“Blessed are the curious for they shall have adventures.”  — Anonymous

I was asked, “What are the elements that lead to being the best at a particular discipline?”

It’s a great question and one I have often thought about. I have worked with many organizations and leaders from around the world. I am intensely curious about how they have achieved their personal levels of excellence. Their specific answers to how they achieved their successes vary greatly, but there is a pattern to those answers.

Collect experiences.  
This means getting experience from diverse projects and from working with many people. It means being brave enough to fail. It also means having the bravery to succeed at something difficult and bold.

Learn from experiences.
I have heard from many people who have taken my training that they suddenly realized that 20 years of work had not given them 20 years of experience. Instead, they had had 1 experience repeated 20 times. Years of experience alone is not enough. To turn the experience into learning, be diligent about exploring the why of failure and success. 

Be intensely curious.  
Collecting just your own experiences is also not enough. Be curious about the people you meet. Learn from them about their experiences. Ask them about their best success. Ask them about their worst failure. Ask them the “why did it work or not” question.

Be intensely curious about the theories you develop to explain success. Try them out. If you succeed, don’t assume that all the reasons for your success are obvious. Keep exploring.  Bring that curiosity to the fore and try to push the envelope on the next opportunity.

There is one more part of the question of how to “be the best” at something.

You do not have to compete with others.

The more important thing is simply this: are you getting better than the you of two weeks ago?

If you keep doing that, you will find satisfaction and pride in your own achievements.

Yours in the calm pursuit of excellence,


Alan Willett

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