April 17, 2011 | Barb Carr

Reach Your Peak Performance by Captain George Burk

The first important step to reach your peak performance, to get the most from yourself and others, is to objectively analyze your philosophical outlook. Your attitude about yourself and life, not your aptitude, plays a significant role in your altitude.

“The difference between aptitude and altitude is one letter. How do you spell?”
George Burk

No one likes a sourpuss, someone who’s always negative in their thoughts, words and actions. I’ve found that positives attract positives and negatives attract negatives. It manifests in the way people think, act, talk and dress. Survivors, in the truest sense of the word, see themselves as winners, and people who act like victims and play the victim card, see themselves as losers.  To help maximize your potential and the potential in others, here are a few ideas:

Take responsibility. Winners think and act proactively when they try to improve difficult work situations, said Keith Cameron Smith, author of “The Top 10 Distinctions Between Winners and Whiners.” Winners deal with their disappointments, encourage themselves and move on,” he said.

Winners and survivors, through positive self-talk, tell themselves, “My thoughts, emotions and actions are my responsibility and no one else’s.” Vice-Admiral James B. Stockdale USN (Ret), Medal of Honor winner and POW for 8 plus years in the “Hanoi Hilton” said that life’s about the internals and the externals. As a POW, he painfully learned that he couldn’t control what his captors said to him, did to him or thought of him (externals). What he could control was how he thought and responded to what his captors did to him, how he received and processed it (internals).

“Success is often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.”
Coco Chanel, designer

Contrast that with whiners who always seem to have a habit to know when and how to play the            victim card. That’s counterproductive in the work place. I’ve often thought that one reason this occurs is throughout most of their life, they’ve been enabled by parent(s), friends and co-workers. No one’s had the intestinal fortitude to hold them accountable for their choices and decisions. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility: coach, teacher, friend, co-worker or boss.  For example, parents who want to be their children’s friend versus being their parent. Parents who live vicariously through their children’s success. They seldom use “tough love” principles. The examples are, I think, endless.

“The only difference between an optimist and a pessimist is the optimist is much happier.”

Learn how to persevere. Winners learn how to crawl, leap and otherwise overcome obstacles; whiners expend great amounts of energy to find and think of excuses why they won’t be or weren’t successful.  They commit and enroll in the “Law of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.” It then becomes the way they approach (almost) everything in their life. Winners see setbacks as messages to learn and grow or to try a new approach or something different, Smith says.  Whiners choose continue to use the strategies that don’t work (because they know they don’t work) or just flat give up. “Winners look at their results and, if they’re not what they want, find a different way of being and doing until they get the results they seek,” he wrote.

Winners dig down into the deepest part of their psyche, I call it the “second self,” and pull out their perseverance, grittiness, dogged determination, “I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit” voice they hear to live, overcome, move on, be successful and learn from the experience. It isn’t easy. Then again, no one ever said life was supposed to be easy. Winners fall down but they don’t stay down long.

“Life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s a cinch.”

Commit and enroll. Have the determination, conviction and guts to pay the price. Hardly anything in life is achieved easily and, I believe, too many people quit, throw in the towel and give up on their personal and professional dreams and goals.  “The difference between the successful and unsuccessful is not the absence of obstacles, but the presence of perseverance, hard work and discipline,” says Chris Widener, author of “Leadership Rules.”  Widener, and this writer, discovered that those who achieve success and greatness tend to be the hardest and smartest workers.  I’ve seen this play out throughout my life in numerous personal scenarios and careers.  The peak performers I know (and knew) possess the personal core values of competence, courage, compassion (love) and perseverance.  “They set the standard of work high for themselves and others. It isn’t something they will do in the future. It is something they do every day,” Widener says.

“Good leaders make people feel that they’re at the very heart of things, not on the periphery.”
Warren Bennis, business professor

Create specific goals. Establish clear and specific goals (what) and objectives (how) for yourself and your staff. Hold yourself accountable first, then your staff to know and understand the goals and objectives. This process and mind-set will “move you forward,” Widener says.

Listen. Winners have learned to listen twice as much as they talk, while whiners, it seems, do just the opposite. They spend far too much time “bending someone’s ear,” sharing with all who will listen how tough they have it and how the ‘world’ continues to ‘mess’ with them.  “When you choose to focus your attention on listening to understand rather than listening to respond, you learn more, connect better, and start seeing the world differently, which leads to new experiences and ideas,” Smith said. How many of you have known a person who listens over you when you’re speaking to them; they are thinking about their next rebuttal instead of really listening to you. You can almost ‘see’ their mind at work. Truth be told, I suspect we’re all guilty. Difference is winners acknowledge it and change; whiners…don’t.

Become the benchmark. Benchmark is a quality improvement tool that means to be the best you have to study the best. And to study the best you must first determine what it is you need and want to improve. To reach your peak performance (a strategic goal), determine the people you know who are peak performers and find out why. What is it that makes them successful? Analyze their verbal and non-verbal skills; their people skills; their charisma. What is it about them that get people to want to follow them? Do they possess “it?” What’s the “it” they possess? Can you define it or is it like the basic definition of Quality (and Charisma) “You know it when you see it.” Strive to become the benchmark by which others are measured. One way: Walk-the-Talk.

Stay the course. Stress and obstacles are a natural part of life. What isn’t natural’s when the stress and obstacles are self-created. The comic strip Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  That said, stress and obstacles can lead to frantic and reactionary thought and behavior. When you teach your mind to focus on your top priorities, your mind can become relaxed, quiet and you find yourself at peace. A mind at peace is a mind with focus, is a powerful ally and can generate new ideas to help you solve the challenges that create stress and to overcome obstacles.

“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and ceased only at death.”
Albert Einstein, physicist

KISS IT. Keep it Simple Because I’m Stupid. I knew a basketball coach who began every season by telling his players, “Men, this is a basketball. The object is to put the ball in the basket more than our opponents.”  The message was that the players task wasn’t difficult but doing it as perfectly as possible was their challenge.  Dean Smith, the legendary basketball coach at the University of North Carolina, when asked what made him so effective said that he found behaviors on his players he liked, and reinforced his approval in them. “Simplicity is the key,” Widener said.

“Both now and for always, I intend to hold fast to my belief in the hidden strength of the human spirit.”
Andrei Sakharov, physicist

Never stop learning. Return to school or read books. Get training and acquire skills.


Learn more about the author, Captain George Burk, on his website:  www.georgeburk.com

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