17 Most Powerful Ideas From

The Excellence Habit


1.     Most of us have two lives. The first one is the life we actually live; the second is the imagined life where we achieve all the success we dream about. Some build a bridge between these two lives.

2.     We all face outside barriers, misfortunes, and obstacles. Most of us also struggle with internal resistance, procrastination, and distractions. To conquer these, often all we need is a small idea and the courage and tenacity to see it through.

3.     One of the key sources of success is our ability to change. It is our ability to recognize when it matters and take active steps to adjust. This is how we succeed—no matter what we call success. We succeed by learning to use “uncomfortable” and live with it, not by avoiding it.


4.     The Excellence Habit is biography of an idea, and the idea is simple. The main source of success is excellence, and excellence depends more on our internal circumstances. Grit, determination, and the discipline to put in the hard work as a matter of habit, and not a matter of need, are crucial.

5.     As we’ve grown out of childhood we have automated our days and we have automated our ways. Our decision-making is guided, and, more often than not, misguided by habits, which are often based on biases. We build habits centered on irrational beliefs.

6.     We have evolved to make our brains happy. Ironically, for a fulfilling life we should accept the opposite. A fulfilling life requires embracing rather than running from difficulty.

7.     Success and excellence are often used as interchangeable synonyms, but they are not the same. There is an important distinction. Success is often defined and measured against a set of external goals. Excellence, on the other hand, is about our internal circumstances and how we use what we have to do our best.

8.     The notion of excellence is essentially the fulfillment of purpose or function: the act of living up to our full potential. For those practicing it faithfully, excellence is its own biggest reward.

9.     The Excellence Habit answers two simple, but important questions: Why do we so often need to compel ourselves to do the right thing, and find it hard to follow the path to a life we want? What can we do to deliberately start and build a fulfilling life?

10. We now officially live in the age of meritocracy. If you’ve got talent, energy, and skill, you will get to the top. If we truly believe in this, by implication the opposite must be true as well. Those who deserve to get to the bottom will get to the bottom and stay there. In other words, your position in life is merited and deserved. As a result, failure feels much more harsh, personal, and devastating. It is almost presumed to be deliberate.

11. We are in the driver’s seat of our lives, and, therefore, we own both success and failure. By accepting the idea that we could achieve anything, we have increased the pressure on ourselves to do so. Paradoxically, this makes it more difficult to reach our goals.

12. There is more than one way to achieve excellence.

13. The Iceberg Principle simply says that the majority of our efforts are invisible to the eye. An important aspect of this principle is that often the effort we make is meant to achieve other goals. We train for one field, and then it turns out this also prepares us for another.

14. When we discuss the power of context and its role in building our Excellence Habit, the assumption is that all context is external. However, there is another kind that really matters. This is our internal context. We tend to spend a lot of time thinking about and noticing our external circumstances, and pay little or no attention to our internal context. Our thoughts and our feelings often go on automatic.

15. Just as with our external circumstances, our internal state can have “broken windows.” From childhood trauma and bad experiences, to poor habits and wrong choices, we carry with us the luggage of our inner circumstances.

16. There is another class of inner context factors that are even more powerful in determining the kind of life we are going to have. These factors are our prevailing thoughts, beliefs, and values. This is what we tell ourselves on a daily basis, and what we tell ourselves in situations that matter.

17. The ability to accept ourselves for who we believe we are is one of those major mental context factors that have the power to shape our lives.

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