The Biggest Secret of My Success

In a training class at work we were asked to share with our colleagues what we felt the secret to our success was. Each member of this training class was a top performer in our bank and I guess they were trying to see if there was a common thread between us they could discover.There were some great answers in that group. One woman told us how she quickly build partnerships with internal stakeholders, a man shared with us his secret to building trust with strangers in the blink of an eye. After all 6 of us had shared our secrets to success it was pretty clear there was no commonality between our secrets.

My answer to this question was the only one that anyone could use. It doesn’t matter what you are trying to be successful at: work, family, athletics, hobbies, etc. If you want to be successful in an endeavor, to truly stand out, there is only one thing you have to do.

Do the Last 5% of the Job

All you need to do to be successful is to do the last 5% of the job. That’s it. This is not going to guarantee that you are going to be the best, but it will ensure success. No matter what I’ve done in my life the last 5% of anything is where most people drop off.

You want that woodworking project to look professional? Do the last 5%: sand it one more time, make sure you use a tack cloth after sanding, sand between each layer application, test the stain multiple times in multiple ways to make sure you can recreate the look you want.

You want to make that big sale? Don’t stop your outbound calling program just because it’s the week after Thanksgiving. Answer the phone on Friday afternoon at 4:30pm. Double check the presentation for errors ONE MORE TIME. Redo the FedEx label if its crooked.

You are probably not surprised that most people stop at 95% done. “It’s okay if the page numbers aren’t in the same place on every page in this document. The clients will just throw it away after our meeting.”

It happens everywhere. If you want to be successful do the last 5%.

The Last 5% has NO SHORTCUTS

A great documentary about performance enhancing drugs came out in 2017 called, “Icarus”. After watching the movie I had a greater appreciation for why athletes dope. It isn’t to be successful. Professional athletes are already successful. They are ALREADY doing the last 5%.

These athletes are staying late after practice to work on form, they are watching that extra film session every week, they are eating foods that fuel their particular goals. That’s all last 5% stuff. You don’t get to the starting line of the Tour de France without doing the last 5%.

Lance Armstrong wasn’t a mediocre cyclist who decided to get a blood transfusion one afternoon and all of a sudden he was prancing up Alpe d’Huez. Lance was an extremely successful cyclist with a natural giftedness for the sport. He didn’t dope to be successful, he doped to be the best.

I include this section because it might be tempting to try and “dope” your way to success. Don’t do it. There are no shortcuts. And, Lance got caught, he was trying to be the best and he got nailed.

Don’t ruin your hard work and your success by trying to take shortcuts to be the best. (Oh, and by the way, plenty of people tried to dope to just be successful and they fared even worse than Lance.)

What is the last 5% you need to do to be successful?

Photo by Clark Tibbs on Unsplash

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