My heart sank when our Pomeranian, Penelope Lynn, escaped the front door and careened across the yard, heading directly toward an approaching car. Since she has more job security in my family than I do, I raced to head her off. As I neared the street, due to what felt was jet propulsion, I lost my footing and found myself hurling head first toward the concrete. In an attempt to break my fall, I threw my hands forward. I was somewhat successful. First, Penelynn is fine. For some reason, the first question I’m always asked is “how’s the dog”. Second, my fall was broken, no concussion or facial abrasions. Smile intact.
Unfortunately, it came at the expense of breaking both of my arms.
This experience has taught me a valuable lesson that Mark Sanborn writes about in The Performance Principles – Closing the Gap Between How Good You Are and How Great You Can Be.
The only thing that beats best is better.
I found myself not being able to lift my right arm above my waist due to the snap near my shoulder. This made brushing my teeth and washing my hair a challenge. Since my wife confirmed that neither was optional, I began the journey of healing. Simple tasks that before were effortless now seemed insurmountable.
The doctors explained that the answer came in slow steps, stretching the muscles that had locked to protect me. In my first attempt at taking a shower, I looked at the grout lines seeing how high I could reach. Each day, I used my fingers like a spider trying to climb the wall. My measure of success was not in my ability to shoot a basketball, it was to reach the next grout line. To measure could I be better today than yesterday?
This simple task took on a life of its own, celebration coming every 24 to 48 hours. The day I grabbed the shower head was euphoric. Better became best.
Mike Kittelson is one of the leading executive recruiters in the construction sector whose annual billings places him in the top 1% of the industry. When discussing this topic, he shared “the longer we are working in our craft, there is a tendency to drift away from foundational activities that caused our success in the first place. At times we can fall into the trap of complacency.” While we can remain productive, it robs us of accomplishing as much as we are capable of.
What do you need to do today, that if you were better than yesterday, would move you forward? Break stagnation? Get you back on track?
The measuring stick of best has a value of raising the bar of expected performance, yet it can equally stymie our productivity. Best is only accomplished by consistent, better steps. Better becomes an amazing teacher, developing new techniques, breaking paradigms, turning into a catalyst to learn and grow. Most importantly it sharpens and narrows our focus.
I love how dogs can be used to teach us new tricks.