I've been studying human achievement for almost 50 years (professionally for over 30 years), and the longer I do this work, the more I see that the "recipe" for achievement is simpler and in many ways, much easier than most people believe. In fact, Socrates described the basics almost 3000 years ago with the simple phrase, "Know thyself."
I've been thinking a lot about ways to create a workshop around this simple recipe, and I want to share some preliminary observations with you.
First: Know your strengths
High achievement comes from knowing what you do well, what you love and where your passion lies. Mid-level performance comes from people who can "get by" or are doing something "acceptable" but they are not using their talents to the maximum. When human beings do something they love and have some talent for, they are unstoppable!
Think about a teenager learning to drive, play sports or music, or asking someone special for a first date. Or how about your own determination to be a great parent, good lover or successful investor. When we are doing something that "makes sense," something that draws and excites us, we find ways to get good at it. "First, know yourself" and always go with your strengths, passions and talents!
Second: Know your weaknesses
We all have blind spots and weaknesses. We have things we don't enjoy, or don't want to do, and yet too often we create lives or careers that require us to do precisely that! How dumb is that?
If you don't like detail work, hire a bookkeeper! If you are shy or introverted, don't go into sales or politics! If you're a natural born entrepreneur, I wouldn't recommend a career in the military. Like, duh!
Unfortunately, most of the time our weaknesses are not so dramatic and we find ways to hide or work around them. Then we end up in situations where we can get along, but we "forget" to do the accounting or calculate the budget. We get "bored" with meetings or annoyed with "those dreamers" in the R&D department. It's important to know what you're good at, but it's absolutely vital to know what does not suit you. Acknowledge your weaknesses! Don't spend your life "trying" to do things that don't fit! Life's too short for that! Build on your strengths rather than compensating for your weaknesses.
Third: Know what you want
We all have dreams and desires. We know what brings us joy, what excites us, what fires us up. Sometimes, we get confused or lose track of our dreams, but they are still "in there." The trick is to identify and express them!
The winners in life know what they want and they find healthy, productive ways to go after it. They ask, they poke and prod until they "find a way." Recently, a client expressed amazement that since he identified a particular skill he wants to develop, suddenly he sees people doing it all the time! We've all had that experience. My comment was that "when you know what you want, you're much more likely to get it."
Fourth: Know how to express yourself
The final piece is "finding your voice," your unique way to let the world know you exist. Some do this naturally and become entertainers, politicians or whatever. Others struggle to express themselves, but winners eventually find a way. They speak up. They reach out. They "go for it" and "make waves." They voice their suggestions, work for their causes, and make a difference in the world.
High achievement starts by knowing who you are, what you want, and going after it. That's not always easy or simple, but winners keep trying "until" they find a way. "Know thyself and to thine own self be true." There is no stopping a human being who knows who they are, what they want, and is determined to get it.