Aptitude + Attitude = Altitude

It’s all very well understanding and believing that our attitude is more important than our aptitude, but exactly what can we do about it?

What makes the difference that you can develop?

There appears to be three major differences between those that achieve great success in their field, and those who remain in the obscurity of mediocrity.

  • Successful people know what they want to achieve. They have a clearly defined goal and a vision for achieving it, knowing that technical aptitude alone is insufficient.
  • They are constantly seeking ways to learn and improve.
  • They consistently present a positive attitude.

This isn’t intended to be an exhaustive and comprehensive list of must haves, but to highlight key difference makers that anyone is able to adopt.

Technical aptitude alone is insufficient

Jimmy Conners, winner of 109 professional singles tennis titles says “There’s a thin line between being #1 or #100 and mostly it’s mental.”

In his well-researched book, Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman shows that it’s our attitude more than our aptitude that determines our altitude. Whilst our society lauds intellectual giants and power, Goleman’s research concludes, “At best, IQ contributes about 20 percent to the factors that determine life success, which leaves 80 percent to other forces.” Other EQ researchers, Robert Cooper and Ayman Sawaf consider this too conservative. In their book, Executive EQ: Emotional Intelligence in Leadership and Organizations, they write, “— IQ may be related to as little as 4 percent of real-world success — over 90 percent may be related to other forms of intelligence — it is emotional intelligence, not IQ or raw brain power alone, that underpins many of the best decisions, the most dynamic and profitable organizations, and the most satisfying and successful lives. Malcolm Higgs and Vic Dulewicz set out to disprove this “faddish idea” relenting after their own research that actually, Emotional Intelligence is of far greater importance than IQ and something they term “management quotient”. 

There’s a growing consensus in the academic and popular literature that our attitude and our mindset are more important than our technical capability that make a difference to our success. As Zig Ziglar puts it, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

Difference makers have a better attitude

Consider all the things that Tiger could use as an excuse at the 2008 US Open:

  • Hadn’t played in a competition for 2 months
  • Recent knee operation – reduced fitness
  • Further damaged knee on swing during the tournament
  • Highly skilled and determined competitors
  • Poor first round
  • Pressure of historical wins
  • Expectations very high on his performance
  • Does not need the money

After blowing a three shot lead with 8 holes to play, Woods rallied and came to the 18th hole and stood over a birdie put to avoid an infamous defeat. He came through. Sudden death on the 7th saw an end to his fierce competition and Woods again took the trophy.

How many of us would find that sort of resilience within us?

What can I learn?

People who achieve great success are always learning. They seek ways to improve and are prepared to work through the difficulties of change required to become better.

Peter Senge in his book, The Learning Organization, expands in great detail about his idea for organizations to constantly seek improvement in everything. But what about learning at a personal level? What if you are currently at the top of your game? Surely you’ve already learned.

Our learning journey can go through a series of steps and the height of our performance is determined by our technical ability and our mindset, our aptitude and our attitude.

Aptitude + Attitude = Altitude
The journey is not always easy or straightforward. Let’s return to Tiger Woods…

Prepared to change

You’re at the top of your game, you’re doing better than anyone has ever done in your field. Technically, you are the best in your business. You earn more than anyone else in the same line of business. You have a serious competitive advantage. Why would you decide to change something fundamental about the way you do what you do?

After seven years and 142 tournaments in a row, Tiger Woods finally joined the ranks of mortal golfers when he missed the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship May 13, 2005. Golf pundits argue that changing his swing is to blame.

I thought I could be better
There was another reason, his knee. A physical problem that seems to not want to go away. But what makes Tiger stand out so much from the rest is not just his aptitude for the game, his superior technical skill… it’s his mindset. In spite of being in a great deal of pain… he overcame it with a determination, the will and resilience that allowed his technical brilliance to shine.

Now since I originally wrote this, Tiger Woods has of course, has a little stumble. Does that mean that you can’t learn from his attitude? Like all role models, you take the good, and leave the stuff that does not help. Does it mean that when you reach the very pinnacle of expertise and brilliance in your line of work that you too will fall? Call me when you’re there OK.

A Positive attitude

We all have days (sometimes weeks and months) where everything seems to be going wrong. Whatever you try to do, however clear your goal – there just doesn’t seem to be any progress.

Sports psychologists refer to the period when everything is going well and peak performance is apparent as being ‘in the zone’. Golfers who find their rhythm and the ball lands just so. The athlete who has trained and is at their physical and mental peak runs the race of their life. The business person who’s found themselves in the right place at the right time with the right product or service.

Yet most of the time, we just ain’t there. We yank the club and the ball lands in the bunker. Our business would be just great if we just land this additional sale.

Some days, it’s hard to wake up and find the energy to put on a brave face and go out there knowing that today probably isn’t that day, hoping that it is but not really believing it. We known we have to learn and improve but just when is my breakthrough going to come.

It may not come today, but one thing I can assure you of – something about today is better than yesterday.

What’s better today?

Being prepared to learn and change and put in the required effort is a critical step in constantly improving. But this carries the suggestion that we should focus on what is wrong, or what needs improving.
If we’re going to consider being in “pull-mode” towards our goals and ambitions, a much better question to ask is “what’s better today?”

When you meet someone, or write a message it is ‘normal’ to ask “how are you?” or “How do you do?” Now in doing so, do you really, truthfully want to know the answer?

“Well, I’ve had this terrible problem with my stomach and I didn’t sleep too well last night for all the stress I’m under and…”

How would you respond if instead I asked you “what’s better today?”

Would you reflect on improvements made? Would it cause you to think about some things have indeed m
oved forward?

Try it, I dare you! It makes it a whole heap easier to keep on going towards that goal.

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Dr John Kenworthy

IT Leadership Trainer and Coach at Leadership AdvantEdge
Marshal Goldsmith (the world's number 1 coach) tells you that "what got you here, won’t get you there". Well, I show you how to get there. I am a leadership development mentor and personal empowerment coach for cutting-edge professionals who want to boldly advance their career and business to lead a visionary and purpose driven and impactful life. I help you craft you Leadership Advant-Edge Together we'll boldly kick up some dust, tweak your talents, explore options and create sustainable behaviours and right thinking to advance your career and business. A chef by trade, I moved into the world of IT after creating a fabulous food and beverage stock control system. Essentially, I speak geek, service and ROCE and bridge the worlds of Technology and business and I have an MBA and a DBA in Technology management. I work primarily in Tech Leadership. That is in organisations that are highly tech focussed – either in what they sell or how they create products and services. Basically, you have a lot of engineers, geeks and nerds around. What I do Coaching and training that leverage neuroscience hacks to empower your leadership influence and business acumen. I continue to bridge the world of IT and business with a training ability born of an intuitive gift that's been sharpened by both strategy of sharing great IT and business leadership recipes and improvisation borne of experience. If you would like to know how to motivate and get people to do things that matter, connect with me here or find out more over at www.LeadershipAdvantEdge.com Specialties: IT Leadership, Presenting with influence, Sales and buinsess development coaching, impact and influence, Team Leadership, Identifying Talent, Developing Talent, Coaching, Leadership Development, Leadership Assessment,GAPPS, John Maxwell, Simulation-based and Experiential Learning, Golf, Training Consultancy, Talent Management, Emotional Intelligence, Team Leadership Roles, Team Building

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