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[Pushing the envelope for growth, success ]

By Humanity Search and Select

So just how far are you willing to go – and what are you willing to put in – to ensure true success in business and on a personal level?

While pondering this recently I came across an article called ‘The five traits of wildly successful people’. One story in particular caught my attention, because this man pushed the envelope from when he was a child. Here’s the piece that truly impressed me:

Growing up, Sugar Ray Leonard would wake up, get dressed for school, and walk with his siblings to the bus stop. As the yellow bus would pull to the curb, his friends and siblings would step up into the school bus, but young Sugar Ray Leonard, who is now a six-time world champion boxer, would refuse to get on. As the bus drove away, Leonard tightened up his sneakers and ran behind the bus all the way to school.

“The other kids thought I was crazy,” Leonard said, “because I would run in the rain, snow—it didn’t matter. I did it because I didn’t just want to be better than the next guy, I wanted to be better than all the guys.”

The article ends with the comment: “Does what you’re working on excite you so much that it inspires an irrational sense of commitment? Are you willing to chase the school bus for years – before seeing any return? If so, keep running. If not, maybe it’s time to think bigger.”

Similarly we all remember he story in Jim Collins book “Good to Great” about Dave Scott, the six-time winner of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon. As Collins tells it: “In training, Scott would ride his bike 75 miles, swim 20 000 meters, and run 17 miles - on average – every single day. Dave Scott did not have a weight problem, yet he believed that a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet would give him an extra edge. So, Scott – a man who burned at least 5 000 calories a day in training – would literally rinse his cottage cheese to get the extra fat off. Now, there is no evidence that he absolutely needed to rinse his cottage cheese to win the Ironman; that’s not the point of the story. The point is that rinsing his cottage cheese was simply one more small step that he believed would make him just that much better; one more small step added to all the other small steps to create a consistent program of super-discipline.”

Living in a world of “instant gratification” – made easier by being able to buy products online and yoga lessons on YouTube with the click of a mouse – we have raised the so called “Gen Y” to working age. The media has touted this group as one that works smart not hard, and may often feel entitled to having things fall into their collective laps.

I still believe, however, that there’s no substitute for putting in the hard yards for results you may only see some time in the future; for pushing your own personal envelope at every opportunity; and for not only having a dream, but striving for it daily.

If you’re a business executive or community leader, wouldn’t you want a Sugar Ray Leonard working for you? How successful could your company or organisation be if every member in it had a goal they were striving for, and you saw the value in their running behind the school bus or washing their cottage cheese?

Passionate commitment is a rare and exquisite thing. You find it in small patches across our society – the student who walks miles to school in the hopes of one day graduating from University; the person who starts out as a driver for a large organisation and works their way up the ladder into a senior leadership role; the matriculant who waitresses to put herself through a computer course because her dream is to own IT company.

It’s easy to look at business leaders and other icons that have “made it” and think that somehow they got better breaks than we did; that they had a leg-up that we didn’t. In many instances, though, this isn’t so. Opportunities surround us all every day – we have to be alive to them and when they appear fleetingly, we have to be prepared to do what it takes to grab them with both hands. I will always remember Gary Player saying, “The harder I practice, the luckier I get.”

I love how the author closed his article, too: “Sugar Ray Leonard kept at it, to the point that others thought was irrational. Turns out irrational commitment leads to irrational success.”

So, how far are YOU willing to go for “irrational success”?



The 5 Traits of Wildly Successful People by Alex B, Author (Penguin Random House) and Venture Capital Associate (Alsop Louie Partners)