What do Michael Jordan, JJ Watt, and Jerry Rice all have in common? Yes, they are all superstar athletes with tremendous talent. Their talent alone is not what sets their greatness apart. There are many individuals just as talented, even more talented, yet we never heard of them. The real reason that sets these superstars apart is they made a choice to be great, and they put in the work. When everyone else goes home, these guys continue to work on their craft. They continue to grow and stretch themselves to new limits.

On HBO’s series, Hard Knocks, I watched JJ Watt. Watt continued to practice late into the night, long after the team had gone home. It’s no wonder he’s been the NFL defense player of the year 3 times. He has a) identified his strengths and passion and b) put in the work to be the best.

For those of us who aren’t professional athletes, the same principle of work ethic holds true. This doesn’t mean we need to stay in the office, working long after everyone is gone. Like the great athletes, we need to identify our strengths, and then build upon them. It’s never too late to continue to grow and challenge ourselves. For me, it wasn’t until my 30’s that I started understanding my strengths. I then took action to go back to school. The key phrase in the last sentence is took action.

Taking action is the key to growth. Many of us have grand ideas, yet we fail to take action. Perhaps the biggest reason we fail to take action is fear. Fear has caused countless amounts of people to live unfulfilled lives. When we work up the courage to face fear a funny thing happens. We discover our fears were an illusion of our own creation.

It’s like the discovery of the all-powerful Wizard of Oz being just a little man behind a curtain. The problem is not this external thing we fear. The real problem is us and our thinking.

When it comes to putting in the work to grow, here are some suggestions. First, if you don’t know what your strengths are, find out. We each have unique talents. When we work towards our strengths, we excel and enjoy our work. Next, start taking action.

This doesn’t mean you need to tackle monumental life changing tasks all at once. Take small steps in the direction you want to head. The important thing is that you take action and keep moving forward!

Say for example, you always wanted to go back to school. Or you always wanted to lead a team at work. Instead of thinking about how difficult it would be, take a small action. Make an appointment with an admissions counselor. Set a meeting with your manager. By making that first appointment, you have taken the first step in the right direction.

That first action will lead to another action, and another. Before long you will have made significant progress towards your goal. When we put our intentions out there and take action, the universe responds in our favor.

We may not all have the physical talent to be a champion athlete, but we all have the choice to become great. We can become great at whom we are and we can give back to this world. The key is to make a decision and take action. I’ll end this post with a quote from Jim Collins. He writes: “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline” (Collins, 2001).


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