Book Summary: Be Excellent at Anything – Written by Tony Schwartz
The goal of any organization beyond survival is to be the best. If you are an employee or a business owner, this book will provide great insights to increasing performance. This is one area that you need to get a grasp on and work on daily. One thing Tony does really well in his books is to profile the way elite athletes “work”. The ones that consistently win know how to engage intensely and with razor sharp focus and they also know how to disengage to relax and rebuild. They can do this in seconds. In tennis, the ones that consistently won could control their heart rates during rest while the ones that ran out of steam had heart rates elevated during the entire match.
Two million deaths every year can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle.
In a nutshell, if you want to have a remotely good life then you need to understand energy. Humans need four sources of energy to operate at their best: physical (sustainability), emotional (security), mental (self-expression), and spiritual (significance).
People today want to justify everything by being busy. You hear this B.S. excuse all the time: I am so busy. The problem here is that 80% of the busy work is Majoring in Minor Things! You will see this in clubs or sporting types of karate classes. You typically run into people that have been in it for 20 years but when you dig in, you see that they have 1 year experience – 20 times.
It is not the amount of time you have been doing the work, it is the amount of work you put into the time.
Be Excellent at Anything is broken down into 5 major parts. I will highlight the main points for the sake of time.
The major theme around all the concepts in the book revolves around the Core human needs. This inverted triangle is based on Dr. Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs but tweaked in a working environment.
1. Survival – Material needs and desires.
2. Sustainability – Body – Being able to regularly renew, and take care of myself, so I’m healthy, fit and resilient.
3. Security-Emotions – Felling appreciated, cared for, valued for who I am and what I do
4. Self-Expression-Mind – Freedom to develop and express my unique skills and talent
5. Significance-Spirit – What I stand for and believe in – What gives me a sense of meaning
Meeting people’s core needs at work will build a durable competitive advantage for the organization. Let’s talk about techniques to drive this home.
1. We cannot change what we do not notice. Thus we need to invest in our strengths and the organizations strengths. This helps people be better at what they are already good at.
2. Creatures of habit – Horrible stats – 95% of dieters regain more weight than they originally lost! 70% of organizational change initiatives ultimately fail. The key to breaking bad habits is replacing the habit with something you are good at that is the opposite of the bad habit. Montel Williams is really good at this. He does not focus on what he can NOT eat. Instead his attention is on what he CAN eat. This simple mind change makes all the difference.
3. Sleep or Die – Learning is solidified during sleep. Adequate sleep is critical for maximum performance. The key is mind/body renewal. If you do not adequately sleep then you will consistently perform at low levels over time.
4. Making Waves – Intense focused work with rest breeds results. Scheduled relaxation is the key to high performance. This can be napping and/or mediation. Focus your time in 90-120 minute focus session and then relax. Get up and go for a quick walk, stretch and regroup.
Use it or Lose it – You need to exercise your body and your brain. It is that simple.
Three weeks in a hospital bed and atrophy sets in. This happens with the mind as well.
Apple is an excellent company. Steve Jobs talks about “Making a Dent in the Universe”. This all comes down to personal and organizational passion.
Organizations need to have a higher purpose than simple profitability. Be Excellent an Anything is really a great road map to get you there. The concept of the CEO being the Chief Energy Officer is critical because positive directed energy is the key to personal and organizational success.
I hope you have found this short summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes habit. Habits form in as little as 21 days.
One thing you can take away from this book is to take mini-naps. Unfortunately, most people will not do this because it is frowned upon. If you get in the habit of napping at lunch or on a break after a 120 minute work session, you will see your effectiveness double.