The secret to being exceptional

My husband was the physiotherapist of a National Rugby League (NRL) club for many years and he came home one day, shaking his head and told me a story which I retell often.

It was just after players had returned from a State of Origin Campaign.

One of the senior players was being treated by my husband upon his return and was talking about his experience away at camp.  During this conversation, he talked about a well-known player who at that point was arguably the best and most talented player in the NRL.  This senior player told my husband how surprised he was that this incredible player, during the breaks when other players might be resting or sleeping, would take himself off and kick for sixty to ninety minutes most days. Practising over and over very basic moves.

My husband was curious and asked what he learned from observing this behaviour. The player he was treating thought for a moment, shrugged and said something along the lines of, ‘I guess he just needs the practise’.

The reason I retell that story so often is because most of us realise the player who told the story completely missed the point. That’s because the exceptional player understood if he was excellent in the basics, it meant he could concentrate on being, well, exceptional. If he could rely on muscle memory to perform those basic functions other players needed to concentrate on, he would always be one step ahead of the rest of the players on the field.  If he knew that when he wanted to place a tricky kick in a particular part of the field while being charged down by four players, he could do it, knowing it would land there.

Now, you may be shaking your head in wonderment that the player missed the point so completely.  But the truth is you’re probably doing it yourself.

I’m not talking about your ability (or lack of it) on the sporting field. Instead, I’m talking about our ability to sit back and wonder at how lucky others are while neglecting the basics ourselves.

Especially when it comes to our finances and our businesses.

That’s because I see so many people who tell me how unlucky they are when it comes to their money and their businesses. How if only they went to a better school, if only they had a better job, if only they were better connected or if only they were born twenty years earlier so they could take advantage of the property market.

Which gives them an excuse to throw up their hands and not try as hard or alternatively act like they’re entitled to more because they started with less.

But the truth is, just like the player in the story, when it comes to our finances and our businesses, many of us are focussing on the trick pass and forgetting about the basics.

What are the basics I’m talking about here? They’re the simple things such as:

  • Understanding where your money is going. With so many free apps available there is no excuse any more to not be mindful about our finances. I’m not talking budgets which just like diets are restrictive and we’ll abandon them at the first opportunity. Instead I’m talking about being conscious around where you spend your money and owning the fact that you are in charge of your finances and your wallet.
  • Spend less than you earn. It seems so basic and yet so many of us aren’t. I can give you so many examples of people who have slowly and surely grown wealth because they lived by this simple principle. It’s not rocket science but it’s necessary if you’re going to try any type of financial trick shot.
  • Become educated. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking business or finances. You can complain that you didn’t receive a great financial education at school, at uni or from your parents or you can begin your own financial literacy program. You can complain that you don’t know anyone who models great business acumen. Or you can go and sort that out for yourself. Yes, you might feel like you’re learning a whole new language but it’s a language that will potentially repay you with security, freedom and cash.
  • Practise like you mean it. Anything is an easy game from the grandstand but eventually you’re going to have to take the field. If you’re nervous about the stock-market then educate yourself and practise with monopoly money and a bunch of dummy stocks for six months. If you’re nervous about taking a risk in business, find a great mentor, speak to an accountant or surround yourself with people who are further down the road then you are. Don’t give up when you have a financial setback or a business hiccup. It’s all about dusting yourself up and choosing to master the basics. Which will take time.
  • Create your own old boy’s (or girls’) network. You can complain that you didn’t have the easy ride others had that went to the right school or you can do something about creating your own incredible tribe. Figure out what you can give, what you need and then put yourself in positions where you can create your own network of people who will push you further.
  • Understand the numbers. I know it’s not the sexy or exciting side of business but neither is practising the same kick for an hour on a cold paddock. By understanding the numbers side of your business, you can start to make great, strategic decisions that will potentially both save and earn you more money.

It’s easy to look around and find reasons why we’re not in a better position financially or creating the success you’d hoped for with your business.

It’s also easy to look at others and tell ourselves how much harder we have it. Which might make us feel better but it’s not helpful. Instead, if we want to improve our financial position and create profitable businesses we can’t afford to ignore the basics.

If you want to develop exceptional finances and businesses it’s essential you’re grounded in the basics – which means practising them daily.

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