Do you know what makes someone worthy of the title “greatest of all time” or GOAT?
It’s so much more than natural talent, excellent coaching, or dumb luck.
No, it’s the constant effort to improve. Even those at the top of their game must keep getting better no matter how many victories they have amassed.
And this isn’t just confined to sports. The “GOAT” designation can be applied to every kind of occupation.
One example that comes to mind quickly is Tom Brady, superstar quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, formerly of the New England Patriots. He was recently interviewed in the “Wall Street Journal Magazine” and talked about how he strives to get better every day.
In particular, he was asked “What’s one thing you have too much of?” Brady answered: “I have too many people who tell me too many nice things. I feel like I need more critical evaluation of certain things. So many people want to try and please me. A lot of people don’t want to let me down. But it’s nice to get a real straight, truthful answer.”
Too many people surround themselves with what I call “Yes” people. What I’m referring to are people who kiss up to you and tell you the things you want to hear. When I ask people for advice on something, I always preface it with, “Don’t tell me what I want to hear.”
Like Brady, I realize that the only way to get better is with honest feedback. The amazing thing about Tom Brady is that he is already the GOAT and yet he wants to get better. He knows that if you want to be great you have to continue to improve.
Look at the greats in all sports, from Michael Jordan in basketball to Serena Williams in tennis and Wayne Gretzky in hockey, they all tried to improve every day and season. Jordan picked something to work on during each off-season to be better the following year, be it rebounding, three-point shooting or defense. How many times have you heard an athlete say they are just focused on getting better every day?
It’s much the same in business. Look at Warren Buffet, investment genius and one of the world’s richest people. At age 91 he is still trying to get better every day. He has no intention of slowing down.
As Will Rogers said, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” Complacency is death. Even if you’re doing the right thing, if you’re not moving forward and getting better, you’ll get run over. The competition will overtake you.
Elon Musk is another shining example. From electric cars to outer space, Musk just keeps reaching further and further – and now his SpaceX company has been ranked as the second most valuable private company in the world.
Lifestyle maven Martha Stewart offered this philosophy, “You should never accept what can be offered to you if you feel it can be improved.” She has plenty of experience with improving all sorts of everyday items.
You don’t have to look far to find examples of people who have achieved success and outperformed even their seemingly impossible ambitions. Somehow, they find the inspiration or the courage to take the next step. They may not become the GOAT, but they don’t quit just because they’ve had a little success. Half the fun is in the pursuit of greatness.
Every day is a chance to be better than the day before. We can always make room in our lives to get better, whether that means improving our health, our finances or our personal relationships. Even if we think things are perfect, there’s likely an area or two where we could put in a little extra work. That’s not to say that self-improvement is always easy: It’s not.
We didn’t invent this concept. I daresay humanity would still be living as in prehistoric times had our ancestors not tried constantly to improve their lot. Chinese philosopher Confucius, who lived during the 6th century BCE, offered this wisdom: “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential . . . these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
A hundred years ago, who would have imagined the innovations in communication, transportation, medicine and so many other parts of our lives. A hundred years from now, who knows?
Mackay’s Moral: If it ain’t broke, you can still fix it.