All-around excellence

Look around you. Look around your circle of friends, acquaintances, and within your family. If you are like me, you may know people that have varying degrees of success – a rich uncle, a friend that’s in incredible shape, or a married couple that is deeply connected and that are still in love after 50 years. Or on the flip side, there may be an uncle that’s morbidly obese, you may know someone that is broke, or maybe a couple that is going through a bitter divorce.

There often is a pattern that occurs with unsuccessful people. People that are financially broke, tend to be unhealthy mentally and physically. Being poor is draining and stressful. It’s easy to be depressed if you are not in the best physical shape.

People, funding and constant learning are key to creating research  excellence

Conversely, oftentimes people that are financially successful, have figured out a way to get to and stay at peak performance in other aspects of their lives. Some of them may hire personal trainers and coaches to help them in areas that they know they are lacking. Be it physical fitness, mindset, or any other gap that they may have.

However, there is yet another group of people that are fascinating. There is a group of people that excel in one aspect of their lives and yet fail miserably in others. Certainly, you know people like this. It could be someone that’s getting great grades in school, but they are overweight or maybe it’s a parent that’s an amazing mother but doesn’t take time for herself and is completely stressed out.

I have a friend that runs a 200 million dollar hedge fund and up until a few years ago, he was a smoker, overweight, and stressed out. I also belong to a running club where many of the club members are constantly fretting over shaving a couple of seconds off their 5k times. Yet, some of them spend zero energy and time trying to get their finances in order.

It’s amazing to see how these people can excel in one aspect of their life and yet have huge limiting mental blocks in other aspects. 

To some degree, we all fall into this category. We may be excellent in some areas and we can’t get out of our way in others. In this article, we’ll try to help you identify and use the strengths you have developed in some aspects of your life to excel in one area and translate it to areas where you may be weak and where you may have limiting beliefs.

Pause for a few seconds. Can you think of one area where you excel? Can you think of another area where you could use some help improving?

Hopefully, you found an example of each. If you fall in this category, the good news is that you can leverage one to improve the other.

If you didn’t find a weakness, you probably didn’t look hard enough. We are all human and we can always improve. If you didn’t find one, maybe ask a friend or your significant other to give you a weakness that they see in you. The first step to solving a problem is realizing there is a problem, then clearly defining the problem, and finally addressing the root cause.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the different aspects of your life and give it a grade (1-10):

  •       Financial health – This metric is highly correlated with age. If you are young and just starting, chances are you are not a millionaire yet. So accumulated assets should not be your only metric. Other things to consider: Are you maxing out your 401k contribution? How much of your take-home pay are you investing? Do you budget? etc.
  •       Career health – Do you have a job where you make good money, but you hate the job? You are an example of someone having good financial health but bad career health.
  •       Credit health – You may think that this is the same as financial health and they are correlated. However, it is not unheard of to see people that have financial means but bad credit. There are mortgage companies that specialize in catering to these individuals. These companies normally charge higher interest rates and require a higher down payment to provide financing. So even if you have money, having bad credit is expensive.
  •       Physical health – Many doctors may define health as the absence of disease. When you go to your annual checkup, they check a few things, do some blood work and if there is no disease, they call you healthy. We all instinctively know health is much more granular. Someone who eats right, exercises consistently, and is physically fit has a much better chance to weather illnesses than someone who drinks, smokes, and is overweight.
  •       Mental and emotional health – All the above manners of health are going to be tied together and directly affect your level of stress. It’s easy to be stressed if you are having to work 70 hours a week just to barely make ends meet. If you are working too much, you are probably going to take shortcuts with your eating habits and your exercise routine. However, the inverse is not always true. Just because you have financial health does not always translate into being emotionally stable and you probably know competitive athletes that are never happy with their performance and get depressed about not being fast enough, strong enough, or good enough.
  •       Relationship health – It’s difficult to have healthy relationships when you are not happy with yourself.

Why 1 to 10? As we discussed with physical health, health is not an “on or off” proposition. There is a certain granularity and levels to health.

As an example, if you only have a six-month emergency fund, you’re doing better than many folks, but someone that has their house paid off, a well-funded 401k, and other investments may be in an even better financial position.

For some of these items, you must consider special factors. For example, for financial health, If you have ten thousand dollars in the bank, this may be good or bad. If you are 25 years old and you have that kind of money and your student loans are paid off, you are in great financial health. If you are in the same position when you are 63 years old and getting ready to retire it is easy to see that you are in bad shape.

You may find that some of these scores are intertwined. If you are not happy with yourself, it will be hard to project happiness and be a good partner. Hopefully, one of these aspects is stronger than the others. This will give you the opportunity to get better in the weaker areas. So now answer this question. What drives you to be excellent (or at least better) in that area? Most likely it’s the area that you are passionate about. And conversely, in the areas where you scored low, you don’t have that burning desire to make it great.

Now that you’ve identified the problem areas, and before coming up with a solution, we must define what constitutes success and how to measure it. This is not as simple as it sounds. For example, if you are overweight, it may be easy to say that losing weight and measure that weight loss is the way to go. However, we all know people that are thin and unhealthy. During a recent talk with a friend, he mentioned how proud he was of all the weight he had lost. He mentioned that he lost it using intermittent fasting. His process consisted of not eating on odd days and eating whatever he wanted on even days including cookies, twinkies, whatever. Additionally, and this was shocking, he mentioned that he had not had a piece of fruit in over 20 years.

Do you think this guy’s diet is healthy? We certainly don’t. Following this diet is the equivalent of having a high-performance car and putting garbage gas one day and forgetting to put in gas the next day. This friend didn’t get the analogy and kept on with his process. It didn’t sink in. But hopefully, this analogy resonates with you.

Good health is not just about weight loss. Body composition, stamina, fitness are important considerations. Fitness is not just about how strong you are. Mobility, flexibility, and cardiovascular capacity are also important. Better measures may be body fat percentage and your basal metabolic rate. Another measure that can be used is how you are performing at the gym or on the track. To achieve excellence, it’s not enough to continuously measure your progress. It’s best to continuously analyze and possibly tweak your goal and your metrics to ensure that we are still going in the right direction. There is nothing worse than climb to the top of a mountain only to realize you climbed the wrong mountain.

Now Nirvana may be to achieve high scores in all the health metrics that we have discussed and any other metrics you discover. If they are not you may be tempted to work on all of them at the same time. Rome was not built on a day and similarly, you won’t go from a 600 FICO score to 800 in a few days. You can start working on all of them to some degree but pick one to really hone on it. As you start getting better in that area, you can cycle out of it and pick another one to focus on and continue cycling through them.

Sometimes, you may have to take a step back in one area to improve another one. A simple example may be the trade-off that we have to make during a career change. If you are totally unhappy within your current profession and you want to change, most likely you will have to take a pay cut. An easy mistake to make if this happens is to continue having a lifestyle as if you still had the old salary. No one should be shackled to do the same thing all their lives. But some sacrifices may need to be made if you do decide to change career paths. Ideally, you’re able to implement an approach where you are still getting your old salary while training or getting better in the other profession. If the professional change is drastic this may not be possible.

The key takeaway

You already have areas in your life where you are excellent. Identify what that is. Also, like most of us, you also have areas of weakness. Identify those as well. Finally, use the strengths you have developed in one area and use them to transfer excellence to your weak areas.