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How to Stand Out

What does it take to stand out from the crowd? I learned a great deal about standing out from my personal experiences of becoming a professional baseball player. I have learned even more about standing out from my 18 years of college coaching experiences with athletes who achieve amazing outcomes. In my youth, my answer would have been results, statistics, wins, and maybe leadership. However, with a bit more life experience now, my answers are different.

I like to pose this question to our team, “Do you want to be common, or uncommon?” Another distinction I like to make is, are you a contender or a pretender? Both are difficult questions because most people see themselves as uncommon contenders. However, many people are not being honest with themselves because their behavior is more like a common pretender. I am well aware these things strike close to the heart, so I am careful with my words when I communicate these messages. I have found most athletes do want to stand out from the crowd, and the following are my ideas on how best to achieve it.

People who stand out from the crowd do so because they are uncommon people doing common things exceptionally well. Common people follow the crowd and will live with mediocrity, but uncommon people are willing to behave differently in order to achieve excellence. Common people struggle with consistency while uncommon people have grown past that obstacle. Common does not mean you are a bad person, but it does mean you will do just enough to achieve lower standards. Uncommon people love the challenge of higher standards, and eventually stand out because of their consistently good behavior. Improved outcomes are the result of their behaviors, and if done well, those high standards are met. This process leads to progress, which is what every athlete and coach are striving towards.

Two great examples: Mady Rails and Maria Doering, medalist and National Champion

The three most important variables which affect our ability to stand out are our thoughts, words, and actions. I do believe results matter because they are affirming and validating, but outcomes are determined by the execution of our thoughts, words, and actions. To stand out is a constant test of self-control. The cumulative effect of our impulse over time has the greatest impact on our outcomes. If we control our impulse, be it our thoughts, words, and actions, then we then put ourselves in position to influence outcomes to the best of our ability. If we lack control of our impulse, we give over that influence to others to decide our fate.

Our thoughts, words, and actions must be in harmony and congruent at all times. All it takes is for one to be out of step to disrupt our spirit and negatively affect outcomes. Thoughts and words are directed by our mind and tongue, and both possess power for which we greatly underestimate. We become what we dwell on and speak about. Be mindful to always think your highest thoughts while also speaking with words of substance and value. When developing our thoughts, we must start by knowing what we want, why we want it, and what it will take to get it. Our thoughts will be shaped by our wants, our why, and what it takes to get it. Defining these things will keep us focused on a key element – our purpose. Always remind yourself of your purpose and use it as your compass on the journey to stand out.

Actions are initially guided by our thoughts, and usually come before saying them out loud. Our action can be made more powerful by breathing life into it through spoken words. It can be scary to verbalize our wants, but when our thoughts are hidden inside our minds, away from the world, it reduces our power and effectiveness. This expression should be two fold – on paper in written form, and verbally to the people around you. Read the written form often as a reminder of what you want, and have people who care about you hold you accountable to it. Express what you want in this manner and the universe will conspire to help you achieve excellence. If what you want remains bottled up inside your mind, it is then all on you to get it done, but understand this - anything worthwhile cannot and should not be done alone. Success is best achieved when it is shared, and far more enjoyable as well.

Our thoughts and words are the seeds which guide our actions. Planting good seeds is essential to getting what we want. We may plant good seeds, but we may not know the right actions to take. Seeds are most effective through a pattern of consistently good behavior, applied over time. Therefore, seek guidance from knowledgeable and experienced people who do know, listen intently to them, and take action as directed. The more you allow others to become vested in your pursuit, the greater the chances of your success. For action to bear fruit, your seeds must be cared for and protected from invaders. Protect your thoughts and words at all cost, and your actions will be consistently good.

Taking action is the most difficult of the three, and the most important. Nothing gets accomplished without an abundance of action. We may think or say anything we want, but our action is what reveals our truth to the world. Always act in accordance to your best thoughts and best words. How we behave defines our character, and our character affects everyone around us. Our action should always be purposeful, intentional, and meaningful. Action is not always pretty at first, but with consistent repetition, our action becomes a valued skill. Always ask yourself, “Is this helping or hurting my ability to get what I want?” If yes, keep doing it, but if not, stop immediately.

As we are in action, we must continue to sharpen our thoughts and words. Why? Because our mind is not a static organ, and it works best when we update our thoughts and words to the circumstances we find ourselves. We are always evolving and in a state of change, be it progressing or regressing. Either way, we must adapt, and be committed to sharpening our minds to meet the moment at hand. Make sure your thoughts and words are in total support of your action, and reject that which is not in alignment with what you want. The process of standing out is fluid and ever changing, rarely perfectly linear, so be prepared for necessary adjustments.

Life has a way of sending us adversity, obstacles, and challenges to work through along the way. Each time you meet resistance is an opportunity to learn a lesson. Embrace those moments, no matter how frustrating it may be. All the while, be mindful of the harmony required between your thoughts, words, and actions. All it takes is for one of the three to be disrupted for your pursuit to be thwarted. No amount of right action can overcome the impact of negative thoughts and words. Good action alone can usually help you stay on track, but when all three are combined we accelerate towards growth.

As you read these ideas, take note of what is not being said as much as what is being said. These three variables are the foundation of success. You might do everything else right, but if your thoughts, words, or actions are misguided, then you will likely struggle to make progress and remain frustrated. In my humble opinion, our thoughts, words, and actions have the greatest impact on the quality of our life.

Lastly, and most important – do not make outcomes and results the most important thing. Know what you want, but avoid making outcomes your sole focus. Instead, focus your attention on executing the behaviors required in the process to get what you want. All good things in life come at a premium price. Step up and pay it, and you will receive the benefits. Never ask for a discount either! Consume yourself with the process of behaving your best through your thoughts, words, and actions. Do this and you will enjoy more fulfilling outcomes. Do this, and you will stand out.

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