Becoming Exceptional

I had an interesting discussion with my 14 year old this evening. He had his tank top on, his work out shorts ready to go, and was asking if we were going to the gym tonight. Landon is a great kid, with a huge heart, and in the last 18 months, I’ve seen an incredible transition in him going from a little boy, to a man. He’s added a foot to his height, his legs have built up some meat on them, and testosterone is definitely starting to pump through those veins. This little man just wants to play football and run into things.

For the last couple of months, Landon has been a great motivator for me to get back in the gym on a regular basis. The gym was my second home from middle school though my thirties, but I have to admit, we’ve grown apart as I’ve entered my mid forties. Landon’s desire to become a great football player and get bigger have been an awesome motivator to get back into a workout schedule.

Tonight was no different than most nights. Landon wanted to hit the gym with me, but tonight was different because we have guests in town, and leaving for the gym wasn’t a viable option. I told Landon as much, and left him to figure it out. A half hour later, I saw him lounging and asked what he was doing, and he said, “if you’re not taking me to the gym, I’m just going to go to bed.”

This struck a nerve.

“Landon,” I said, “What is it that you want?”

“What do you mean?” he asked?

“What do you want out of football? Do you want to be good, or do you really want to go to Alabama, Oregon, or one of those huge schools that you keep talking about?”

“I’m probably going to go to Alabama or Clemson to play football,” he replied.

Now, I’m not going to tell my son that he can’t accomplish those goals, and he definitely has the ability to do it, but there’s a couple of things I’ve shared with him that are facts:

1) Only the best of the best play college ball

2) Only the best, of the best of the best play at colleges like Clemson, Oregon, or Alabama

3) The best do whatever they have to do to succeed, regardless of what obstacles are placed in front of them

I come from a loving family, but my parents were definitely not athletic. When I was growing up, athletics was something that I had to fight for every day, because it wasn’t considered a high quality pursuit. Ironically, my brother and sister were the same way, and also pursued athletics hard. Motivation had to come from other places than our parents, and most of the time, it just had to come from within.

“Landon,” I said, “if you truly want to be the best at football, or anything, then you have to get rid of all excuses, and find a way to accomplish your goals.”

I continued, “My NOT taking you to the gym can’t be an excuse. There are tons of amazing athletes in colleges that come from poor backgrounds, that found a way to get in shape and be great, with a lot of ‘excuses,’ that they could use around them, that you’ll never have to deal with.

“Go and use the weight sets we have in the house… Go and use the jump ropes… Go do bench press on the Swiss ball, or just go do a ton of push ups and sit ups. What are you willing to do to achieve what you want?!”

Becoming exceptional is not something that comes from nature. It comes from practice. It comes from putting in the time and effort that others aren’t willing to put in. It comes from learning to find comfort in the uncomfortable, and learning to love the pain of growth. Exceptional is not good. Exceptional is not great. Exceptional is the 1% of the 1%. The best of the best. It’s the top. To get there is making a decision to make your life more than you think it can be. It’s deciding that if you were to look back on your life, that you’d know that there wasn’t anything more that you could do. That you’d squeezed every last drop of potential from your soul.

Exceptional performance isn’t just something that’s set aside for athletes. It falls into every aspect of life. If you’re in sales, are you doing it more efficiently and are you working longer than the other guy? Do you know your sales talks word for word, or are you okay with just “kind of” knowing most of it? Do you know how to handle objections, and what to say when you’re hit with one? Do you welcome rejection, knowing that the more you get, the more successful you’ll be? Are you building your career like you just invested your families welfare into the success of that business? In other words, if you didn’t give it EVERYTHING that you had, that your family would starve?

Being exceptional means that although you’re working for the rewards that your work can bring, that you realize that sacrifice is what makes that possible. It means spending time away from family, not making a lot of money initially, and having to deal with your fractured ego, sometimes for months, before you begin to see real positive growth.

In nearly 30 years of direct sales experience, I think the most difficult thing I’ve had to accept is the (literally) thousands of new sales people that I’ve worked with that have had HUGE aspirations, and have committed to do “whatever it takes,” to only fade away at the first sign of real difficulty. On the flip side, I’ve also had the chance to work with some of those sales people that have pushed through, and have become thought leaders in their fields, and exceptionally wealthy along the way. Every single one of them had the capability to be there, but only a fraction of a percent become truly exceptional.

What is it that you want from you life? Is it to be above average? Is it to be great? I’ve heard it said that true Hell is to complete your time on earth, and be introduced to the “You” that you could have been, if you’d truly used your full potential. I want to meet that person on even ground.

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