My girlfriend has a nine-year-old son, Cole, and he’s a very good all-around athlete. Earlier this week, he had a football camp (he plays quarterback), and on his first day he came back and it was obvious that something was wrong with him. When we peeled back the onion and got to the answer, there was another kid that beat him in a sprinting drill.

When you’re nine, faster = good. Slower = bad. That’s how you see the world.

I’m betting if you have a kid that plays sports, you’ve probably been in a situation that’s similar to this at some point. I gave him two pieces of advice about how we can use this and the perspective and mindset in which you should look at it.

First, something that I talk a lot about an OUTPERFORM for Student Athletes, is social comparison.

Especially with kids, whether we’re talking about grade school, junior high or high school, it is a time of heavy social comparison. I always say:

Social comparison is fine, but you have to know what impact that is having on your individual psychology.

In other words, if I look at a kid that’s faster than me and beat me in a race, do I drop my head? Cry? Do Feel bad about myself? Throw a pity party? Or do I look at that person and think, “What can I learn from them to make me better in the future?” It’s the same way that I would look at somebody that’s a better coach, writer or speaker, and it’s how Outperformers look at “losing.”

They look at a person who is doing better and instead of looking at it as failure; they look at it as feedback. They use this feedback to individually get better.

Second, especially in terms of being a quarterback, I asked Cole, “Why does it matter?” Specifically, if you think about what it takes to be a great quarterback, it’s not straight-line sprinting speed.

If you want proof positive of this, I’d encourage you to watch Tom Brady’s 40-yard dash video from the NFL combine. In the words of the great Lou Holtz, “If Tom Brady was in a race with a pregnant mother, he’d finish third.” 🙂  Sprinting is not a requirement to be a great quarterback. One of the things that Cole’s really been working hard at, and that he’s been doing very well, are throwing mechanics and foot work, two things that DO matter in terms of actually being a good quarterback.

And, yes, I completely get it—the kid is NINE-YEARS-OLD! There’s a good chance that if he continues to play football, he’ll end up playing a different position, or in a year or two, he won’t end up playing football at all. Who knows?

But one of the things that I always ask people if you tell me that you want something (i.e., grow a business, be a great quarterback, etc.):

What do you really need to be excellent at to make this happen?

When you can identify the one, two or three things that you need to be excellent at to influence your desired outcome, it simplifies things and harnesses your focus. It’s the best way for you to get from point A to point B. Instead of worrying about things that really don’t matter, you’re prioritizing things that DO. In Cole’s case, I know that he wants to be a faster sprinter, but the requirements to be a great quarterback doesn’t include sprinting.

If you want to be more focused and productive towards anything in your life, identify what you need to be EXCELLENT at to influence that outcome. You’ll never feel like you’re getting more done, faster and easier, with better results, for the time that you invest into it.

To recap, there are two things that we can all use in our own lives. If you’re doing any type of social comparison, personally, professionally or athletically, what can you potentially learn from people that are better than you at something? Also think about what the things are that you need to be excellent at to influence whatever destination you want to get to in your life.

Do these two things, you’ll be doing your best every single day and Outperforming The Norm.