With 60 pounds on his back, Stephen Siller, runs 2 1/2 miles through the Brooklyn Tunnel to address an emergency text message he received after finishing his shift calling him back to the city to address the catastrophe unfolding at the World Trade Center in New York City. It's the worst disaster the United States has experienced on its soil since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Stephen is a firefighter. Sensing the urgency surrounding him, he dutifully enters the inflamed building and, without hesitation, begins saving people's lives from the inferno. Yet, in the process, he loses his own.
Incidents like that and others that we occasionally read about in the paper are what inspired me years ago to look into what characteristics make up these types of individuals. What's behind such selfless acts by firefighters, police, healthcare workers, and first responders who are willing to risk their lives for people they'd never met? They don't do these heroic acts for rewards or trophies. They have inner qualities that put them in that unique category that to them isn’t about bravery but more about doing what is right and knowing that they can do something about it to make a positive difference.
While not everyone elects to pick a career in which they put their lives on the line daily, we know and admire some individuals because of their uncanny ability to translate their words into actions when it comes to pursuing tasks and projects. They always seem to be the one person we can depend on. Their word is their bond and they always come through and do things a little bit better than expected. We know these individuals and we like working with them and being their friend.
Interestingly, they’re not necessarily the smartest, most entertaining, or outgoing people we know. Nor are they necessarily the most educated or talented. But they are ahead of most others when it comes to trustworthiness, honesty, politeness, and willingness to help to make things happen.
These are people who I refer to as “Pro-Achievers.”
They earn that title because, to them, reliability is part of their state of being. And what's underlying that state of being is their personal acceptance of control. With the acceptance of control, pro-achievers set their own standards of performance to do things a notch or two higher than what their initial impulse might suggest, to add value in all endeavors.
Over time, looking for ways to consistently do things just a little bit better becomes habitual. They're not looking to perform optimally, rather, they're looking to consistently do things just a little bit better than expected in order to add value.
Pro-achievers are not simply looking to be the star on the team or the smartest; they strive to make a valuable difference. Striving to add value is what begins to differentiate pro-achievers from overachievers and perfectionists. Very simply, overachievers tend to be obsessed with accomplishing goals and objectives. They’ll fail to pay attention to personal needs and will overlook their responsibilities in relationships, all because of their intense desire to get the job done. The expressions, “get the job done at all costs” or “do whatever it takes to get the job done” best describes the overachiever. Whereas the perfectionist, like overachievers, tend to set high goals and work hard toward achieving them, their pursuit is nothing less than perfection. “Almost perfect” isn’t even in their vocabulary. There is certainly a place for overachievers and perfectionists. But they’re not to be confused with pro-achievers.
Anyone and everyone can be a pro-achiever. It’s a simple matter of committing to a conscious choice to internalize the acceptance of control in whatever one does, and deliberately adding value to every endeavor.
Are You A Pro-Achiever?
Ask yourself the following questions to see if you think and operate like a pro-achiever. Remember, anyone at any time can decide to become a pro-achiever.
- When parking your car in a crowded parking lot, if your car is parked on an angle and is just barely within the lines, do you try to straighten and center the car so it will be easier for others to park on either side of your car?
- When being assigned a task, do you think about what you’re planning to do and how you might improve the expected outcome?
- When interacting with someone at work who is typically difficult, do you walk away without allowing that experience to alter your mood?
- When responding to business emails, do you include some type of greeting or salutation?
- During a business meeting break or when in a discussion among friends, if someone you know walks over to join the discussion, do you try to include them in the conversation?
- When in a meeting where everyone seems to be talking just to talk, do you try to refocus everyone?
- If colleagues are talking about someone and you know what they’re saying is inaccurate, do you step in to correct them?
This quick self-assessment gives you an opportunity to reflect on how you think about everyday situations. It also helps to heighten your awareness of how you think about and respond to interactions you have with others and how you approach everyday tasks. These are all steps toward becoming a pro-achiever by recognizing that in each of these situations the control lies with you.
When revisiting these questions, it becomes apparent that they’re not about performing at high levels. To pursue every endeavor by giving 100% would be exhausting! Rather, these situations reflect your acceptance of control in trying to create or add value, AND that’s what it means to be a pro-achiever!
We would thoroughly enjoy hearing from you and to know if you found that the questions included above were of value to you. Let me know if you like them. Look for my next blog to discuss the difference between responsibilities and responsibleness: the distinguishing characteristic of a pro-achiever!
Also, if you’re so inspired by what you read and want to learn more before my next blog, please go to Amazon and look for The Pro-Achievement Principle: Cultivate Personal Skills for Effective Teams. You can click here. One dollar for each book bought goes to the TUNNEL to TOWERS FOUNDATION.
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