I don’t know if you’re a tennis fan, but this past Sunday’s achievement by Roger Federer at the US Open ought to WOW you. It was his tenth STRAIGHT grand slam final (no one else has even come close to that). It was his 12th grand slam title in total (putting him at number two on the all-time list, with no end in sight). Because he won the US Open series, he won an extra million dollars for winning the US Open as well (for a total two week take home pay of $2.4 million dollars–not bad!). And it was his fourth straight US Open win–as well as the fourth time he’s won both Wimbledon and the US Open back to back (again, something no one else in the history of tennis has ever done). Quite simply, he’s the best.
But what most of us don’t see is all the work he does in secret. For example, after winning Wimbledon each year, he goes down to Dubai–so he can practice in the HEAT. He calls up organizations like the USTA and asks for them to send him a few young men he can practice with–in Dubai. For hours, he’ll be out on the court. The young men will rotate in and out because of the heat, but Roger stays out on the court the whole time, hitting against "fresh blood," young up and coming players who have lots of energy and speed–hour after hour.
All you and I see is Federer on center court at Arthur Ashe stadium winning match after match, where he looks so calm in the midst of 100 degree days and intense pressure. However, for Roger Federer, those moments of greatness have all been formed in secret, when he’s been willing to push himself harder and farther than his competitors have–out on the practice courts.
That same principle holds true for you and me as well. Nothing is remarkable if it isn’t executed well. And the key to successful execution is found in the practice and preparation that’s done in secret–long before the moment of execution arrives. The speaker who writes out his speech, word for word, and then practices it several times until it feels natural, wows the audience with how "extemporaneously" he speaks. The executive who prepares for hours before a board or staff meeting, appears to be "brilliant" during discussions. The salesperson, who seemed so calm and well prepared for every question you threw at her and who slowly led you to buy–only got there because she had spent hours in private preparing answers for those questions so that they appeared "natural."
It really doesn’t matter what the subject is, remarkability doesn’t just happen. It’s built over time, in secret. So, what are the things you know you need to do–in secret, away from the eyes of everyone else–to get you to the next level? Do you need to practice some responses? Do you need to learn a new skill? Or a new language? Do you need to hone an existing skill? Do you need to practice some more? Do you need to take an additional course? Do you need to hire a coach? Do you need to listen to some audio programs? Etc.
What do you need to do, in secret, to get you to the next level? Whatever it is, do it. And maybe someday, just like Roger Federer, someone will be writing about you and your extraordinary achievement (and hey, an extra $2.4 million for your achievement wouldn’t be that bad either :-)