultivated, groomed, and tutored. We become the best by learning from the best, which shows how this element is connected back to the second, good people.  

Good people are individuals with good values, who associate with other good people, and who have good intuitions. And good people with all these qualities tend to be successful in work and life. 

John: This is why I love the idea of building a Mastermind Group – I have about 18 people I deeply respect in my local Mastermind Group that come to my house about every 45 days to discuss BIG ideas, help each other, support each other and push each other. I can say with complete confidence this idea has dramatically improved my life.

Tom: But what about drive, some readers might ask. It’s embedded in good values. How about education? Your instincts can clue you in to what you need to learn in order to pursue the path that you feel is best for you. Or they can connect you with the right people who can advise you in that regard. Of course, many things facilitate success. I’ve spent my career expounding on seven things I’ve learned from all the great thinkers in this regard, in books like True Success, The Art of Achievement, The Stoic Art of Living, and the new ebook, The 7 Cs of Success. But, to specify the three MOST important things? I think that if you have these three, you can discover whatever else you need!

John: I have read (and re-read) each of those books and they have all had a profound impact on how I live my life. I have used True Success and The Art of Achievement with many of my clients and my Mastermind Group is currently reading The Stoic Art of Living. Actually, my new eBook, Strategies for Success is based a great deal on your teachings and I use one of your main ideas: Creating a PLAN for your life. Thanks so much Tom, I look forward to continuing this conversation!!

*** To my blog readers – if you enjoyed this article please share it with all of your contacts – thank you — John

Two BIG Leadership Trends

shutterstock_99602262I was recently asked to put together a video on what I felt were the two biggest trends I saw in leadership right now. I have been delivering a lot of leadership programs in the last few months (and the last 20 years!!) with companies at every size from start-ups to the Fortune 50 and I have seen two very clear leadership trends emerge in the last year or so. One is in the area of “behavior” and the other is in the area of “strategy.” I hope you find this video of value, please share your comments and ideas and please also share it with your network!! Thanks so very much – John Spence

If you want to learn more about Servant Leadership, I highly recommend this book:

Three Keys to a Winning Culture

Happy Business Team 3During the past year a great deal of my time has been spent teaching organizations around the world how to improve their culture, as many organizations (both large and small) are now realizing that Culture =Cash! They have finally accepted that if getting, growing and keeping top talent is a strategic objective (and it should be!!!), then having a superior culture is one of the main ways to attract that top talent. So to me, there are two sides to the culture coin… what employees look for, which is a Winning Culture, a place that’s fun to work at, with a family atmosphere, where they are treated fairly , have the freedom to do their without micro management and an organization that has created a culture of catching people doing things right!  However, there is also the other side of the culture coin that the employer looks for, which is highly engaged employees who have an Ownership Mentality…that is they show dedication, passion, creativity, pro-activity, a sense of urgency and high levels of both personal and mutual accountability .

These are all important factors, and there are several more key factors to creating a winning culture , but a few years ago I was talking to a good friend of mine who is a leading psychologist and he pointed out that a great deal of what I was talking about was exactly the same things that everyone looks for in the most important relationships in their lives … and when you think about it, your relationship to your job and the people there is absolutely one of the most important relationships in your life .  According to my friend, here are the three factors that everyone looks for in the key relationships in their life :

 

Safety: employees need to feel physically safe at their job, that they’re not going to get hurt by machinery or that it’s safe to walk out to the parking lot late in the evening.  They also need to feel emotionally safe, that no one is going to yell at them, embarrass them and their job will not be simply yanked out from underneath their feet with no reason.  Lastly, they need to feel psychologically safe, that they can express their opinion, share their ideas or disagree with a superior … without the fear of retribution, bullying or embarrassment.

 

Belongingness: people want to feel that they are part of the team, part of the group, part of the tribe.  They want to know that the people at work like them, like having them around and feel they are an important part of the organization. No one wants to feel like an outcast or that no one cares about them.

 

Appreciation: employees want to know that they are appreciated not only for the work they do, but also who they are as an individual, what they contribute to the team, and the ideas and diversity that they bring to the organization.

 

Safety            Belongingness          Appreciation

 

It is my strong belief that if you flood your organization with safety, belongingness and appreciation that you will build a framework for creating a truly a winning culture.  And, as with many of the other factors, these three are mostly what I call atmosphere issues…they cost no extra money to implement – it is simply the way you treat your people, the way you engage them, and the respect you show all of your employees that make them feel safe, that they belong and that they are genuinely appreciated.

So my question to you is: What can you do TODAY to create more safety, belongingness and appreciation across your entire organization?  

*** If you want more specifics on exactly how to build a great company culture, I have created a very concise and focused ebook that will give you all of my best ideas, tools and advice. It is only $2.99 on Amazon and I promise it will be VERY helpful.  Click HERE to take a look

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Leadership Styles That No Longer Work

Here are my thoughts on the Command and Control Leadership Style and why I feel it no longer works in Business today.

The Secret to Success

I was extremely honored to be one of 12 speakers asked to present at the recent Fresh SparkreThink: Success” event. It was an entire day dedicated to the topic of how to achieve success in business and life. My good friend Kristen Hadeed and her entire team were awesome, and were kind enough to ask me to do the opening speech of the day to kick things off. I hope you will take the time to watch this video, it’s about 22 minutes long, but I honestly believe there’s some really good information here that I hope you will want to pass along to many of your friends, family and colleagues.

Success Quotes: 51 Ways Ordinary People Reached World-Class

I recently came across this extremely powerful list of success quotes by Robin Sharma, a writer and philosopher that I deeply admire and respect. I was so impressed with this list that I sent him and note to ask if I could share it with all of you and he graciously agreed.  I believe the 51 items he has listed (except number 7 for me!) are all spot on, and I have added a few of my own at the end. I hope you find this list very useful and share it with as many people as you can!

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By Robin Sharma – Author of the #1 International Bestseller “The Leader Who Had No Title

  1. Know what you want. Clarity is power. And vague goals promote vague results.
  2. Remember that every problem has a solution. Maybe you just can’t see it. Yet.
  3. In this Age of Dramatic Distraction, the performer who focuses the best wins the most.
  4. Before someone will help you, you need to help them.
  5. Become the most passionate person you know. It’ll be contagious.
  6. Know more about your craft/the work you do than anyone who has ever done the work you do…in the history of the world.
  7. Join The 5 am Club. Your most valuable hours are 5am-8am. They have the least interruptions.
  8. Devote yourself to learning something new about your field of mastery every day. Success belongs to the relentless learners. Because as you know more, you can achieve more.
  9. Remember that when you transform your fitness, you’ll transform your business.
  10. Don’t check your mobile when you’re meeting with another person. It’s rude. And rude people don’t reach world-class.
  11. Every time you do what scares you, you take back the power that you gave to the thing that scared you. And so you become more powerful.
  12. A problem is only a problem if you make the choice to see it as a problem.
  13. Stop being a victim. Your business and personal life was made by you. No one else is responsible. To make it better, make better choices. And new decisions.
  14. You can lead without a title. Don’t wait to get a position to stand for excellence, peak quality and overdelivery on every expectation.
  15. Find your own style. Be an original. Every superstar differentiated themselves from The Herd. And marched to their own drumbeat.
  16. Understand that when you play small with your success, you betray your potential. And the birthright you were born under.
  17. Eat less food and you’ll get more done.
  18. As you become more successful, stay really really hungry. Nothing fails like success. Because when you’re successful, it’s easy to stop outlearning+outOverDelivering+outthinking and outexecuting everyone around you. (Success is Beautiful. And dangerous).
  19. If you’re not overprepared, you’re underprepared.
  20. The only level of great manners to play at is “Exceedingly Polite”. In our world, this alone will make you a standout. And differentiate you in your marketplace.
  21. Remember that the moment you think you’re a Master, you lose your Mastery. And the minute you think you know everything, you know nothing.
  22. To double your results, double your level of execution.
  23. Invest in your personal and pro development. All superstars do.
  24. Get this year’s best Targets of Opportunity down onto a 1 Page Plan. Then review it every morning while the rest of the world sleeps.
  25. You don’t get lucky. You create lucky.
  26. When you push through a difficult project, you don’t get to the other side. You reach The Next Level.
  27. Smile. And remember to inform your face.
  28. Spend time in solitude every day. Your best ideas live there.
  29. Debrief on how you lived out your day every night in a journal. This will not only record your personal history, it will make you uber-clear on what you’re doing right and what needs to be improved.
  30. If your not being criticized a lot, you’re not doing very much. Ridicule is the price of ambition.
  31. Develop a monomaniacal focus on just a few things. The secret to productivity is simplicity.
  32. To get the results very few people have, be strong enough to do what very few people are willing to do.
  33. Rest. Recover. It’ll make you stronger.
  34. Buy a smaller TV and build a larger library.
  35. Remember that the bigger the goal, the stronger a person you must become to achieve that goal. So goal-achieving is a superb practice for character-building.
  36. Food fuels your body. Learning feeds your mind.
  37. Don’t ask for respect. Earn it.
  38. Finish what you start. And always end strong.
  39. Breathe.
  40. In business, don’t play to survive. Play to win.
  41. Protect your good name. It’s your best asset.
  42. Remember that words have power. Use the language of leadership versus the vocabulary of a victim.
  43. Give more than you take. The marketplace rewards generosity.
  44. Know that if it’s not messy, you’re not making progress.
  45. Be a hero to a kid.
  46. In business, aim for iconic. Go for legendary. Make history by how awesome you are at what you do.
  47. Please don’t confuse activity with productivity. Many many people are simply busy being busy.
  48. Your doubts are liars. Your fears are traitors. Stop buying the goods they are attempting to sell you.
  49. The best anti-aging remedy in the world is working really hard.
  50. World-Class performers have no plan B. Failure just isn’t an option.
  51. You have the power to change the world—one brave act and one person at a time. Please use it.

From John

52. You become what you focus on and like the people you spend time with.

53. When values are clear, decisions are easy.

54. The minute you stop expecting life to be simple, fair and easy…it becomes simple, fair and easy.

55. The true measure of your life will not be in money, fame, or power – but in how much you loved others and how much they loved you.

56. Embrace an abundance mentality. Help as many other people as possible get what they want and you will get everything you want.

57. The quality of your life will be determined by the quality of the questions you ask…to others and to yourself. Quality questions lead to quality answers.

58. The three watchwords of excellence:  Focus – Discipline – Action.

59. Just remember – you are not right, there are many, many ways to look at every situation and your way is not the only way.

60. Life is short, very short, do not waste time on the trivial… live in the moment and invest in yourself for the future.

61……………

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What would you like to add to the list?

If you enjoyed this post you will likely find GREAT value in my post:

90 Quotes That Will Change The Way You Think!

 

Reality Check

 

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Well, I think that sums things up very well. Life is far too short to spend a majority of it at a job you don’t love, or at least like very, very much.

So I challenge you, on a scale of 1 – 10, with 10 being complete passion for your job and 1 being complete loathing of your job — what would your score be?

It is my feeling that any score below an 8 is unacceptable.

So what do you do if you scored it a 4 or 5… or worse, quit right now? Probably not a great idea.  But you should ask yourself a few questions…

1. How can I make my job MUCH better?

2. What could I ask my manager/boss to do that would make my job MUCH better? (If the answer is that they would quit – you have another problem).

3. If I can’t make this job better, what job would make me happy?

4. What is a plan I can put in place right away so that I can get out of this job and into an awesome job in the next 6 months?

If things are bad today that does not mean you should jump ship immediately and put yourself (and your family if you have one) in financial stress, but you should make a commitment that by this time next year you will be someplace that will score an 8, 9 or 10. And if you do not believe that is possible, take it from someone who scores their job a 12+++, you can absolutely have a job/career that is fun, fulfilling, enjoyable and financially rewarding. But YOU have to make it that way, you have to find a place where your skills and talents add massive value to your employer and/or the marketplace — and that adds massive value (financially and emotionally) back to you. That is how work is supposed to work!


Free eBook Link for Building and Sustaining a Winning Culture by John Spence