I think most people strive to be their best. They want to be their best. They want to be a great parent, have a great career, and be a great spouse. But are they a champion? When I mention being a champion, I’m not talking about getting a trophy for physical prowess as much as getting one for being your personal best. I’m talking about achieving an aspiration or overcoming an adversity.
For example, when I think of a champion, I think of a friend, Tara Rayburn. Life hit her with adversities when she learned that her young children had severe food allergies. She did not just go to the doctor, accept what they told her, and chalk it up to fate. Nope. She became a health champion. She committed and dived in to become a health champion for her kids. She didn’t just pick up a book or two. She read books and spent one-on-one time with doctors, healers, grandmothers, herbalists, and also took part in scores of health conferences ever since her kids were little. Here is the cool part: She became an expert herself, wrote books, and created programs to help others, and she is still a learning sponge! That is a champion, and she got the best trophy of all, two amazing, healthy kids.
So, what must someone do to become a champion? I think there are four essential musts. What are they?
Must #1: Decide
When I look back at all of the major events of my life, I can see a definite turning point. When I dissect that turning point, I see that much happened before it, and much happened after it. The happenings before and after are quite different. My efforts evolved on two completely different spectrums. The happenings before were indecisive and often scattered. The happenings afterward build on each other and create unstoppable momentum.
What is at the heart of the turning point? The decision. Period. Recently I heard Mike Rayburn, a man whom I consider a mentor, tell his story. Despite Mike’s early successes and amazing work ethic, his mentor, Brian Tracy, asked him, “Have you resolved to be the best?” Mike was already at the top of his game, or so he thought, but he humbly realized that he had not resolved to be the best, his personal best. He had not reached his full potential.
When I look back at my experiences and successes, it is easy to see when the change occurred: when I went from simply making progress to being fully committed. When I decided I was going to become a comedian, my perspective changed. I looked at books differently and other people on stage differently. I had a hunger and desire to learn from every moment. I was a dry sponge sopping up all I could. Before the decision, I read the books, but I did not shut out the rest of my world and was easily distracted.
When I decided to become my personal best in the International Speech Contest, again everything changed. I had worked hard, and I had listened to feedback through five levels of the speech contest. I even had a coach. After making that decision to become my personal best, though, I listened differently, and I worked differently. I had a different mindset. Instead of leaning back or standing up straight, I leaned in.
This is not just about speaking. This is about life, too. I said I was a believer and strove to be a good guy, but it was not until I committed and got baptized again that I started living life differently. I’m still learning and I still make mistakes, but my reality has changed because I decided.
Decide. Until you do, you are living life at less than your full potential.
Must #2: Effort
If you truly decide to make a commitment to yourself, most of the time the challenges will seem effortless. It will be fun and exciting. Only you can supply the effort though. A mentor may encourage you, people may be your cheerleader, but no one can put in the effort for you. That is up to you.
You may choose not to put in the effort, and that’s cool. It is your life, and you are the CEO of your life. This is why the decision is the foundation. If you don’t commit, then you may not give it your all and put in the effort required to hit your maximum potential.
Though my experience as a Subway owner was not the greatest, it was one of the most valuable parts of my own personal growth. Most days I worked from 9am to 1am, seven days a week. In fact, I even got a day job to help pay my bills since there weren’t enough profits from the store to provide an income for me. So, when I wasn’t at Subway, I was at my job or driving from one to the other. That hard work came from my commitment to holding onto my store and not going bankrupt.
That effort showed me I had much more inside me than I could have ever imagined. It paid dividends in the survival of my store. Although many people told me to walk away from it and I eventually sold it at a loss, I did not declare bankruptcy. It also paid dividends in my comedy life. It made going to comedy clubs six or seven nights a week easier. That also paid dividends by making it a no-brainer to join four Toastmaster clubs.
Here’s the best bonus of my efforts. People were watching. You can say whatever you want, but effort is noticed much more than words. You also don’t have to brag about effort; the right people will see it. Maybe the most important people, mentors, will see it. Think of it from a mentor’s perspective. Whom would they rather give their time to: someone who talks a good game or someone who actually brings it? Effort attracts help and success.
Consider whatever goal, aspiration, or adversity you are facing. How much effort would a champion put in?
Must #3 Direction
“Wax on, wax off.” In the movie Karate Kid, the mentor, Mr. Miyagi, instructs his student, Danielson, to “Wax on left hand; wax off right hand.” You can watch this short clip if you have not seen the movie or as a reminder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bg21M2zwG9Q
Daniel was waxing Mr. Miyagi’s car and painting his house. Daniel didn’t get it. He did not understand what he was doing or why. He did it for
four days. It just didn’t make sense. When tackling a new field, the direction you get at the beginning often may not make sense. That’s why you need direction.
I did not really understand the concept of stage time, but I listened to those who were where I wanted to be. I thought I had to be good every time I went on stage. My thinking was micro, not big picture. I did not extrapolate the effect it would have years down the road. Mike Rayburn so brilliantly says, “There is a problem with being self taught; the teacher is not that good!”
The first advice I got as a comedian was to get the book. Not any book, the book, a specific book, Stand-up Comedy the Book. I realize now that I was being told to get direction, to get teaching from someone who knows how to teach. Your effort will be multiplied if it is focused in the proper direction.
OK, Champion, where can you get direction?
Must #4 Correction
When I look back at my first time on stage at Stitches Comedy Club in Boston, it is easy to see that I got direction, but something was missing. If I look back closely, I can see minute signs of success. Some of the actual jokes I wrote and delivered that night eventually became some of my best, and some of them never should have seen the light of day. The only problem with the stand-up comedy book was me, the reader. I was the problem.
When you read a book or take a class, you bring yourself into the experience. You bring your past and your beliefs with you. Have you ever taken a class or read a great book but gotten stuck on how to interpret a particular idea? Well, the author could mean I should do this, or they could mean I should do that. You can’t ask the author. That is one advantage to a live seminar. There you can ask the expert. The problem occurs when you get back to the real world and try to apply it after a seminar. You might have some direction, but what you need now is correction.
A plane can veer slightly off course, but the autopilot system is constantly correcting the direction of the plane. You have probably taken a wrong turn at some time, even though you were using a GPS. Fortunately, the GPS recalculates and gets you back on track, redirecting you to your destination.
One of my CEO friends wanted to try his luck doing stand-up comedy. It was his secret little dream. The first thing I told him to do was get the book, and he did. In the Humor Boot Camp, www.humorbootcamp.com, we show my friend’s clip of his first time on stage and compare it to mine. His first experience was amazing, especially by comparison. He crushed it. Why? Though there were many factors, one of the key differences was his bouncing ideas off of me first. He got my coaching along the way as he prepared and practiced. He got correction in his delivery and in his practice. I had only direction, and that was not enough. You need the correction because your past, your beliefs, and your experience are different from everyone else’s.
This is why, in an effort to create a powerful place to learn, I have added weekly online labs with coaches. I’m realizing more and more that this is crucial to people’s growth to reach their full potential. It is easy for me to see now, after being coached by Mark Brown, that I had originally thought feedback was enough. It was enough for staying at the same level, but it was not enough to reach my full potential on stage.
Find someone to keep you on the path to being a champion. Find someone to help you get out of the way of your own growth. We all can easily sabotage our own potential. I love and recommend the book The War of Art. Author Steven Pressfield talks in detail about the power of resistance. I love a line from this book when he is talking about Tiger Woods,
“It would never occur to him, as it would an amateur, that he knows everything, or can figure it out on his own.”
Do-it-yourselfers may be able to fix a problem at home, but do-it-yourselfers never become champions. Do-it-yourselfers never reach their full potential. Champions need expert guidance and feedback.
The Musty Must (the one we don’t want to talk about.)
You must embrace falling. Falling down is required in all areas for career and life champions. It is essential. Falling should be considered a test you must pass. Look back at your major and minor accomplishments. They are there, so embrace some new ones.
When I wrote a book, created a product, became a speaker, and marketed myself as a speaker, I needed the feedback and the corrections from my falls. When I sent my first sales letter for my first big product launch to a mentor, after paying thousands to get that feedback, he replied, “That’s got to be one of the stupidest ideas I ever heard, and I’ve heard some lulus!” It seemed like I was on the road to mega failure, but it was just part of the process.
That sales letter was one of the biggest successes of my career as an information marketer. That sales letter earned me over $23,000 in two weeks. It took me a year as a telemarketer to earn that much. I became a champion copywriter.
The Coolest Part
When you commit to becoming a champion in one area of your life, the universal principles and growth will reach other areas of your life, too. My Subway shop failed, and I learned I did not like the food industry at all. That fall also successfully led me to the career I have now.
Thank you to all my mentors. Thank you for all my falls, though I hated them at the time. Thank you to two champions in my life, Tara and Mike. Thanks for living a life worth watching.Don’t strive to be your best; decide to be your best. Click To Tweet Don’t strive to be your best; decide to be your best. The decision is the turning point. Keep in mind, there are no guarantees. Champions are okay with that. They accept that as part of personal greatness. What area are you working on? Will you embrace all four musts? Be a champion. Live the life of a champion.
My dad decided to go back to school and graduated from college decades later. That was cool to see. Your kids are watching. They learn more from what you do than from what you say. If not for yourself, inspire them.
Darren LaCroix, AS, CSP
World Champion of Public Speaking
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