05 Jul Be the Best
The phrase ‘Be the Best’ may sound like a cliché for the uninitiated. However, top-class musicians, sportsmen, painters, sculptors, or for that matter, successful organisations all have a common mantra: remain the best in whatever they do. Indian aviation entrepreneur Capt. Gopinath who introduced Deccan Air, the erstwhile low-cost airline, has a mention about remaining the best, in his autobiography ‘Simply Fly’. In a casual conversation Gopi had with his father, as written in the book, Gopi asked him who he thought the best cobbler in the world was. Gopi was startled when his father’s response was ‘Nike’, unarguably a world-class footwear brand. I leave it to the readers to guess as to who are the best manufacturers in the world today of bikes, aeroplanes, cosmetics, watches, pens, diamonds, phones or laptops.
What makes someone the Best?
Well-known writer Jim Collins in his best-seller book ‘Good to Great’ has an interesting analogy. A 10-tonne giant fly-wheel fitted on an axel has to be rotated by a single man. Sounds near impossible! How does one push a giant wheel of that size? The man however makes an enduring effort. With all his power he keeps pushing the fly-wheel. It takes a couple of hours. Each push moves an inch. One, Two, Three, Four… push again… Five… keep pushing. Whoosh! The giant wheel is moving; and somewhat faster now… and voila! If then someone queries – “Which is that one push that moved the giant wheel?”- the question seems absurd. Of course, it is!
This anecdote applies to the performances of best people as well. To be the best one has to make one’s best effort not once, twice, thrice but countless times!
Ten Thousand Rules
Noted author Malcolm Gladwell in his classic book ‘Outlier’ mentions the 10,000-hours rule. He quotes from results of numerous studies by scientists that revealed that the best performances of the world, be it in sports, music, painting, business or anything for that matter, requires minimum 10,000 hours of practice to get mastery. If anyone wishes to become a music virtuoso, for example, he or she has to devote at least that many hours of practice on that instrument.
Take another example of Indian Sports. India is a cricket-crazy nation; Sachin Tendulkar is a demigod. Would anyone doubt his 10,000-hour devotion to his batting practice? For any aspiring amateur, to become the best in his field, he must have long hours of practice behind him. Becoming the best comes with the toil and sweat of hard work. Hard work, though, is very subjective. It has the connotation of painful practise. Actually, it is not. If one wishes to pursue one’s dream with passion, no practice is painful. Passion in any work brings forth the magical chemical ‘Endorphin’ in a person’s body that suppresses the pain produced due to arduous practise.
Why don’t we find many ‘best’ professionals around us? Being the best requires a lot of investment – time, commitment, dedication, consistency, etc. Take for example, Champions. Everyone can’t become winners. Only the best can. To become a winner one has to develop a magical habit known as the ‘Keystone Habit’. In his popular book ‘The power of Habit’, New York Times author Charles Duhigg gives an account of the famous Olympian Michael Phelps and his coach Bob Bowman, citing Keystone Habits. Michael Phelps, at the age of seven, caused a number of problems for his mother due to uncontrollable suppressed energy. She took Michael to Bob Bowman requesting him to train her son for swimming. Bob Bowman noticed a strange phenomenon in Phelps’s physiology – a long torso, and long hands but short legs. All three features are indeed highly desirable for swimming. He made Phelps an avid student through his excellent coaching techniques.
Bob Bowman first of all quietened Phelps’s mind by forcing him to watch some selective sports videos. He took him to many pools of different sizes. He even put him in a pitch-dark swimming pool for several nights for practice. It took many years for Bob Bowman to inculcate a ‘Keystone Habit’. Michael Phelps enjoyed his practice with undivided devotion. Practice enabled him to focus on the right food. It enabled him to choose the right music for focus and concentration. The result was historical!
Charles Duhigg quotes a number of examples about Keystone Habits. He writes in the book that if a person starts a simple walking exercise on a regular basis, that becomes a ‘Keystone Habit’. Regular exercise would then make the person choose the right food, right sleeping pattern and many right attitudes. Best performers have developed ‘Keystone Habits’. They must first of all identify the correct ‘Keystone Habit’. There are plenty of habits one can develop to become the best.
The 5 am Club
The popular self-development coach and motivational speaker Robin Sharma in his new book ‘The 5 am Club’ has popularised the idea of getting up early. He claims in the book that the most successful people have the habit of getting up early. He further mentions that it is only a very small number of people who actually make full use of the morning goodness while the rest of the world sleeps. He advocates that waking up early would pave the way to become successful as it helps use the morning-time productively. This one single habit enables an individual to get enough time for meditation, reading, writing, cooking or whatever they choose to do.
The famous guru, writer, philosopher and business man Napoleon Hill has influenced millions of people through his seminal book ‘Think and Grow Rich’. Research has proved that hundreds of people have become millionaires and successful by reading this book. ‘Think and Grow Rich’ inculcates desire in people. Desire is the bedrock of success. If one wants to become a best musician, one should desire it deeply. Note the word ‘world’s best’. That is the dream one should nurture, according to Napoleon Hill. When you have lofty dreams, people even mock those dreams as ridiculous. Let the world mock. If one wants to realise one’s dream, one should take away the fear out of themselves. They should strengthen their wish sub-consciously, regularly, every day. Napoleon advocates that his readers must pen down their desires and the amount of money they wish to earn. He advises his readers to mention the timeline, and most importantly, identify the specialised skill and knowledge required to realize one’s dream.
So, my take is, if we wish to achieve our dream, we have to become the best. To become the best, we have to identify the ‘Keystone Habit’. Once the ‘Keystone Habit’ is formed, we have to relentlessly practice at least for 10,000 hours. And indefatigably, we have to pursue our goal till we achieve our dream.
-by Dr. Chidambaram Babu, Director