Attention to detail is something that is spoken about quite frequently in relation to the best of the best.
Whether it be in coaching, teaching, performing or business, the elite of the elite seem to know exactly what to focus on and have an ability to be quite linear in their approach to their work. They have an ability to shut out all distractions and focus intensely on the task at hand. And they also tend to appraise a large amount of importance on executing the task to the best of their ability. No movement is unimportant, no energy is wasted and no stone is left unturned in pursuit of perfection.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve sat down with many high-performing athletes and coaches for podcast interviews. Although each guest is undoubtedly incredibly different from the next, one thing that they all have in common is an ability to identify what are the most important actions for them to undertake in their pursuit of excellence. They are able to see through the fancy smokescreens and gimmicks, as they know in their heart that executing the basics to an elite level is more likely to put them ahead of the crowd than anything else.
Each of the athletes, coaches and practitioners that I’ve interviewed have also held somewhat of an obsession around self-development and improvement in their given endeavour. However, they have all also exhibited a knowledge that in order to give themselves wholly to their craft, they must be completely present when honing their skills, but also when stepping away from their training to recover.
They have an ability to switch it on given a moment’s notice, but they also have the ability to switch it off as well. An appreciation for the value of hard work is mirrored by an appreciation for the value of being a well-rounded individual in one’s private life. Whether it comes down to spending time with their spouse, family or friends, they have an awareness of how important those relationships are to their emotional, physical and spiritual wellbeing. And they also know that their health and wellbeing has a direct impact on their ability to perform in their craft at an elite level.
A common experience that all of them seem to have gone through in the past is an imbalance in relation to their pursuit of excellence and their private life. Typically, this has not helped their performance and has taught them some valuable lessons around how an all-or-nothing approach to their journey is both unhealthy and unhelpful. This is something that I’ve figured out myself over the years as well and it’s refreshing to hear it from Olympians, All-Ireland winners and leaders in the sports industry.
After each conversation I am left with a real sense of who the guest I am speaking to is as a person, a deep connection to their story and an intense admiration for their diligence, drive and level of self-awareness.
I appreciate the challenges that they have gone through as a person and experience a high degree of empathy and connectedness for their story.
Sitting down with all of these people has taught me a lot about myself, society and the world at large.
It has taught me that sitting down for conversations in which you are fully attentive is the one true way to understand someone else’s worldview. It is the only way to truly and fully experience the emotions that another person feels. And it is the best way possible to put yourself in another’s shoes.
I have also learned that asking effective questions is an essential skill in today’s society that may be lost, as we seek to shout the loudest and receive the most attention possible. In pursuit of the world’s new form of currency (attention), we may have forgotten the biggest lesson of all.
Everyone you meet knows something you don’t know, but need to know.
You will only learn if you shut up and listen.
So sit down, turn off your phone, ask questions, share stories and shut the hell up when the other person is talking.
You’ll likely learn more about yourself from listening than you will from speaking.