No Rest for the Excellent

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On November 10, 2014

NoRestA few years back there was a Doonesbury cartoon that depicted two CEOs talking, and one said to the other, “How did you lose your company?” The second CEO replies, “I went to lunch!” It might not be quite that bad, but there’s no doubt that it’s tough to stay on top of all the changes happening around us in business.

One of the biggest illusions of modern day business is the sense of having “arrived.” We all have moments when we get to bask in a bit of glory when we achieve a goal—but the business world we live in today is constantly changing—and we have to change with it. If you want to be great at what you do, there really is no rest for the excellent!

The concept of always pushing and learning in business is what’s behind a new book by Mark McClusky entitled, Faster, Higher, Stronger: How Sports Science Is Creating a New Generation of Superathletes—and What We Can Learn from Them. McClusky compares the (often slim) competitive edge that world-class athletes seek, and talks about how what often separates winners from “also-rans” can be the slimmest of margins.

One thing that jumps out to me is a quote McCluskey picked up from UK Sport research chief Scott Drawer: “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.”

Why is learning—and learning faster—so important in business? We live in an age when information is disseminated at a remarkable speed. The knowledge you acquire that gives you a competitive edge doesn’t stay proprietary for long. That means you don’t hold your edge for long. Your competition will figure it out. When they do, your competitive edge is gone.

That’s why there’s no rest for the excellent. If we want to excel—to be great at what we do, we have to continually raise the bar. What was cutting edge yesterday is the industry standard today. But here’s the thing: It’s not just about learning what’s new. It’s about learning things that will make you and your business better.

Where do you go to challenge your assumptions about how you do business? Who motivates you to learn about things that aren’t just different—but better? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear who you think has a finger on the pulse of what will move business forward.