AuthorRyan Hawk

18 Keys To Sustaining Excellence

Over the past two years, I’ve recorded 178 conversations (for my podcast The Learning Leader Show) with some of the greatest leadership minds in the world: CEO’s, Entrepreneurs, Professional Athletes… I look for those who have done two things: 1) Sustained excellence over an extended period of time. 2) Have an understanding WHY they’ve performed at such a high level.

I recently sat down, reviewed transcripts, listened to many episodes, and pulled out the best answers to the one question that I consistently ask: “What are common characteristics of those who have sustained excellence over an extended period of time?” Here are the 18 best answers:

78. Kat Cole, Group President of Focus Brands – I think most about the productive achievers, who not only have traditional accomplishments but have also brought others along with them and made a difference.

Envision a scale: It’s a balance of two buckets ..of characteristics. The first bucket is courage and confidence. Productive achievers have a really well-built muscle around courage and confidence. They take risks and believe in their point of view. On the other side of that scale is another bucket: curiosity and humility. Leaders that have this bucket convey to others that they don’t know everything and, therefore, need the people around them. If you get one of those buckets too heavily weighted and the person gets out of balance, it’s very difficult to have sustained success. If you are too courageous and confident, then you’re a bull in a china shop. And if you’re too curious and humble, then you’re just a student.

127. Adam Grant, Bestselling Author, Wharton’s Top Rated Professor, TED Speaker – The most consistent attribute of wildly successful people is that they are dedicated learners. No matter how much excellence they achieve, they are always raising the bar. The more they accomplish, the more they expect of themselves, and they always have something new that they’re excited to learn. If that’s your goal, you’re always getting better and always gaining new insights. Curiosity is the starting point for all originality. When people come up with ideas that are not only different, but better, they began from looking at something and saying, “Why is it that way? Does it have to be that way? Is there another way to do it?”

107. Simon Sinek, Author and TED Speaker – Most people say vision and charisma, but I don’t think that’s true. One thing that I’ve found consistent among great leaders is courage. It takes tremendous courage to stick to your values when there are pressures from the market or superiors who want an expedient route. It takes tremendous courage to stick to your vision. It may take short-term personal sacrifice.

117. Tim Urban, Co-Founder & Writer of ‘Wait, But Why’, TED Speaker – If you want to boil it down, it comes down to having a voice that makes a splash. It’s about the level of impact one makes. Picture a white canvas. Most people paint in white, which means they’re contributing but they’re not changing the image. It’s white on white. But when someone challenges conventional wisdom, they change the entire image. The normal thing to say in the ’70s was that a personal computer would never be in someone’s home. Steve Jobs comes out with the Macintosh. He’s now painting in blue. Then, he keeps reinventing himself. He created a new way to listen to music, then a new phone, then a tablet. Now he’s painting in red. He kept painting in new colors.

86. Seth Godin, Best Selling Author, Entrepreneur, Hall of Fame Marketer- The only thing I’ve seen that these leaders have in common is that they’ve made a choice. And that choice is to make a difference. It’s easy to not make that choice. And if you do not make that choice, it is easy to believe that leadership belongs to other people, that the fickle finger of fate points to someone else by means of luck or good fortune. But it my experience, it is a choice.

114. Cal Newport, Professor, Best Selling Author – The leader respects how hard everything is that’s worth doing. If I was ever asked to give a commencement address, the title would be “Everything is Harder Than You Think.” Those who recognize that real, impactful work does not simply unfold with a clever combination of life hacks and prepare themselves for that battle, they’re the ones that produce at a really high level as opposed to those that have a quick flash in the pan.

115. Amy Porterfield: Social Media Strategy Consultant – The first word that comes to mind is consistency. I have really studied my mentors to understand how they keep moving forward. What I’ve noticed, in all of them, is that they are consistently creating content and they are consistently showing up. They are out there, doing what they’ve promised, over and over again.

42. Rob DeMartini, CEO of New Balance – My list of common characteristics among successful people has four things: The first, one that I always see, is that they are curious. They want to understand how things are working, how things happen, and if things could have happened differently. If you’re curious, it opens up questions and leads you towards learning that otherwise you wouldn’t have. The other three: energy, optimism, and a high sense of personal awareness. That last one is perhaps most important. Do you have a sense of how you’re being perceived, and do you understand how they are receiving your message?

105. David Burkus, Bestselling Author, Professor, TED Speaker – They have a consistent dissatisfaction. They have to balance the tension between stepping back and saying, “I did that and I am proud,” and looking at their work and seeing where they could have done better. Really, it’s a balance between gratefulness and dissatisfaction that keeps people striving for sustained excellence.

82. Dan Pink, Bestselling Author, TED Speaker – Curiosity. They follow their noses. They become interested in things even when they know a lot of things, in fact especially if they know a lot of stuff. The consequence of knowing a lot is in turn knowing how little you know. Also, and this is not uniform, but in many, many cases there is an element of generosity to these folks. Many of them are willing to help others, they aren’t people who pull up the ladder once they reach the top. And the third thing is that they are extraordinarily hard-working and conscientious. The old-fashioned virtues of persistence and grit and conscientiousness are hallmarks.

74. Tim Kight, CEO of Focus 3 – I have three decades of observation and research on that question, but here are the core things: People who consistently perform at the highest levels are intentional, purposeful and consistently building a skill. These people act and think with more intention, purpose and skill than others.

77. Adam Braun, Entrepreneur, Author, Founder Pencils of Promise – Three things stand out to me. The first is, they are tremendously and intrinsically motivated. They aren’t motivated by the extrinsic things. They may not care about the big house or the nicer car or more money. The successful people are simply motivated to be a better person tomorrow than they are today. Second, they display a tremendous amount of integrity. Integrity is the currency that buys trust. And the third is that they surround themselves with people that don’t play on their level, but play on the level above them. They’re always trying to play on the big kids’ court. They’re the eight-year-old trying to play with the 12-year-olds.

48. Cameron Herold, Best Selling Author, Entrepreneur, “CEO Whisperer” – One is sense of vulnerability. They’ve checked their ego at the door, and they’re not trying to be anybody except who they actually are. They’re authentically themselves. Another one is that they realize they are not the smartest person in the room. They’re trying to surround themselves with brilliant people. And they have a sense of curiosity. They aren’t there to talk about themselves. They’re intrigued with other people and with learning in the world.

122. Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Former President of Equinox, Gatorade, Nike – One of the biggest single things is curiosity, without a doubt, and that goes hand in hand with humility. They don’t ever feel like they’ve reached the top of the mountain. They don’t ever feel like they have all the answers. They’re always looking for more. And, even though many of them are often the best in the world at what they do, it’s that extraordinary humility that makes them feel like there’s more to do.

98. Alison Levine, Mountaineer, Bestselling Author, Key Note Speaker – A common characteristic is resilience more than anything else. You have to have that strong sense of resilience. You don’t have to be the best or strongest climber to get to the top of the mountain. You just have to be absolutely resilient about putting one foot in front of the other.

68. Joey Coleman, Inspirational Speaker, Entrepreneur – If I had to sum it up, I’d say it’s three things. First, they have a growth and learning mindset. They are constantly searching for knowledge, whether it be within their industry or beyond. They’re constantly consuming information and experiences. Secondly, these leaders have a common thread of gratitude. They understand how lucky and blessed they are. They appreciate the blessing and gifts in their life. Finally, the very best leaders are gentle with themselves. All too often, we can let our drive and desire to succeed become an all-consuming force inside of us, and it’s paired with a belief that we need to push even harder. The very best leaders can pause and occasionally stop that drive.

108. Steven Kotler, Author and Journalist – First and foremost, these people are ferocious about forward progress. There’s nothing mild about how they attack life. It’s full steam ahead. Everybody I’ve ever met who is super successful, either consciously or unconsciously, has created a life that maximizes the amount of time they can spend in the optimal state of mind for performance.

43. Philip McKernan, Inspirational Speaker – The eyes. It’s in the eyes. You can look into someone’s eyes and know if they’re aligned with the work they do and if they have peace of mind. If someone has peace of mind, it emanates out of their soul and, therefore, out of their eyes. I’ve used the eyes as a tool to call “bullsh%t,” for lack of a better term. If they’re not aligned, then their work is not expression of their soul, and thus not who they are but rather what they do.

Ryan Hawk is the host of The Learning Leader Show. A podcast born out of an innate curiosity to learn from the greatest leadership minds in the world. Forbes called it “The most dynamic leadership podcast out there.” Inc Magazine said it’s “One of the 5 podcasts to help you lead smarter.”

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Episode 183: Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

 

Episode 183: Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Barry Schwartz studies the link between economics and psychology, offering startling insights into modern life. Lately, working with Ken Sharpe, he’s studying wisdom. In his 2004 book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz tackles one of the great mysteries of modern life: Why is it that societies of great abundance — where individuals are offered more freedom and choice (personal, professional, material) than ever before — are now witnessing a near-epidemic of depression? Conventional wisdom tells us that greater choice is for the greater good, but Schwartz argues the opposite: He makes a compelling case that the abundance of choice in today’s western world is actually making us miserable.

Infinite choice is paralyzing, Schwartz argues, and exhausting to the human psyche.It leads us to set unreasonably high expectations, question our choices before we even make them and blame our failures entirely on ourselves. His relatable examples, from consumer products (jeans, TVs, salad dressings) to lifestyle choices (where to live, what job to take, who and when to marry), underscore this central point: Too much choice undermines happiness.

Schwartz’s previous research has addressed morality, decision-making and the varied inter-relationships between science and society. Before Paradox he published The Costs of Living, which traces the impact of free-market thinking on the explosion of consumerism — and the effect of the new capitalism on social and cultural institutions that once operated above the market, such as medicine, sports, and the law. (From Ted.com)
Both books level serious criticism of modern western society, illuminating the under-reported psychological plagues of our time. But they also offer concrete ideas on addressing the problems, from a personal and societal level.

Episode 183: Barry Schwartz – The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“When you have infinite choice… Instead of being liberated, you get paralyzed.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Common themes to sustain excellence:
    • People really care about what they’re trying to achieve
    • They want to change people’s lives
  • Why the leaders of organizations must give their employees opportunities to stretch, and demonstrate mastery
  • Why Barry wore shorts during his legendary TED Talk
  • People think the more choices we have, the better we’ll be. It has limits…
  • The consequences with ease of communication — “People are thinking less, and talking more.”
  • Why Twitter is bad
  • Daniel Kahneman’s work — System 1 and System 2
  • Why are movies on an airplane better?
  • The proper way to set expectations
  • The secret to happiness
  • How to manage expectations:
    • Make the rare not common – ie: Deliberately drink great wine infrequently
  • Why are people affiliated with organized religion happier? — Less to do with religion and more to do with community. Most religions are full of constraints
  • “Why We Work” — Dan Pink’s work on this is fantastic
  • The future of work — A world full of contractors

“The secret to happiness is low expectations.” — Barry Schwartz

Continue Learning:

You may also like these episodes:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: Nate Boyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 073: Jay Bilas – World Class ESPN Basketball Broadcaster, Toughness, Fixing The NCAA

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Did you enjoy the podcast?

If you enjoyed hearing Barry Schwartz on the show, please don’t hesitate to send me a note on Twitter or email me.

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

The Learning Leader Show is supported by FreshBooksFreshBooks is offering a 30 day, unrestricted free trial to my listeners. To claim it, just go to FreshBooks.com/Learning and enter LEARNING LEADER in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.

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Episode 182: Vinh Giang – Why You Should Make The Leap

 

Episode 182: Vinh Giang – Why You Should Make The Leap

Vinh Giang is a motivational/ inspirational keynote speaker and he uses magic as his metaphor when he speaks (He’s found a way to make the medicine taste good!). He’s built a successful online business that teaches magic to over 41,000 students from all over the world. His business won South Australian young entrepreneur of the year in 2013. In 2016, his online business has just combined forces with 52Kards which is one of America’s leading online magic schools, after combining our schools together and many years of hard work they now teach over 500,000 students from all over the world. Vinh’s other area of expertise is performance, being a magician and speaker he’s spent 80% of the year on stage performing and presenting to people all over the world.

Episode 182: Vinh Giang – Why You Should Make The Leap

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“It took millions of years of serendipitous events for you to be here, and now that you are here, you are alive for 80 years on average. When you compare how long it took for you to get here versus how long you are her for… It’s like you are alive for 1 minute. It’s a privilege to be alive.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Common themes to sustain excellence:
    • The ability to face your fears head on
    • Not avoiding difficult conversations
  • Why Vinh stopped trying to live up to others expectations
  • How David Blaine helped is business
  • The importance of having a speaker reel/highlight video
  • Why you should work with documentary makers — They are story-tellers
  • The 3 Elements to a great speaker
    • Educate
    • Inspire
    • Entertain
  • You must have a relentless belief that it can be done
  • The power of magic — It brings out the inner child in everyone
  • You’re alive for 1 minute and you’ve already lived 20 seconds of it… What will you do for the remaining 40 seconds?
  • Why are people so scared to take chances?
  • “Happiness is progress”
  • “We all have the right ingredients… We just need the recipe.”
  • Goal Setting — We need to take time to recalibrate
  • “You’re like a glass of muddy water… Until you’re still, you won’t have clarity.”
  • Public speaking — Why this should be taught in schools from a young age
  • “I’ve realized the beauty in the unknown. Magic lives in the unknown. The most beautiful things in life are the unknown.”
  • Why 5 year plans are not helpful

“Don’t you think the most addictive thing in the world is comfort?”

Continue Learning:

You may also like these episodes:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: Nate Boyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 073: Jay Bilas – World Class ESPN Basketball Broadcaster, Toughness, Fixing The NCAA

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Did you enjoy the podcast?

If you enjoyed hearing Vinh Giang on the show, please don’t hesitate to send me a note on Twitter or email me.

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

The Learning Leader Show is supported by FreshBooksFreshBooks is offering a 30 day, unrestricted free trial to my listeners. To claim it, just go to FreshBooks.com/Learning and enter LEARNING LEADER in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.

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Episode 181: Srini Rao – How To Be Unmistakably Creative

 

Episode 181: Srini Rao – How To Be Unmistakably Creative

Srini Rao is the host and founder of The Unmistakable Creative podcast where he’s conducted over 600 interviews with thought leaders and people from all walks of life. This has given him an incredibly distinctive view into branding, storytelling, and marketing. Srini has also written multiple books including the Wall Street Journal bestseller The Art of Being Unmistakable; created,planned, and executed a 60-person conference called the Instigator Experience;and am publishing the forthcoming Unmistakable book with Penguin Portfolio. Somewhere along the way his compass led him in the direction of an economics degree from the University of California at Berkeley and an MBA from Pepperdine University. Extracting unmistakable stories out of people is his superpower. And in his spare time he’s usually chasing waves.

Episode 181: Srini Rao – How To Be Unmistakably Creative

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“All change is proceeded by crisis.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Common themes to sustain excellence:
    • A pathological inability to accept the status quo
    • Resilience
    • A disciplined work ethic
  • Why the path is never linear
  • Reading 100 books a year
  • How to turn disadvantages into disproportionate advantages
  • The Pepperdine MBA – How it impacted Srini
  • “Most people like the idea of leaping, but not executing on it”
  • How to make “micro-changes”
  • Creating multiple streams of revenue:
    • Author (book deals)
    • Speaking
    • Sponsors
    • Projects
  • Why you should write 1,000 words per day
  • “Systems vs. Goals”
  • Stephen Pressfield – “The Resistance”
  • The “8 Step Daily Routine”
  • Why surfing helps Srini
  • Having the ability to navigate and weave in and out of relationships
  • Learning Leader = A lifelong commitment to becoming better on a daily basis

“Is what you’re doing today leading to what you want to do five years from now?”

Continue Learning:

You may also like these episodes:

Episode 179: How To Sustain Excellence – The Best Answers From 178 Conversations

Episode 175: Michael Hyatt – How To Get Noticed In A Noisy World

Episode 073: Jay Bilas – World Class ESPN Basketball Broadcaster, Toughness, Fixing The NCAA

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Did you enjoy the podcast?

If you enjoyed hearing Srini Rao on the show, please don’t hesitate to send me a note on Twitter or email me.

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

The Learning Leader Show is supported by FreshBooksFreshBooks is offering a 30 day, unrestricted free trial to my listeners. To claim it, just go to FreshBooks.com/Learning and enter LEARNING LEADER in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section.

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Episode 180: Michael Watkins – The First 90 Days: How To Ensure Success In Your New Role

 

Episode 180: Michael Watkins – The First 90 Days: How To Ensure Success In Your New Role

Dr. Michael Watkins is the author of Your Next Move: The Leader’s Guide to Navigating Major Career Transitions, and the international bestseller The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at all Levels, which The Economist called “the on-boarding bible.” With more than 750,000 copies sold in English, and translations in 27 languages, The First 90 Days has become the standard reference for leaders in transition. Recently The First 90 Days was named one of the best 100 business books of all time.

Drawing on the perfect combination of research and hand-on experience, he has spent the last two decades working with leaders – both corporate and public — as they transition to new roles, negotiate the future of their organizations, and craft their legacy as leaders.

Episode 180: Michael Watkins – The First 90 Days: How To Ensure Success In Your New Role

Subscribe on iTunes  or Stitcher Radio

The Learning Leader Show

“I help leaders and their teams make good career transitions.”

In This Episode, You Will Learn:

  • Common themes to sustain excellence:
    • Learning Agility – Not shy about learning, and they don’t expect themselves to have all the answers
    • Diversity of Experience – Multiple functions, multiple companies
    • Delicate balance between humility and ego
  • Jeff Immelt from GE is a good example
  • Confidence vs. Ego — Desire to achieve, but cannot create echo chambers.
  • The First 90 Days — Michael’s world-wide best selling book on how to transition to a leadership role
  • The Leadership Pipeline – Another book to help make the transition from individual contributor to management. It’s a completely different skill set
  • The toughest move/promotion is the very first one
  • The common traps leaders fall in to — Relying only on what they’re good at. Must broaden skills. You have to be a force multiplier.
    • Common Issues and problems leaders run in to: “Coming in with the answer. Not building lateral relationships. Engaging on the wrong side of learning.”
  • Why you must re-learn how to learn
    • How is the culture different?
      • Politically
      • Technically
  • Who is the “dream team?” The five people you must meet immediately upon taking a new role
  • The importance of the boss and the role she plays in helping
  • Momentum — Creating early wins.  Why you must make this happen
    • Look for little irritants to remove
    • Secure a win by thinking differently
  • Your first public address to the group — Prepare, Prepare, Prepare. The first impression is vital
  • How to prepare for a management (role) interview
  • Why a “One Sheet” of your core beliefs is better than a 30-60-90 day plan

“You have to be a force multiplier. You can’t be a super-rep.”

Continue Learning:

You may also like these episodes:

Episode 078: Kat Cole – From Hooters Waitress To President of Cinnabon

Episode 071: Nate Boyer – Green Beret, Texas Football, The NFL

Episode 073: Jay Bilas – World Class ESPN Basketball Broadcaster, Toughness, Fixing The NCAA

Episode 107: Simon Sinek – Leadership: It Starts With Why

Did you enjoy the podcast?

If you enjoyed hearing Michael Watkins on the show, please don’t hesitate to send me a note on Twitter or email me.

Episode edited by the great J Scott Donnell

The Learning Leader Show is supported by  Mizzen and Main: Performance fabric menswear. The most comfortable/durable dress shirts you will find on the market. I personally own 22 of them. To get free shipping, use the code “ryanhawk” — To get $50 off when you purchase three shirts, use the code “ryanhawk3” — Thank you for your support!

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