I always feel like somebody’s watching meeeee

Shout out to Rockwell…and I’m sorry to you because you now have that jam stuck in your head.

Fun fact:  Did you know that Rockwell is Berry Gordy’s son, Redfoo from LMFAO’s brother, etc.?  Straight up Motown royalty.  Someone likely was always watching him, and he probably got little to no privacy.  Oh-oh-oh.

I’m taking a quick break from the series I’ve been writing on effective apologies. If you haven’t read those, click here to read the first post in the series. But I’m sure you’re like me – the internet has dragged my attention span down to that of a sugared-up toddler, so here’s a different topic! (don’t worry – if you’re digging the other series, there’s still a few more posts to come very soon).

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Original photo here

I have always been really fascinated by leadership, personal development, and productivity. I like to take complex, amorphous topics, and then break them down into actual tasks/ideas that can be incorporated into my life.

You may have heard of Tim Ferriss, the author of the 4-Hour Work Week and other related books. I love Tim Ferriss’s ideas, though I can’t quite make all of them work (nor is that Tim’s point). Lately, I’ve started listening to his podcast on my commute, and it is full of nuggets that you can apply to your life. What’s great is that the vast majority of them come from people Tim is interviewing…not from Tim himself. The genius in Tim Ferriss’s approach is that he is a student of the world, he narrows his focus to learning from people who are the best at what they do, and he asks pertinent, thought-provoking questions that result in some amazingly usable thoughts.

I listened this week to his interview with General Stan McChrystal and Gen. McChrystal’s aide-de-camp in Afghanistan, Chris Fussell.

Tim asked one specific question of Fussell that elicited some amazing advice. Tim asked, “When you think of the word ‘successful,’ who is the first person that comes to mind, [and] who that person would have been when you were in the field[,] and who that person is now, if they’re different.”

Fussell replied, “[…] I had a great mentor of mine early on in my career say advice that I heed ‘til now, that is ‘you should have a running list of three people […] that you’re always watching: someone senior to you that you want to emulate, a peer who you think is better at the job than you are and that you respect, and someone subordinate who’s doing the job you did a year or two or three years ago better than you did it.’”

Think about it like this: the marathon is 26.2 miles long for everyone, but you don’t know the route until you’re on it. There’s no map, there’s no signs…you just run, and the manner in which you deal with the unexpected turns and rough terrain is a huge determining factor in the ease with which you finish – or maybe if you finish at all.

Some people are raised by parents who already ran it and kicked the race’s ass. Some people are raised by parents who failed when they ran the race.

Some people start 3 miles before the starting line, some people start 8 miles before. Some drop before they even get to the starting line. Some start 5 miles into the race…such that a delay from a missed turn or steep incline doesn’t keep them from finishing, and finishing stronger than most.

No matter where you start, no matter if you know the map or not, imagine how much easier and fulfilling it would be to run the race if you could download the knowledge of 3 key participants.

Visualize what it would be like if you could spend 3 minutes with someone 10 miles ahead of you. You could ask them what they saw when they were at your mile marker, what lies ahead, what to watch out for. You could gain some confidence from the mere fact that 10 miles ahead, there are still runners, and they are still running.

Envision a talk with someone right by your side, but who isn’t sweating at all, who is feeling great, who is clearly en route to a great finish. You could gain insight into their routine, how they warm up, their nutrition – anything and everything that’s making it easier for them to run this race – and glean anything you find that might help you run even 1% easier.

Imagine a talk with someone 5 miles behind you, who seems to be doing it better than you were then. You can not only gain just as much insight into best practices as you could from the other 2 runners…you can advise them on what lies ahead. When they couple their already superior preparation and ability with the leg up that your vision gives them, it’s not only a feel-good moment for you. It’s also a strategic advantage as the race unfolds…a potential champion is likely going to catch up with you, and remember you very fondly.

And here’s one last point: are you living your life in a way that someone could have you on his or her three?  I don’t know about you, but until I can sing Rockwell’s anthem and actually mean it, I have a lot of work to do!

I’m interested in who your three would be! Comment below with who you’re watching!

Thanks for reading, don’t forget to follow me on facebook or twitter, or to subscribe to my newsletter, for more articles like this.

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