The man on top of the mountain didn’t fall there. -Vince Lombardi
If you’ve never been a professional basketball fan, now is a good time to tune in. The Cleveland Cavaliers are locked in a tough battle with the Golden State Warriors for the NBA championship. The first two games went into overtime, a first for a finals series, and both teams are bringing their best in a bid for the title.
On display are two of the game’s elite players. The marquee player for the Warriors is Stephen Curry, the regular season MVP. The Cavaliers are led by Lebron James – arguably the best player on the planet. These two men bring their best game after game and, as a result, raise the level of play from their teammates.
Whether you’re talking about athletes, craftsmen, salespeople, or service providers; there are certain traits that set the best apart. I’m not talking about natural ability or physical characteristics. What puts top performers on the top is the way they approach the game.
Top performers constantly look to improve. The best of the best are never satisfied with their performance. They know there’s always something more they can do to get better. There’s always something else they can do to elevate their game. And knowing there’s something they can do to improve, they can’t sit still. They feel compelled to pursue the next level.
Top performers seek out feedback. There’s only so far you can improve on your own. Those who seek excellence understand that assistance is necessary for them to move on. So they reach out to the best resources they can find – their coach, other experts, more experienced players – and ask them for help. You don’t achieve elite status without inviting others to evaluate your performance. Assessment isn’t viewed as an inconvenience; it’s considered a necessity.
Top performers respond to constructive criticism. Superstars welcome criticism more than accolades. It’s not that they don’t appreciate praise and validation; but “atta-boys” alone don’t help you improve. To achieve greatness, you have to understand what’s keeping you from it. You need someone who will point out your weaknesses and then help you tackle them. The elite need to hear the bad news; but they need to hear it from someone who cares about their success. In the end, they stand on top; but they don’t stand alone.
As of this writing the Warriors have the advantage, having gone up three games to two in the best-of-seven series. Regardless of which team winds up on top, I’m enjoying the show. Seeing top performers do what they do best is always a treat.