High Performance Habits
By Brendon Burchard
If you’re a hard worker aiming high, yet despite your efforts you somehow never manage to stand out from the crowd, you’re probably like most people – an average performer. Author Brendon Burchard has written this book for you, and for all those like you, stuck in the hamster wheel of life, caught up in answering emails and checking off tedious to-dos when you aspire to achieve so much more.
In its pages, he explains that things needn’t stay this way, and he shares extensive research that shows the highest performing people in the world aren’t born with exceptional or extraordinary abilities that lead them to achieve, and they don’t possess specific personality traits, they simply adopt and adhere to six fundamental habits. These high-performance habits can be mastered by anyone, and the author provides everything the reader needs to seek clarity, generate energy, raise necessity, increase productivity, develop influence, and demonstrate courage, thereby elevating their performance to the next level.
My Top 3 Takes from the Summary
High performers have a strong sense of purpose, and they ask themselves big questions such as, how do I want to be remembered?
High performers have a positive outlook that generates mental and physical energy.
High performers take bold actions, and they are open and honest about their true ambitions.
How Extraordinary People Become That Way
Through extensive research and one of the biggest studies undertaken on high performance, the author came to understand exactly what it takes to achieve long-term success. The high performers in the study were of every race, age, gender, and personality trait, demonstrating that these have little to do with success, and the findings were used to pinpoint the key habits shared by those who stand out from the crowd. In short, the study revealed that it’s not who you are, but what you do that’s important, with the key finding being that high performers don’t form successful habits by accident, they adopt them deliberately.
High performers outperform their peers because they consciously and consistently practice six key habits, and these habits are detailed by the author:
1) Seeking Clarity
High performers are goal oriented. They have a strong sense of purpose, direction, and focus, maintaining it in everything they do. They ask big questions of themselves in life, such as, “How do I want to be remembered; what do I want to do with my life?” and in seeking this level of clarity, they are able to see exactly how each action taken will help them to reach their goals. The author explains that there are four fields that need attention to achieve clarity:
Self – you need to know exactly what kind of person you want to become. High performers are focused on becoming the best version of themselves and being remembered this way. For example, this might be being humble, kind, and attentive. Once you’re clear on the person you want to be, you need to question whether you have behaved in this way up until this point. If not, what changes do you need to make?
Social sphere – you need to be aware and intentional in your interactions with others. High performers don’t have an autopilot for socialising. If there’s a lunch date, meeting, or party coming up, the question becomes: How can I shape this meeting in a positive way?
Skills – you need to know precisely which talents need to be developed. High performers will focus on a primary profession or field of interest and work on giving themselves time to practice while avoiding all distractions. For example, if you want to be a great writer, this will mean setting aside time to write, not just learning about writing, and then getting feedback to learn what needs to be improved.
Service – you need to find a way to give back to others. High performers excel at working on behalf of others and not just themselves. This helps to motivate them, endow them with a passionate drive, and grant meaning to their work. The question to ask here would be: Who needs me?
2) Generating Energy
Research shows that successful CEOs are both mentally and physically fit. In fact, their energy levels tend to be similar to those of professional athletes, and it’s known that regular exercise increases the production of new neurons in the areas of your brain that are related to learning and memory, as well as improving mood and reducing stress. The author points out that while everyone might know the benefits of exercise, it’s the high performers that make it a regular habit they stick to, choosing not to find excuses to avoid it like many underperformers.
Having a positive outlook on life generates mental energy, and data shows that high performers are more cheerful and positive than their peers. They continually and intentionally focus on the good while avoiding getting mired in negative thinking, no matter what challenges they face. Research suggests that positive thinking directly relates to having more mental energy and leading a happier life, and one suggestion made to get into the habit of positive thinking is to take a moment each morning to ask yourself what you have to look forward to in the day ahead. Neuroscientists believe that the anticipation of a positive event releases as much dopamine (feelgood hormone) as experiencing the event itself, meaning a positive outlook gives you both the joy of looking forward to something and the enjoyment of it when it happens!
3) Raising Necessity
High performers bring an extra urgency to the work they’re doing, usually in the form of an outside obligation that’s added to their own internal desires. This provides more motivation and increases their likelihood of success. By comparison, underperformers generally rely solely on their own desire to succeed. making their success a preferable outcome, but not a necessary one.
The author provides a personal example of this habit in practice. When he set himself the goal of creating an online video course on personal development, he not only told his friends and family about it, but he also invited them to be the first to try it out and offer feedback. This meant his closest social circle was both aware of the project and looking forward to its completion, and these expectations practically guaranteed that he would meet his deadline. However, it’s important that you set a high standard for yourself.
You want to master your craft, so don’t settle for simple and easily achievable goals, and make sure you attach an external obligation. For example, a local charity gaining exposure and donations as a result of your project’s success would add to your motivation to complete it, or someone else benefiting in some way would likely spur you on to ensure its success. Sharing your goal with others, as the author did, is another high-performer habit for raising the stakes. After all, no one wants to fail publicly, so the more people you tell, the more committed you’ll feel.
4) Increasing Productivity
High performers know how to separate important work from unimportant work, so they know how to avoid the feeling of always being busy yet never getting things done. When you learn how to increase productivity, you create a balance between the energy you’re spending and the results you’re seeing, so your energy is spent on the tasks that really matter. The author draws attention to the fact that it’s common for underperformers to pay a lot of attention to small tasks that make them feel productive in the short run but add up to very little in the long run. One of the main offenders is email: people spend an average of 28 per cent of their working week dealing with emails, and this is because the simple act of answering an email can provide a sense of accomplishment – even though it’s potentially distracting you from more important work.
Timing is another aspect of increasing productivity. Data shows that underperformers are around three times more likely to fall into a false deadline trap, meaning they set a deadline for themselves that is not strictly enforced. If the due date is merely preferable and not an absolute must, there’s little motivation to meet it. On the flipside, high performers are great at planning, which means creating clear and challenging deadlines and goals. Having a visible finish line ahead is a great way to maintain focus, fight distraction, and keep your energy levels up, with data showing that someone with a clear and challenging goal will always outperform someone with no strict deadline. When finish lines are a long way off, the author suggests breaking longer-term goals down into sub-goals to help maintain focus and momentum.
5) Developing Influence
High performers have a giving mindset. They have an awareness of the struggles and desires of others and use that knowledge to provide people with what they need. They give their staff the trust and freedom needed to make their own decisions, and this has been shown to be a great motivator.
A 2016 Work and Wellbeing survey carried out by the American Psychological Association revealed that only half of the workers in the United States felt valued and recognised by their superiors. The author asserts that high-performing managers wouldn’t stand for this, with his research finding that high performers routinely praise their staff and appreciate good work.
Being perceptive and aware of what people need to grow allows high performers to assign the right tasks to the right people, allowing those people to grow, and when a high performer needs something themselves, they don’t hesitate to ask for a favour. By contrast, underperformers often resist asking for a favour through fear of being judged or rejected – even though statistics show the average person will get a positive response three times more often than they expect because most people are too busy with their own affairs to spend time judging you!
6) Demonstrating Courage
High performers demonstrate courage by taking risks, and for them, courage comes from gaining a positive perspective on challenging situations. Far from being an inherent personality trait, high-performing individuals consciously work at developing courage. They recognise that taking bold action involves a higher risk of failing, but they have chosen to learn how to overcome their fear and do it anyway. The author points out that making a risky move is like any other learned skill in that anyone can do it with practice.
It’s all about having the right perspective, and rather than complaining about difficulties, high performers see each new challenge as an opportunity to grow. They know that others might call them “crazy” or “delusional”, but it won’t hold them back. One of the commonest bold acts is being open and honest about true ambitions, something underperformers may avoid through fear of judgement or ridicule. As a note of encouragement, the author suggests that now is the time to be bold and that by being open, readers may find there are lots of people out there just waiting to help them turn their dreams into reality.
In detailing the six habits of high performers, the author clearly demonstrates that high performers are not born extraordinary, they grow through steady and persistent practice that involves a conscious attempt to master proven high-performance habits. This is excellent news for the reader as it means they too can act on the author’s advice to gain more knowledge, master more skills, and consequently grow their confidence to become a high performers.
The information presented in the book is the result of extensive research, therefore it’s not a book of “life hacks” or effortless quick fixes. High performers outperform their peers because they consciously and consistently practice the high-performance habits set out by the author, and the depth of knowledge shared gives the reader everything they need to know and work on to stand out from the crowd.
Bio of the Author
Brendon Burchard is a best-selling author, motivational and marketing trainer, and host of his own podcast, The Brendon Show. In 2016, he was named as “one of the most influential leaders in the field of personal growth” in O, The Oprah Magazine.