Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with @danwaldo. Dan Waldschmidt is an international business strategist, speaker, author, and extreme athlete. His consulting firm solves complex marketing and business strategy problems for savvy companies all over the world. Dow Jones calls his Edgy Conversations blog one of the top sales sites on the internet. He’s been profiled in Business Week, INC Magazine, BBC, Fox News, The Today Show, and Business Insider, has been the featured guest on dozens of radio programs, and has published hundreds of articles on progressive business strategy. He is author of Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Achieve Outrageous Success. Edgyconversations.com
SmallBizLady: What are the four behaviors you have identified from high-performers that are key to producing outrageous business results?
Dan Waldschmidt: We learned that high performers in business, math, sports, science or politics all share the same four characteristics. They are extreme in their beliefs and behaviors. They demonstrate a maniacal focus and discipline for getting things done. They are givers — intentionally and almost automatically. And they understand the human side of life — instead of just expecting everyone else around them to be logical, they understand how pain, fear, and failure impact those around them. While each high performer we looked at had clear, distinctive ways that they excelled above their peers, they all share these four qualities. All of them were extreme, disciplined, giving, and human.
SmallBizLady: You focus on attitudes and philosophies instead of a series of “steps” that people can follow? Aren’t “steps” more practical?
Dan Waldschmidt: Simply copying the successful actions of others has never been a reproducible template for success. Times change. So do tactics. What works for someone else doesn’t work for you. Additionally, the more people who mimic a particular strategy, the less effective it becomes. The more you copy, the less you know what really works and the less you are willing to stay dedicated to building your path.
The right attitudes, on the other hand, create outcomes that are unpredictably magical. By changing your attitude, you free yourself to explore ideas that otherwise would have just been unthinkable. The “right” actions will always change, but developing the right attitudes has a timeless impact. That’s why we focus on helping readers achieve better attitudes.
SmallBizLady: Why is “being extreme” so important?
Dan Waldschmidt: “Being extreme “ is the best chance you have to stand out. To be noticed. By definition, extreme behavior is radical. It’s scary. It requires tremendous personal effort and focus. You don’t accidentally become extreme. It’s intentional. It drives better results. Instead of just being pushed around by the ideas and expectations of others, being “extreme” means that you know what you want to achieve and are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. That’s a powerful differentiator.
Remember, anyone can try something once or twice, even a dozen times, but very few people are willing to keep trying until they achieve the results they want. That continuous trying is another way to describe extreme behavior. It puts you in the elite category of ordinary people. Most people just stop trying.
SmallBizLady: Isn’t “extreme, by definition, “too much” of a good thing?
Dan Waldschmidt: No, being extreme is not too much of a good thing. Extreme behavior starts with a mindset change. It is really the core belief that you can achieve success regardless of the obstacles in your way simply through a relentless pursuit of answers. It’s a belief that by working hard enough and long enough, there isn’t anything that you can’t do. When you have that belief system, you look at problems as just another opportunity to be creative rather than bad luck or “everyone picking on you”. That mindset is important because it’s inevitable that each of us will face problems in our struggle to be successful. You can’t ever believe in yourself too much.
SmallBizLady: Why is discipline such a key part of achieving business success?
Dan Waldschmidt: Success is a long and brutal journey. It requires massive amounts of effort and consistency. You have to be able to do what is difficult day after day after day after day if you want to achieve your goals. This is true no matter what your goal happens to be. You must practice, prepare, and get better at your craft in order to achieve success.
Discipline forces you into a rhythm of effort, excellence, and improvement — especially when you consistently work on being a better version of yourself. If you stop and start and stop every time things get difficult, you wind up with wildly inconsistent results and no real clear explanation for how to improve. Being disciplined highlights what you’re doing right and what things you need to work on.
SmallBizLady: What lessons did you learn as you studied how successful people demonstrated discipline?
Dan Waldschmidt: The biggest lesson I learned about discipline is that there are two components: doing and denying. Frankly, it’s just a “ticket to the game” to be a doer. The doing kind of discipline is a basic necessity for even amateur achievers. If you can’t do what you need to do, then you have little chance of being successful at anything, ever.
High performers look at discipline at what you should do, but more importantly, they look at what you shouldn’t do. There’s a denying characteristic to discipline that high achievers harness. They are willing to do without the pleasantries that mediocre people demand be a part of their lives. In the long run, that denial allows high performers to achieve much better results.
SmallBizLady: Why is giving a part of success?
Dan Waldschmidt: Giving is first and foremost a mindset. It’s an attitude that shapes how you interact with everyone else around you. If every interaction you have is one in which you’re the winner (the “taker”), then you aren’t really providing any value to the world around you. If you’re not valuable, then there’s no reason why anyone should pay attention to you or take you seriously. You aren’t worth anything to anyone. There’s no reason for you to exist.
Giving makes you valuable. When you give because of a deeply held gratitude for what you have been given, you create an environment of growth and happiness and achievement with all those with which you interact. You create a “rising tide that floats all boats”. Giving uniquely makes you powerful.
SmallBizLady: How much is “too much” when it comes to giving?
Dan Waldschmidt: You can’t ever give too much. There’s something personally enriching about giving more value to the world around you than you take. You can’t do that too much.
However, being a giver is NOT a justification for making poor decisions, having bad business skills, or not having a plan when it comes to achieving success. It’s not a legitimate excuse for making bad choices. You must balance the two. Being a giver is a great way to live your life. It’s not an excuse though to be sloppy when it comes to planning and preparation. You can do both at the same time. In fact, being a giver opens new opportunities for you.
SmallBizLady: Why is it so important for high achievers to understand human behavior?
Dan Waldschmidt: Most of life isn’t logical. Good people get hurt when they don’t deserve it. Bad people win when they least deserve it. If you’re expecting life to be logical, you’re in for crushing disappointment. High-performers understand that the same irrational behavior they see in others is the exact same way that they are wired to react. This understanding — this empathy — enables them to build deeper relationships with those around them. High performers are generally more compassionate and socially aware. They don’t tolerate mediocrity in themselves or those around them, but they don’t unnecessarily make enemies. They also understand what motivates other people. They use that awareness to motivate other people and build value that ultimately ends up benefiting their struggle to achieve audacious goals.
SmallBizLady: What are some ways to develop more emotional awareness?
Dan Waldschmidt: Emotional intelligence starts with brutal honesty. You can’t lie to yourself about your intentions or the consequences of past behavior and then expect to be emotionally intelligent with others. Instead of being compassionate and reflective, you end up being skeptical and cynical. It’s important to be honest with yourself.
It’s also important to give other people the benefit of the doubt. Instead of imagining all the worst possible intentions of others, consider what might be going on for you if you were in a similar situation. Go out of your way to give a kind word to those around you. Be intentionally thankful and generous and kind. You can never be too emotionally intelligent. The moment you think you understand everyone else’s intentions is the moment you can guarantee you still have work to do to be more human.
SmallBizLady: When you looked at high performers in business, math, sports, science and politics what common connections did you find?
Dan Waldschmidt: The four characteristics that we call EDGY — extreme behavior, disciplined activity, a giving mindset and a human strategy — were all prevalent in high performers, even across completely different verticals, like science and sports. The same radical beliefs that enable an Olympic competitor to push themselves beyond human capacity is the exact same belief system that enables a researcher to uncover a human biological breakthrough.
Despite the dramatic difference in application, the philosophies of high performers were the same. They were willing to be radical. They kept doing the same thing until they figured out how to do it the right way, they gave more value than everyone around thought was logical, and they looked underneath the answer for the answer to the answer. We call that EDGY.
SmallBizLady: What are a few practical lessons you learned from your research on high performers?
Dan Waldschmidt: First, being EDGY isn’t about shocking those around you with absurd and jerkish behavior. It’s about having better attitudes. It doesn’t mean you’re disrespectful or vulgar, it just means that you’re willing to look deep within yourself and believe that if you try hard enough and work long enough you can accomplish any goal, no matter how audacious that seems at the time.
Second, to be amazing, high performers must ignore a great deal of advice. Some of that advice comes from people they love. Other advice is criticism from people who “know better” and are happy to tell them that what they’re doing “isn’t going to work”. High performers don’t spend time reasoning with doubters, they just continue moving forward towards where they want to be.
Third, high-performers believe that achieving audacious dreams is rooted in hard work. It takes thousands of focused hours to achieve breakthrough. High performers are relentless about putting in the sweat equity that their dreams deserve. Whether they feel like it or not they are hammering out progress day by day by day.
Lastly, being a little bit more “human” is a life skill that will make you an infinitely better business person. Compassion, insight, and thoughtfulness are endearing and attractive qualities to everyone you encounter. EDGY has a big place in the enterprise. The principles are timeless.
SmallBizLady: What is one thing that an ordinary person trying to achieve to outrageous success should start doing right now?
Dan Waldschmidt: EDGY is a mindset change. An attitude change is the single most important thing someone can do right now. If there is one thing that you can do to change your life for the better it begins with brutal honesty about who you really are. Not what are you doing or what have you done in the past. Who are you? What are your motivations?
You can’t be successful and lie to yourself at the same time. You must start with honesty. If you screwed up yesterday or last year or for your entire life so far, admit it and move on. You won’t be able to move forward until you come to grips with where you are right now.
Lying to yourself is a dangerous trap. It’s the biggest reason why ordinary people stay ordinary. They spend time making excuses and pretending like they are doing everything right instead of improving.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.