Addition By Subtraction
As a young coach, I always thought the answer was in more - more offensive sets to run, more defensive systems to play, more baseline out of bounds options to call. The sporadic jolts of success were enough to fool me into believing more was the way.
I would attend clinics or conferences, amazed by the success others were experiencing by doing all the things I wasn’t doing. I scribbled down notes, vowing to be better by committing to these new found secrets. Each session led to additions to my approach, and to our program.
We read to expand our knowledge. We network to grow our contacts. Progress by expansion is the model we’ve come to accept. The more things we know, the better. The more people that know us, the better.
Clearly more is better, right? Society loves to shove it in our faces - more money, more cars, more rooms, more things is how we express our success.
It would be hard to argue if it weren’t so wrong.
Why Should We Care?
If we’re astute, as we travel down this path of more we will notice something that clearly separates the average from the excellent. We have to look below the surface, and know what to look for, but it’s always there.
The problem is, we always look at the margin instead of the core.
See, the difference isn’t in an offensive set or a baseline out of bounds play. It’s not in a great client or better pension plan. The difference isn’t in what anyone does, it’s in how they do it. Unfortunately, we don’t want to believe the simplicity of how the best do what they do.
We want it to be about more, not less.
Listen to an interview with someone that has sustained excellence in any field. The best leaders will always talk about the same things: building relationships, serving others, working hard, and being exceptional at the ‘fundamentals’ of their specific trade. Sure, some will say it in their own way with their own clever vernacular, but they all say the same things.
You know what we do when we hear this though, right?
Sure. We dismiss the reference to the basics as being obvious and cling to any marginal information or examples that provide us with the more we were craving.
Everyone does it, everyone except the excellent.
For some reason, they hear it a little differently.
They see the drastic commitment to the few as the driving force it is. They quickly disregard the margins, realizing that’s a personal choice that can, and should, change from leader to leader. Those on the path to excellence are in tune with the foundation of the process, not the details based on personal preference.
They’re examining the core, not the margins.
REAL TALK - Action Steps
The appeal to make additions to our system is not only significant, but necessary in order to progress and improve. However, we must be careful to avoid addition as our only means for growth. In fact, the opposite, subtraction, is a quicker path to excellence. Here are a few ideas on how to get, or stay, focused on the core rather than the margins.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of excellence. Adding seems like the answer, oddly enough, it hardly ever is. By thinking about removing the trivial we free ourselves to commit the necessary time to the critical.
For more information on building excellence in your teams, visit us at www.bluecollargrit.com.
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I'm a teacher, coach, and parent seeking excellence while defining success on my own terms.