8 proven performance practices from billionaires and elite athletes

Average is over.

By Benjamin P. Hardy, Thrive Global

polevault_webThe middle-ground has all but dissolved, leaving you in one of two positions: among the leading few or mediocre many.

Your relationship with technology will either facilitate unthinkable opportunity and growth or keep you on the wrong side of average. As Cal Newport has said in his recent book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World:

“The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill, and then make it the core of their working life, will thrive.”

Success has never been so attainable, thus making many of us spoiled and lazy. But the following eight strategies are intended to shake up your approach, challenging you to work and live at a higher and more conscious level.

Here we go:

1. Don’t Be Afraid Of Making An “Ugly” Move

Until recent history, certain chess strategies were unquestioned dogma among the world’s elite. They were written in books and taught to all rising padawan learners.

But the validity of these strategies have come into question as computers have been programmed to consistently beat top players. While analyzing the computer’s strategy, players have been shocked and amused by the computer’s use of certain “ugly” moves — which no trained chess player would ever do — that utterly clash with conventional wisdom.

Rather than finesse and aesthetics guiding their strategy, the computer’s brute calculations allow it to examine every position concretely. In response to the surprising insights learned from computers, chess players have been forced to question their long-held assumptions.

As Magnus Carlsen, the World Chess Champion, explained in an interview with Business Insider:

You cannot rely on what has been taught in books — that this is good, this is bad — there are always exceptions and every situation is different.

Even if something looks bad, it doesn’t look right, you calculate it, it works and… there you go! It’s just forcing us to look a bit further, to look away from what the books used to teach us. It’s forcing us to break the rules.”

No matter what field you are in, there are rigid norms guiding your thinking — the rules considered “best practice.” However, life (and chess) is messy and complex, and every situation calls for a more contextual analysis.

What is right in your situation may not be right in mine.

For example, it makes little sense to most people why I’m getting a PhD. Many would consider it an “ugly” move. And perhaps, to most people pursuing my aims, it is an ugly move. But given my situation and personal calculations, it’s a strong strategic decision. The ugly zig while most are zagging.

There are always exceptions.

And rather than obsessing how your decisions are perceived, make the best possible decisions you can — whether standard or anomaly. Your calculations are solid, and like the computers in chess, you’ll be able to “connect the dots looking backwards.” What may look ugly to others in the moment will be your victory in the end.

2. Realize That You’re Not “Way” Behind

In sports and all other forms of competition, people perform best when the game is close. Which is why big magic happens at the end of games, like on-sides kicks retrieved followed by 30 second touchdown drives. But when the contest is decidedly in one opponent’s favor, neither side acts with the same effort.

When you’re winning big, it’s easy to get lax and overconfident. When you’re losing big, it’s easy to give up.

Sadly, you probably perceive those at the top of your field “in a different league” altogether. But when you do this, you perform with less intensity than you would if you perceived the “game” to be closer.

When you elevate your thinking — and see yourself on the same level as those at “the top” — you quickly become disillusioned by the fallibility of those you once perceived as immortal. They are just people. Most importantly, you will begin playing with an urgency that often surpasses even them.

The game is close. The game is close. Read more …

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