Truer words have never been spoken…
This is a slogan used by the Navy SEALS and others, but it applies to us all. For example, as a competitive racquetball player, I was never at my best in each match of a tournament. My level of focus and execution would vary depending on everything from my mood, my energy levels, and of course my opponent.
The mistake that people make is basing their game plan on their best day, hoping to hit that level of play on a regular and consistent basis. FLAT. OUT. WRONG. What you should do is approach it in the opposite way:
You are only as good as your WORST day.
On your worst day, that is your absolute minimum level of performance. Whatever training you truly own, that which is ingrained so deeply within you that no matter how poorly you are performing that day you can still execute those skills, that is your real level of expertise. This is the level of performance that you should build your game plan around. For me as a competitive player, I needed to win the matches when I wasn’t firing on all cylinders to stay alive in the tournament. Over the course of three or four days, I would routinely see this pattern:
One match where I played at a very high level
Two matches where I was at about 60-70% of my highest level
One match where I was operating at about 30% of my overall capabilities.
Here is the problem, I never knew in which order these fluctuations were coming. No matter how hard I trained and practiced this pattern never changed. My execution level changed as I improved, but the pattern itself remained. I might feel great arriving at the club, have a good warm up session, and then suck once the match started. Other times I would feel like I didn’t really want to be there, and play a great match. The more I competed, the more I realized that everyone deals with this same issue, and if I could devise a strategy for winning even when I was playing at half capacity, I could get through the tough times and survive to play another day. For me, this meant the difference between winning prize money to pay bills, or not.
Now that I have a real job and also a side gig of public speaking, I take this same approach. I practice my craft, and I have established a minimum level of performance that is sufficient to win. There are days when I am “on”, and everything flows and I offer a better than most level of “performance” during a presentation or speech. But even my bad days are good enough to get a call back. THAT is a big step forward in making sure that I win as consistently as possible in business. By increasing my MINIMUM level of performance, I can make sure that I don’t have to be “on” to have success. The reality is there are about 6 to maybe ten days a year where I am at my absolute best, the rest of the year is below that level. There are about the same number of “worst” days as well, and everything else is somewhere on a sliding scale in between. There are too many times when I can’t rely on being at 100%, and therefore I need to plan for it. Denial is not a strategy, building a game plan that will give me a shot at winning, regardless of the context, is the key to overall success.
If you start to pay attention to your own performance levels, you might discover a very similar pattern. Hate morning meetings or presentations? Tough crap, get it done. My East Coast clients expect me to be ready to roll, regardless of the three hour time difference. My West Coast clients don’t care if I am at the end of my day and am tired or not. They, too, expect me to be ready to execute. By practicing my craft, honing what I do to the point of blindfolded recall, I can deliver at any moment.
What can you do to improve your minimum level of execution? What are you doing that is relying on you at your best instead of your worst? How can you weed out the fluff and the bullshit to make sure you have solid ground to stand on when it comes to your needed skill set? Forget the fancy stuff and everything else that comes along with being “on”, focus on the basics and practice them NOT SO YOU CAN GET IT RIGHT, BUT UNTIL YOU CAN’T GET IT WRONG. Now you own those skills, Now you can perform well enough, no matter what, to get the job done.
So the moral of this story is simple, reverse the way you look at things to use your WORST day, not your best day, as the “real you”. Build your game plan and strategies around what the worst version of you can still execute, and then you will have a solid foundation to win with most of the time.
I wish you luck in your endeavors.