The Neglected Necessity For High Performance

Everyone wants to win at life…both professionally and personally. And we often have a pretty good vision of what that would look like, in both arenas: Meaningful work where we are knocking it out of the park in reaching goals and dreams through using our gifts and talents, and relationships that are enriching, stimulating, fulfilling, and functional…..(don’t want to leave that “functional” word out). But the reality is that in both our pursuit of dreams and in our relationships, we all, at some point, hit a limit of our capacities that realize the next level we desire. That is normal.

Even a Navy SEAL, Olympic athlete, global CEO, or any other high performer runs into the limit that their current level of ability can take them. Everyone hits their limit. We hit limits in our personal lives as well, or in a relationship. We hit our limit in our ability to get through a conflict or an impasse. So, what do we do then?

Unfortunately, at that point, most people engage in very important tracks of improvement, but they leave out the most important ingredient. They work on gaining knowledge, upping their skills, getting more committed, freeing themselves of distractions, measuring the right things, holding themselves accountable, and the like. Or said another way, they work hard on improvement. And that is totally necessary. If Michael Phelps wants to cut him best time by a few seconds to break another world record, there is more training and technical mastery that must occur. No doubt.

This path that many people undertake to get better usually focuses on gaining skills, knowledge and competencies. And it is valid. But here is the problem…. it leaves out the most important ingredient to getting to the next level: relationship. What I like to call “the power of the other.”
Why is that important?
We could point to the path of every super high achiever to illustrate this. Here are a few:

  • Richard Branson had Freddie Laker
  • Michael Phelps had Bob Bowman
  • Henry Ford had Thomas Edison
  • Mark Zukerberg was mentored by Steve Jobs
  • Gates by Warren Buffet and Ed Roberts
  • Michael Jordan by Phil Jackson
  • and on and on.

Talk to any high performer and they will point to the reality of the “power of the other” in their path to success. As Branson says, “I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in the airline industry without Freddie’s down-to-earth wisdom.”  
Or we could point to the research itself. It shows that who you surround yourself with will determine almost everything:

  • How long you live
  • How much money you make
  • Whether or not you reach your goals
  • How well your kids do in school
  • How much you trust people
  • How you cope with stress and failure
  • What kind of mood you are in
  • How much physical pain you experience
  • How and what you think
  • And much more……

The research on thriving in every area of life tells us one thing: we need the “power of the other” to get past our own limits, and fulfill our dreams and aspirations. There is no disputing what the research in all areas of life tells us.
But why? Why is this the case? Can’t we make it on our own?

Simply stated…. “NO.” Unless you want to remain at the level you have already attained with your own abilities as they are. For to gain new ones, and surpass your limits, it requires relationship. Not only does research and experience show us that this is true, but neuroscience can now tell us “why.” Basically, we do not exist in a vacuum. We used to think we were just body and mind. Our physical brains and body, plus talent/personality/heart/soul…..or whatever you want to call that “immaterial” part of us. But now, neuroscience has shown us that there is a another role in our performance besides our physical brain and our invisible heart, mind and soul: it is the “other.” For here is the ultimate reality that we now know and must embrace: The development of your brain (the functioning of the physical organ with all of its wiring and chemistry) and the growth of your heart mind and soul in their capacities to perform, needs other people in order to occur. Science shows us that relational connection is what fuels us to be able to grow new circuitry in our brains, change our brain chemistry, and rewrite the software that powers the performance of our hearts, mind and soul. How can this be?

It is the old “mind/body dilemma.” For centuries philosophers, psychologists, medical experts and others have labored over this question: how is it that something invisible, such as a connection with another person, have an effect on something material, such as our bodies and our brains? Now science can show us. And it all has to do with two ingredients: energy and information.

Here is the truth: a human connection imparts energy, and information to us. Just like a computer downloads updates and fixes through a “connection” to a network, we “download” energy and information---coding---from our interactions with others. Through support, challenge, fueling, confrontation, accountability, stretching, dealing with failure, loss and pain, observing our performance and giving actionable feedback…..and many other ingredients, relationship imparts the energy of connection to get to the next level, and the informational coding that the software needs in order to get it done. When that happens, new circuitry grows in our brains, minds, nervous system, glandular functioning, etc. to get us to the next level of performance. Think “You 3.0” the upgraded version. We all need the next upgrade….and we get it from relational connection.

So, do not try to reach the next level alone. And, do not just think any relationship will do. There is malicious software out there that you can download too, as well as viruses. The “power of the other” is not only positive….it can be disastrously negative as well. Choose wisely.
But, do choose. Choose to get better by not only upping your skills, knowledge and competencies, but realizing that to do that, you are going to need the right mentors, coaches, teachers, and support network to get you there. If you do both….I am confident that you will get to your next level, whatever that might be.Cheers,Henry

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Dr. Henry Cloud

Cloud Productions
PO Box 862
Allyn, WA 98524