Have you ever looked at someone who was at the top of their ‘game’—work, sports, the arts— and wondered, “How did they get there?” or How do I get there too?”

I have.

I’ve talked with them, read about them, and interviewed coaches and company presidents to discern what it takes to be at the top.

What I learned; the differentiators of top performers are their activities and attitudes.

More specifically, here is a list of differentiators for top performers. They:

  1. Train and develop the necessary skills and habits for their discipline.
  2. Experience setbacks along the way, and keep going over, under, or around them.
  3. Have a clear goal or vision for what they want: short and long-term.
  4. Are not always ‘balanced’ in their pursuit of reaching the top.
  5. Were not an overnight success.
  6. Are often misunderstood by others.

Let’s make this list even simpler: Top performers have Skill and Will®.

iron-will-skillSkill: actions and behaviors that can be learned, evaluated, and measured.

Will: an internal attitude and desire. It is the attitude for initiating the right activities, believing in themselves and what they are doing, clarity on their goals, and their desire to work through the emotional ups and downs. Some call this motivation. I call it the Success Driver.

There may be others on the team or in the industry, more skillful than the top performers. Don’t get me wrong, top performers are skilled; but may not be the most skillful or have the most experience. What top performers do is use the skills they do have to consistently, proactively, and clearly to keep moving forward.  They focus their time, energy, and efforts and don’t let distractions keep them from their pursuit.

The Winter Olympics of 2014 highlighted this in action. The athletes were all trained well, but the top performers were able to stay focused and not let any distractions (difficult housing situations, stray dogs, injuries) interfere with their performance.

It’s the same for all of us, our Will needs to support and build our Skill. It’s very much within our control to achieve, be what we want, and reach whatever level of success is important to us—if we have the Will to do so.

Your Turn! If you had to select Skill or Will (only one), which would it be? Leave a comment here and your name will be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Conversations That Sell.