At 13 I competed in my first Cycling National Championship and remember, as if it were today, the flight I took from Los Angeles to New York, by myself. It was a bit scary, and pretty intense. The riders were all bigger and faster than those I’d competed against to get there. But… I won every single race.
On paper I certainly wasn’t favored to win. More experienced and popular racers had that honor.
Begs the question then, why did a rider with less statistical credibility take the races other riders where a shoo-in to win?
“WITH ENOUGH WILL AND TALENT YOU CAN ACHIEVE ANYTHING!” RIGHT??
The other riders had loads of talent, and plenty of will, if how fiercely and expertly they competed was any indication. But despite the mantra in a plethora of books, blogs, training programs, and commencement speeches; will and talent are NOT enough to guarantee success.
It sounds so right though, even great, doesn’t it? But history shows us, it’s simply never been the case.
Sure, talent and will are relevant, but they aren’t what causes someone to succeed. So what does?
After experiencing significant success in my own life and helping others do the same as their Cornerman, something occurred to me. I was on a long bicycle ride one day, thinking about these questions: Why do those who can (and should) win gold medals, often fall short? And why do those who seemingly lack the ability (and aptitude) to win, often excel and succeed?
The answer, I realized, has everything to do with THE most basic assumption in the chronicles of human performance and achievement.
EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT ‘CLOSING THE GAP’ IS WRONG
The most common approach to ‘Closing The Gap’ in achieving goals, should sound familiar to you. It goes something like this: have a big goal, a great plan, work hard, and you can achieve anything you want. Sounds good, and seems like it should deliver. But, when in the course of human history have you ever seen this predictably work?
A perfect example is my dad. He had big goals, lofty dreams, to-die-for talent, meticulous planning and mega-tenacity, but when he died he was homeless and alone. What went wrong?
We see it all the time. An entrepreneur, executive, athlete, or parent has everything needed to succeed, but then to the bewilderment of anyone watching everything go horribly sideways. Blind-sided by something they didn’t see coming or taken out by something obviously preventable; we immediately ask questions like, “What the heck just happened?! Didn’t they see what they had going? Why on earth did they do that?!”
Perhaps you’ve even had the unfortunate and unpleasant experience of failing to reach a goal or fulfill a dream. More than likely, your failure was entirely preventable.
‘THE GAP’ IS NOT A VOID
Most people assume ’The Gap’ is an empty space with nothing in it, a void. It’s the undefined nebulousness between them and what they want.
If you view The Gap as a void then you’re using what I call the Void Model of performance and achievement. And your objective here is to “close”, or more accurately stated “bridge”, The Gap (from where you are to where you want to be) in order to achieve your goal.
Key factors in the Void Model include the size of your goal, how much effort can be expended over a defined period of time, and the accuracy and effectiveness of the plan.
In practice, the Void Model is a lot like GPS. The starting point is known, the destination (your goal) is known, and you can *usually* select a route (the plan) you believe is best (e.g. fastest, shortest distance).
If you follow the GPS route and directions as they appear you’re supposed to be quickly and easily guided to your destination. Reality however isn’t quite so simplistic.
For example, while traveling to a recent speaking engagement I rented a vehicle that had a brand new, state-of-the-art GPS. I programmed in my destination, pushed the “Go!” button, and zipped away from the airport with all the confidence of a man who knew where he was going and precisely how to get there.
About one mile into my drive though I found myself face-to-face with a bright yellow “Closed Road” sign and a barricade blocking my route. I tried driving around, but no matter how far from the original route I went the GPS would not re-route me. It just kept taking me back to the closed road.
Didn’t take long to figure out the GPS was not going to get me to where I wanted to go, despite knowing my destination (goal), having a route (plan), and my being committed. I couldn’t simply drive faster to get there.
What I really needed, in advance, was to know the existing road conditions and traffic patterns, to have multiple route options, and to have easy access to several guidance resources, i.e. tools and people.
Just like GPS, the Void Model of performance and achievement assumes that with a clear goal, a good plan, enough will and talent, plenty of time, and massive action… you’ll reach your destination.
This, of course, ignores the reality of roadblocks, traffic jams, inaccurate or faulty plans, lacking resources, time constraints, etc. that can and will derail your ambitions.
Achieving your goals and manifesting your bigger future then requires an entirely different view of ‘The Gap’ than that of it being an empty void. It requires a view that empowers you to know, in advance, how to develop a state of readiness for any obstacle, threat, and opportunity that comes your way.
So how do those who seemingly lack the ability (and aptitude) to win, often excel and succeed? How do champions view ‘The Gap’?
I’d love to know what you think it is.
Please share and explore answers in the comments.
In my next post I’ll share the view I’ve learned from working with gold medalists, world champions, and business leaders over the past 40+ years.