Is Ten Good Enough?

Wait until they move it again

Wait until they move it again

So you finally made it to a 10. After years of study, hard work, and deliberate practice, you can reasonably say you’re among the top in your field. Great news, and good for you.

Here’s the bad news: it won’t be good enough tomorrow. Ten is a moving goalpost. It’s not a fixed standard; it’s a number set by the top performers in any field, and they aren’t stopping just because you got yourself to their level. While you’re congratulating yourself on reaching ten, they’re blazing trails to twelve and higher.

The world is getting more competitive every day in every way, as I’ve just been clearly reminded. I’m writing this on a plane returning from a two week swing through Asia, where I had the privilege of training some very impressive and driven individuals. They’re a half day ahead of us on the clock, and in some ways it seems like they’re half a day ahead of us in their striving and their learning and work ethic. So while you are sleeping, they are working hard to get what you have, to master what you know, and eventually to beat you in every way they can.

Sitting next to me on my return flight is an accounting professor who just spent a week teaching in Taiwan, and I suspect a decent percentage of returning passengers have been over there teaching or training in some capacity. It seems completely natural to us: we have the knowledge and skills and they pay us to teach them. But how long will it be before the planes are full of teachers going in the other direction?

But I’m just using Asia as an example. The man or woman down the street from you is also working hard to stretch that ten to a higher number. And it’s not going to stop. Today’s twelve becomes tomorrow’s ten, and ten becomes eight, the treadmill runs faster and steeper, and there’s no red stop button.

Don’t ever get complacent. Remember the words of baseball great Satchel Paige: “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”


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January 2, 2013

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