The Pursuit of Excellence, Part 1

Book by Ryan Hawk; Summary by Susan Schilke

Living a life of excellence is about the fanatical pursuit of gradual improvement. While success is measured against others, excellence should be measured against your own potential. And according to author Ryan Hawk, The Pursuit of Excellence is about always aiming higher. In the foreword, Patrick Lencioni describes the book as Ryan’s observations about the worlds most excellent leaders assembled into a toolkit – “a must read if you care to live an excellent life.”

The book is jam-packed with fascinating anecdotes and clear directives. The first two chapters remind us that growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety, and excellence is found in daily habits.

Chapter 1: Purpose Mindset

1. Follow your passion is bad advice. People enjoy their work when they have autonomy, mastery and relationships, not whether the work matches their inclinations.
2. It’s always about growth, so constantly battle the fixed mindset (potential is limited by our DNA) and embrace the growth mindset. Look for friends and partners who challenge you and experiences that stretch you.
3. Figure out your process – the system that lets you produce your best work – and stay true to it. (Billy Joel)
4. Change your mind. Fight confirmation bias constantly and be ready to rethink decisions and find better ways. The ability to change your mind makes you a better decision maker.
5. Choose transformational relationships. Surround yourself with people you trust and respect, people you can be vulnerable with and laugh with, people who are optimistic yet challenging.

Chapter 2: Focus and Discipline

1. Discipline = Freedom. Scott Mann used this quote last year in our workshop. “Only the disciplined in life are free. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and your passions.” Resist self-sabotage or external influences outside your control that impact the plan and the daily commitment to improvement.
2. Do the right thing the right way. Leave people, places and things better than you found them. (Mike Trout)
3. Have a singular focus and avoid distraction. We are in a constant battle against distraction, but excellence requires discipline in where you put your focus. A divided focus, even for a second, is enough to make you miss your mark. (Michael Phelps)
4. Focus on what you can control, especially when adversity strikes. (John Chambers, Cisco)
5. Fall in love with the process (not the outcome). High achievers hit their targets because they love and stay consistent with the daily actions required to excel.
6. There are no tricks. The best work always comes from discipline and focus. Stay connected to the work in good times and bad time, trusting that the process will pay off.
7. Focus on your attitude and your effort. These are the two parts of your day you always control. Bring positive energy to the rooms you enter. And give 100%. If you focus on these two things, attitude and effort, you’ll find yourself in a better position day after day. (Moki Martin)