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The Performance Gap

Many of us probably have these questions cross our minds from time to time: "I thought I was capable of more. I’ve worked very hard. Why am I not as successful as I would like to be?”

Bruce Lee might answer those questions this way: “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.” Regardless of who we are, if we desire success in any area, that means there’s likely a gap between where we are and where we want to be, and most likely, that gap is also between what you’re doing and what you know you should be doing. This is the gap that keeps most people and organizations stuck below their capabilities.

The secret to greater accomplishment is in closing the distance between knowing and doing. You can’t outmaneuver your action or lack of it. Behavior doesn’t lie. Who you really are is not what you say, believe, or even think; it’s what you do. Spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially, physically—to know what needs to be done and still not do it is more than a mistake. It is a tragedy. A tragedy of mammoth proportions. For many people it is the natural way of life.

Think of the things you know you should do: Change the oil. Eat healthy. Exercise regularly. Pay your bills on time. Honor your commitments, even the wedding RSVPs. Get regular checkups. Floss. Answer your emails and phone calls in a timely manner. Go the extra mile in relationships. I could go on.

But knowing is way different than doing. The only way you will get to where you want to go is by changing what you actually do. You must close the performance gap—the difference between what you know and what you do.

Performance coach Alan Stein, Jr. once asked Kobe Bryant, after watching him practice the sport’s fundamentals at 3:30 a.m., “You’re the best player in the world. Why are you doing such basic drills?” Kobe responded, “Why do you think I’m the best player in the world? I never, ever get bored with the basics.”

Alan studied many high performance people and wrote a book titled Raise Your Game: High-Performance Secrets from the Best of the Best. From some of that information he produced an outstanding video on maximizing personal growth and performance. He says…

  • Fixing the performance gap requires asking yourself the right question. “How well am I actually doing this?”

  • Fixing the performance gap requires acting on what we already know. It is the difference between what we know we’re supposed to do every single day of our life and what we actually do.

  • Fixing the performance gap is a process. The first step to maximum growth and achieving high performance is closing that gap. It’s doing the things we know we are supposed to do. It is ongoing, not overnight.

  • Fixing the performance gap is not easy. Just because something is basic doesn’t mean it’s easy. If it was easy, everybody else would be doing it.

  • There are no shortcuts to fixing the performance gap. Alan says, “We live in a world that tells us it’s okay to skip steps, tells us we should always be on the hunt for a shortcut or hack, and implies there’s nothing wrong with focusing on the outcome and skipping the process. But anytime you do that you are making a grave mistake.”

  • Fixing the performance gap requires admitting that the basics work. Again he says, “The basics work. They always have and they always will. The very first step to maximizing your growth, the very first step to maximizing your performance is to admit that the basics work.”

  • Fixing the performance gap requires humility. Quoting Kobe Bryant, “It’s also having the humility to acknowledge that implementing the basics every… single… day is never, ever going to be easy.”

The performance gap is essentially the difference between actual (what is happening) and ideal (what should be happening). The gap can be at the individual level or the team level. Closing the gap is always the path to improved performance and outcomes. Doing what you know gets you on the path.

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