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Steps to excellence

Vince Poscente

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Poscente may not have won a gold medal, but the Olympic speed skater knows a lot about the persistence it takes to excel. He discusses how to embrace adversity and do what others won’t. By being selfless and having less fear, you can be compassionate and pursue excellence to the fullest.


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Gold Medal Run

One day, a special day, a day you’ve been seeking for years. You’re standing at the top of the mountain; you’ve made the gold medal round. You got here because you know easy is the enemy of achievement. You took the last four years of your life and dedicated it to speed skiing. You reached your goal: to march in the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and now compete! Now is about doing your very best in this moment, frozen in time. The starter says, “Ready, go.” Wearing a Darth Vader–style helmet and a skin-tight rubber suit, you pick up your skis and point them downhill. Within three seconds, you are rocketing down the mountain at 60 miles per hour. You catch an edge, but your years of training have paid off. You maintain a tight, aerodynamic tuck. By the 11-second mark, you are breaking 125 miles per hour. The air is pushing your body all around. Your stiff, 240-cm skis are now on the brink of disintegration. 130 mph, 135, and at 138 mph, you hit a bump. In less time than it takes your heart to beat, you bobble. Now you blast through the speed trap. It took you a second and a half to cross the distance of a football field. Your speed is final. Instantly you know you have been knocked out of medal contention, but the buzz of being in the Olympics is a tidal wave of adrenaline. “MDRT, your one day has come; that was for you!”

Seeking Adversity

We are here to talk about what you will take away from this conference. You have reached a level of excellence, and now you have a decision to make: Rest on your Olympic class achievements or step up to a new vista. You have a choice to make: Do what you have always done or go to the place no one ever wants to go: adversity.

You see, easy is indeed the enemy of achievement. You have momentum, you have your past successes, but that will fade into the fog of memory. Your time is now! But, how will you get to your new mountaintop? How will you get high enough to see new horizons? Let’s climb together.

After placing 15th in the Olympic Games, the original exit strategy was a tad flawed. When I started in the speaking business, there was zero demand for Olympic athletes who didn’t win in the Olympic Games. As promised, I will share with you a formula that worked as an Olympian, a Hall of Fame Speaker, a New York Times best-selling author, and, in the past decade, a climber who has been summiting and naming unclimbed mountains in the Himalayas.

You could say I spent the first half of my life going downhill—and the second half going up.

Since the Olympics, the formula for seeking adversity, the formula you can use to redefine yourself to a new level of excellence as a financial advisor, where you will sell more and, in turn, impact more people’s lives, that formula is for you.

Now, before you get all lathered up and tingly about this formula, know this: It is based less on your action and more about who you are, about your character, about how you show up. By embracing these five qualities, you will become a local hero, a champion for your clients’ lives and their futures. You know the saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” You will be the rising tide. You will appear in someone’s life and be the example of what he or she needs. You will push a contract across the table and know that you are an example of persistence, compassion, selflessness, fearlessness, and humility.

Persistent

The first and absolute necessary beginning on your journey toward seeking adversity is to be persistent. A new level of excellence is fraught with uncertainty. It may feel like you are already working hard: How could I work any harder? That is the wrong question. How can I work smarter? In the spirit of persistence, you draw from your Olympic experience. To go from recreational skier to the Olympics wasn’t about hard work. It was about persistently doing what the competition is not willing to do. If you’re taking notes, write that down: “Do what the competition is not willing to do.”

And what are those high-performing financial advisors not willing to do? Typically, those are the things you’re not willing to do either. Why? Because it appears difficult from the bottom of this new mountain that you are about to scale.

Let me be clear. Jumping from the Olympics into speaking took 18 months of uncertainty and doubt. I had just spent myself physically, mentally, and even emotionally. I was a hot mess. But the more you put off the excellence you are destined for, the longer it will take to get there. One day you will realize, it is now. Now is the time to do what the competition is not willing to do.

To be persistent, you must first step back and decide what a high-performing financial advisor is not willing to do. Take a page out of my first three months in the speaking world. I called up sales managers for real estate offices. I offered them a free motivational talk for their sales associates. It was a 100 percent closing ratio because sales managers were always looking for something different to do “at this week’s sales meeting.” In three months, you can do 100 presentations. And in three months, you get better. While the competition is trying to figure out a new social media campaign or a color scheme on their new website, you are in front of people on the road to a higher level of excellence. You’re a financial advisor, so advise on finances to people who need it the most: salespeople.

Here’s the problem with persistence when you seek adversity. You meet up with adversity.

Representing a real estate investment service, I went on a road show to help pitch their condo investment projects in the big cities of Calgary, Edmonton, and Phoenix. One particular presentation was at the Grand Prairie Community Hall. Population: 20,000. I showed up in my three-piece suit. The shoe/belt combination was perfectly matched. The problem was, I didn’t get the dress code memo—the steel toe boot/flannel jacket combination.

Five minutes into the talk, one older guy jumps up and fills his 5 foot 5 inch frame. He starts wagging his finger that looked remarkably like an overcooked Hormel sausage. “You, YOU, YOU people are just trying to rip us off.” The place went silent. All the heads swiveled from looking at Mr. Sausage Finger to looking at me.

“You sound skeptical.” I blinked, and the place erupted in laughter. “No, I’m serious; you should be skeptical. If you’re skeptical, that means I need to answer your questions, and it is critical that you have your questions answered. Sir, that was for you. Thank you for bringing that up.” He sat down, smiled, and we carried on.

You will have moments of intense discomfort. The more adversity you seek, the more you will find it, but persistence will see you through.

Another by-product of seeking adversity is those quiet moments where you are meant to pay attention.

Compassionate

The second quality of high performers who seek adversity is that they are compassionate. At the very center of the word compassionate is passion. Seek your passion, and you will take a compassionate financial advisor to a whole new level.

Again, being compassionate is about paying attention. Pay attention beyond your laptop, beyond your desk, beyond your office. Pay attention to the people you serve by following your passion.

Listen, how you got to this place here today happened because, at some point in your life, you knew you were meant to make a difference in the lives of other people.

On a cold October evening, that point in my life was coming into view. I was a senior in high school. One notion kept haunting my thoughts. I didn’t know why, but I became obsessed about giving the valedictory message to our graduating class. Where do these obsessions come from? Why do they appear in our psyche?

On an idle Wednesday night, my mom banged on the window and said, “Quick, Vince, come outside. It’s the northern lights.” If you have ever seen the aurora borealis, you know it is fleeting. Dash outside and you may be lucky to catch the tail end of the light show in the heavens. But this was no normal northern lights.

The span of the shimmering lights danced across the sky. From east to west, there was a band of ethereal strings of fluorescent greens and hues of blue and red. Then, as if coordinated like a spoon swirling cream into a coffee cup, the light vortexed overhead. The bands of light shifted from up and down to in and out, as if they mimicked an eddy of light, cone-like, with the eye of the cone coming straight down over our heads. Mom and I gasped, and on our exhale, the light gathered itself and vanished in a flurry of wisps, lost in the night sky.

Mom turned and said, “That was for you.”

There will be times when you get what is called a “soul tap.” It’s a moment where you are gently tapped on your shoulder with the message “Pay attention.”

How did you end up in your chair here today? One day, you had a soul tap. In the days ahead, if not right now, you will get a soul tap to pay attention. Seek the adversity. It will not be easy, but it is your passion.

Seven months later, I delivered the valedictory message. There was a message burning inside to move people into action. To forge into the unknown. To believe in themselves and follow their passion. At the end of the speech, the ovation was instantaneous; 2,600 people leapt to their feet.

Another soul tap.

Selfless

As mentioned, it took 18 months of self-doubt and being allergic to adversity. The decision to give 100 presentations in three months didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s easy to see those inflection points where your life is destined for a new mountain. The third way to be is to pursue excellence, and you will be well positioned to be selfless.

The third quality that is absolutely essential is to be selfless. Selflessness is a paradox. You know that symbol the ying and yang? You have to pursue excellence in order to be selfless. The more excellence you pursue, the more selfless you can be. Selflessness has everything to do with your focus on excellence. For example, back in the ski race days, our coach had us try to walk a tightrope that was just two feet off the ground. None of us could do it. Some of the best skiers in the world, and none could get past a couple of steps before falling off. Then our coach yelled out, “Stop! Stop looking at your feet. Instead, look up! Pick a point on the wall and do not take your focus off that point.” The next guy got on the rope, looked at the point, looked down at his feet for a sure footing and the coach yelled, “Stop! Stop looking at your feet. Your feet are at the end of your legs; the rope is under your feet. Just look at the point on the wall.” Within minutes, all 20 athletes were able to walk the rope. Did we have a change in skill? No. We had a change in focus. Being selfless is the same thing. Take your focus off self, and your point on the wall is excellence. Do not take your eyes off excellence in all you do. Then you will have the magnetic quality of selflessness, so much so that you will naturally build your book of business.

Fearless

The fourth and most misunderstood quality necessary is about being fearless. But fearless is not about having no fear. It is about fearing less.

You have qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table. You are among greatness in your field. What a wonderful feeling. The classic S curve is what you have experienced. You paid your dues; you hit your flash point and have enjoyed the rocket ship ride up. You may actually be hitting a plateau and not even know it.

In San Francisco on June 12, 2008, we met for the first time. After a slow start in the mid-1990s, my speaking career blasted off. My flash posint was in 1997, and for 10 years it was awesome. In 2007, with awards and a New York Times best seller in the works, you are on top of the world. You invest money into your business. You build a $2 million home, and then 2008 happens.

On that day, before a speech, wearing a suit, knowing the meeting planners were waiting for me in the conference room. Wearing a suit, and head in hands crying, How am I going to make it?

Fear can be all consuming. You can’t get away from fear. You can only fear less. And, as a financial advisor with persistence, compassion, fearlessness, and selflessness, you can help those you serve fear less!

Again, seek adversity. Make fear smaller by going toward it. Not knowing where the money would come from became a game. At one point, there was no money in the bank. The next speech was a couple of weeks away. I pulled into the gas station, and the only cash available was a handful of quarters. Pushing the $7.25 cents across the counter was witnessed by our neighbors, the talky, talky ones. You know, the ones who talk, talk, talk.

Seek adversity.

It took years to turn toward fortune again. One time, there was $80 in the bank, and I had to get to the airport and fly across the country for a seven-city tour. It was a series of public events where the only money would be made from selling my ELEPHantPOWER mobile coaching program. Landing in Boston, your host picks you up and asks, “What hotel are you staying at?”

“Oh, I was going to do that with the Hotel Tonight app.”

“Heck no, if you don’t have plans, why don’t you stay with us?”

“Oh, that is so nice! Man, having a home rather than a hotel would be wonderful.”

Somehow, you make it across the country because you weren’t controlled by fear. You fear less.

Humble

You can either be humble or be humbled. That is the fifth and essential way of being on your path to seeking adversity. Be humble.

You are chosen, not the chosen one. Being part of MDRT is not an ego trip; it is an exercise in humility.

In the lowest times, you have a chance to stay stuck or climb. You choose.

I didn’t know why I needed to be humbled. I was grateful for every speech and every person who invested in my programs. Seeking adversity became the mission. When a friend asked if I wanted to summit an unclimbed mountain in the Himalayas, I immediately said yes. That climb led to another and another. On the third expedition, another soul tap would happen, on a rock in the middle of nowhere.

On the way up, we had not seen any wildlife. As you climb, you have to pause to look up. When you climb, your focus is down, where every step matters.

Ankit, your guide, and you split off after the summit day. Ankit sits 50 meters away as you meditate, grateful for the chance to breathe, grateful for the will to seek adversity and to keep climbing.

Then overhead is a swirl of birds. As if a spoon had swirled cream into a coffee, a vortex of snow finches swirled into a cone shape overhead. I gasped, and, as quickly as they appeared, the snow finches flew off in a cacophony of tweets and wings flapping into the distance.

Ankit walked over and we were both stunned. “What was that?”

“My friend, that was for you!”

Another soul tap. What does it mean?

Pay attention. You have a mountain of adversity waiting for your excellence.

You and I are in the business of helping others. Whether you are a financial advisor or a speaker to the greatest financial advisors in the world, consider this your soul tap.

MDRT, your one day has come.

I hope this video is a soul tap for you. It’s called “The Heroes Climb.” [video]

Here we are, together, reflecting on the past, anticipating what will be.

What is your next mountain? What’s the adversity you will face? Who will you climb for?

You have been chosen by people who need you.

You have a responsibility to leave the comfort of home.

The world awaits the adversity you seek.

This is your time. Let go of judgment; it can only hold you back.

Cultivate your passion. It will feed our world. If you’re not lost right now, you will be.

You are a soul tap away from that next adventure. This is a competitive business! But it is not a race.

None of us has the power to force significance. Pace yourself.

This business chose you. You choose the path.

There is something new under the sun. That something new is you!

Your one day has come.

Persistence will nourish you and leave you spent.

Cherish the times you stand still.

Find ways to be more compassionate.

The passion you share will reflect your character.

Seek ways to be more selfless.

Our world needs your excellence to lead them.

Fear less. Love more.

You’ll be known for how you make people feel not how brave you were.

Above all, be humble.

You may not feel courageous, but you are.

This time we shared was for you.

The honor of your attention is not lost on yours truly.

May we connect in these halls or in the vastness of nature.

Easy is the enemy of achievement, and one day, everything will change.

It may be a setback. It may be a dream come true.

I pray it is adversity we can share side by side.

Let’s climb together.

MDRT, your one day has come!

Poscente

Vince Poscente is a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most in-demand motivational keynote speakers. He has a master’s in organizational management and is an award-winning business owner, sales and marketing executive, and author. Poscente is an expert at taking a team and teaching them how to sell more, lead better and produce more. He is also an Olympian and a hall of fame speaker in both Canada and the U.S.

 

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