Book Summary: Be Great at Anything – Written by Tony Schwartz
The goal of any organization beyond survival is to be the best. Whether you’re an employee or a business owner, this book will give you great insights to increase performance. This is an area that you need to understand and work on daily. One thing Tony does very well in his books is to outline the way elite athletes “work.” Consistent winners know how to engage intensely and in sharp focus and also know how to unplug to relax and rebuild. They can do this in seconds. In tennis, those who consistently won could control their heart rate during the break, while those who ran out of energy had elevated heart rates throughout the match.
Two million deaths each year can be attributed to a sedentary lifestyle.
Simply put, if you want to have a remotely good life, you have to understand energy. Humans need four sources of energy to function at their best: physical (sustainability), emotional (security), mental (self-expression), and spiritual (importance).
People today want to justify everything by being busy. You hear this BS excuse all the time: I’m too busy. The problem here is that 80% of busy work specializes in minor things! You will see this in clubs or sports types of karate classes. Usually you come across people who have been at it for 20 years, but when you dig deeper, you see that they have 1 year of experience, 20 times.
It’s not the amount of time you’ve been doing the work, it’s the amount of work you’ve put in over time.
Be Great at Anything is divided into 5 main parts. I will highlight the main points for time reasons.
The main theme around all the concepts in the book revolves around basic human needs. This inverted triangle is based on Dr. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, but modified in a work environment.
1. Survival – Material needs and desires.
2. Sustainability – Body – Being able to regularly renew and take care of myself, to be healthy, fit and resilient.
3. Security-Emotions – Feeling appreciated, cared for, valued for who I am and what I do
4. Self-Expression-Mind – Freedom to develop and express my unique abilities and talents
5. Meaning-Spirit – What I stand for and believe in – What gives me a sense of meaning
Meeting the basic needs of people at work will create a lasting competitive advantage for the organization. Let’s talk about techniques to bring this home.
1. We cannot change what we do not notice. Therefore, we need to invest in our strengths and in the strengths of the organizations. This helps people become better at what they are already good at.
2. Creatures of Habit – Horrible Statistics – 95% of dieters gain back more weight than they originally lost! 70% of organizational change initiatives ultimately fail. The key to breaking bad habits is to replace the habit with something you are good at that is the opposite of the bad habit. Montel Williams is really good at this. He doesn’t focus on what he can’t eat. Instead, his attention is on what he CAN eat. This simple change in mindset makes all the difference.
3. Sleep or die: learning solidifies during sleep. Adequate sleep is critical for peak performance. The key is mind/body renewal. If you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll consistently perform at low levels over time.
4. Making Waves: Intense, focused work with rest creates results. Timed relaxation is the key to high performance. This can be a nap and/or mediation. Focus your time on a 90-120 minute focus session and then relax. Get up and go for a brisk walk, stretch and regroup.
Use it or lose it: you need to exercise your body and your brain. It’s that easy.
Three weeks in a hospital bed and the atrophy begins. This happens with the mind too.
Apple is an excellent company. Steve Jobs talks about “Making a dent in the universe”. This all boils down to personal and organizational passion.
Organizations need to have a higher purpose than simple profitability. Be Excellent an Anything is really a great road map to get there. The concept of the CEO being the Chief Energy Officer is critical because positively directed energy is the key to personal and organizational success.
I hope you have found this brief summary useful. The key to any new idea is to work it into your daily routine until it becomes a habit. Habits are formed in as little as 21 days.
One thing you can take away from this book is taking mini naps. Unfortunately, most people won’t do this because it’s frowned upon. If you get into the habit of napping at lunch or a break after a 120-minute work session, you’ll see your effectiveness double.