When you study the lives of people who are the best in the world at what they do, you’ll notice one consistent theme:
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In an interview, Mike Mancias, performance coach for basketball icon LeBron James, told Tim Ferriss, “Recovery never stops.” That’s the key to LeBron’s success. It’s the key to Olympian Michael Phelps’ success as well.
What do I mean by recovery?
Recovery is organizing the rest of your life to ensure you perform at your highest level. In other words, what Michael Phelps did while he wasn’t swimming was the reason he was so good at swimming. What LeBron James does while he isn’t playing basketball is why he’s so good at basketball.
Focusing on recovery is hard for two reasons:
- We can be impulsive, thinking more work is better, so we just become workaholics.
- Our recovery isn’t actually recovery, but a low-level distraction from what really matters in our lives
More Is Not Better
Let’s start with the first reason. Working more to get ahead eventually leads to a diminishing of returns. It’s like trying to cut a tree down with an increasingly dull saw.
Recovery is sharpening your saw so that you’re effective while working.
But recovery is also about gaining clarity so that you’re cutting down the right tree.
Here’s how Abraham Lincoln felt about recovery:
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” — Abraham Lincoln
See what I mean?
Abraham Lincoln believed that two-thirds of his attention should be spent on his recovery. My guess, if you really looked closer, is that 80% or more of Lincoln’s attention was on recovery.
It’s not about chopping down more trees. It’s about cutting down the right trees.
For example, I see people writing and publishing blog posts every day. But none of these people are ever going to become professional writers in the strict sense. They will always be mediocre novices. Their work isn’t getting any better. They aren’t thinking any bigger about what they’re doing. They’re thinking incredibly small.
Thus a big, big part of recovery is the thinking and imaginative process.
- What is it you actually want to do?
- Is what you’re currently doing the best approach?
- Should you be so focused on output or should you direct your attention more toward results?
- What type of results would constitute success for you?
- How could you get 10X the results with 10X less effort?
- What are the 10% or 20% of activities you’re currently doing that are producing 80% or more of your results?
- How can you delete almost everything you’re doing and focus on what really matters?
- How can you produce less but impact more?
Focus, Not Repetition
You see people go to the gym several times per week for years and never truly become healthier or stronger.
In the book Turning Pro, Steven Pressfield said, “Addictions embody repetition without progress.” Repetition without progress is what happens when you’re working with a dull blade. It’s what happens when you are a dull blade.
You need clear goals that are outcome-focused. When you become very clear about the specific results you want in your life, then you focus on recovery. You focus on figuring out what really works.
You stop just doing more, more, more in an impulsive and wishful manner.
You actually sit down and think about:
- What do you really want?
- Why do you want it?
- Why are you currently getting the results you’re getting?
- What’s working?
- What’s not working?
- How can you improve what is working?
- How can you eliminate what’s not?
“Wherever you are, that’s where you should be.” — Dan Sullivan, founder of Strategic Coach
True recovery is about rejuvenation. It’s about being present with where you are.
Most people are rarely present these days. When they’re at work, they’re distracted. They fight off their self-prescribed ADHD with stimulants to keep them going. When they aren’t working, they’re on their phone impulsively. They’re checking emails, notifications, and being anywhere but where their body is.
Fasting is a form of recovering your body from food intake. While fasting, your body can actually heal itself because, for a brief window of time, it’s not focused on digestion. Fasting from technology regularly is essential for clarity.
Bill Gates is famous for taking one week off per year solely for the purpose of thinking. He calls this his think week. During this think week, he justs read articles, meditates, visualizes, and thinks about Microsoft. Most of the big innovations and ideas for Microsoft came during those think weeks.
Bill Gates gave himself time off. He gave himself time to reflect and renew. It was during those few moments of connection with himself and his thinking that he created something that not only changed the world but made him — for a time — the wealthiest person in the world.
Recovery is about results.
It’s about looking at your life and thinking about:
- What is low-level?
- What is below the standards of my goals?
- What is below the standards of the results I’m seeking?
How can you expect to truly be amazing at what you do if the rest of your life is a mess? How can you expect to be professional if most of your time is spent living like a novice? How you train and practice reflects what happens in the game.
Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach — which is the #1 entrepreneurial coaching program in the world — has found that for an entrepreneur to 10X their revenue, they must massively decrease their time spent working.
Ideally, you spend 35%-40% of your days totally off from work. That would be between 127 and 146 days per year not working.
For Dan, it’s not a free day if you check your email. It’s not a free day if you’re thinking about work. It’s not a free day if you’re not totally present recovering.
Here’s what you’ll find: The people who are most successful do the most memorable and enjoyable things while not working. People who are average at what they do spend their time on average things while not working. They’re watching the news or consuming low-level media.
Those who are successful spend their time off with family, or traveling, or learning, or having powerful experiences, or engaging in real hobbies.
The quality of your recovery reflects the quality of your life.
Look at your results over the past six to 12 months.
- Are you actually getting better at what you’re doing?
- If you’ve been going to the gym, can you actually see the results? Is your body different?
- When it comes to your business, are you actually making more money
- When it comes to your lifestyle, are you actually seeing gains?
If you’re not improving as much as you could be, then you’re not recovering enough or well enough.
You’re not focused on quality. You’re not focused on results. But when you really get serious about results, then you’ll do everything you can to improve your performance.
And improving your performance is all about the setup and design.
It’s about what you’re doing while you’re not at work. It’s about what you’re doing while you’re not at the gym. It’s about taking the long-term view of where you’re going. It’s about thinking big enough to become elite at what you do, rather than maintaining the amateur perspective.
There’s a reason most people remain mediocre amateurs at what they do. There’s a reason that 3% of any given field make over 90% of the money. There’s a reason 3% of the blog posts are read by 90% of the people.
Are you actually getting better? How big are your goals? How can you 10X what you’re doing? How can you spend your time most effectively? Those are questions you must ask if you want to see huge results. Those are questions you must answer if you’re going to get paid big for what you do.
Stop being an amateur. Become a professional.
Become the best in the world at what you do. Become so good your work can’t be ignored.
Do stuff that’s rare, unique, and valuable — not that which is easily replicable.
Have the vision to think big enough.