Just a thought: Don’t be a minimum benchmark person

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What is the minimum necessary for you to do to get by in this world? If you sat down with a sheet of paper and wrote out the least you could do to get by in your family, what would it be? What if you wrote down the least effort necessary to keep your job?

How many people get by in this world by merely accomplishing the minimum? On a scale of one to ten, if a three is what is expected of you at work, do you have to stretch your efforts to make it up to a three? There are many in this world who live their lives from day to day just trying to survive with the minimum effort possible. They are repeatedly asking themselves the “What is the least I can do?” question.

So let me ask you this question. Is your benchmark the minimum set by someone over you or someone next to you, or is it the best you can do in any given situation? Let me quantify this to help explain. If a three is necessary to keep a job and a person has the skills to hit an eight, which should a person strive for, a three or an eight? I say an eight.

Many people in this world have a minimum set for them by another and suddenly their objective becomes just meeting the minimum. If you expend just enough energy to get to the minimum, you have job security. Maybe not.

Is your life one of meeting minimums or is your life one of meeting your potentials? There are many “minimum people” out there - you are probably thinking of a few right now. Yet there are also many “maximum people” who live life by giving their best at what they do regardless any minimum that may exist.

I worked my way through college at Baylor University’s dining halls. Starting as a lowly freshman “beverage” boy, wiping counters and stocking glasses, I climbed my way up the ladder until I was Head Student Supervisor responsible for all four student dining halls on campus. My job of overseeing around 130 students taught me more practical applications for my life ahead than I could ever learn in any classroom setting.

One lesson I learned applies here. No matter what our posted hours were, we would open five minutes earlier and close five minutes later. For example, if we were supposed to open for breakfast at 7:00, we would have everything set up and the doors opened no later than 6:55. If breakfast was posted to close at 9:15, we would close at 9:20. In my six years working in the dining halls, our goal every meal was not to just meet the minimum posted, but to exceed it.

Why should any of us determine what the minimum is and merely try to meet it? Why not ask the question, “What is the best I can do?” or “What is the best we can do?”

Let me use an example in the business world. Say there are four other businesses that offer the product or service you provide. Now let’s assume an objective outside scorer, on a scale of one to ten, would rate these four businesses as a two, a three, a four, and a five. Say your business is rated a six. This sounds pretty good and it sounds like you will have a lot of business. With the weaker competition, all you have to do is be a consistent six and you can have the lion’s share of the market.

But say your business has the potential to be a ten. I would present to you that success for your business is not scoring a six, but scoring at least an eight, a nine, or even a ten. Your job as the leader of your business is not to lead your troops to be a lackadaisical six to land just above the competition. Your job as the leader is to do your best to provide the best product or service you can independent of the level provided by the others.

If you accept a six because it gives you the greatest share of the market, what happens when a level eight business moves to town? If your business has spent five years being a six, it will probably be in trouble. You now have to try to motivate a team with a comfort zone that nets a six to a higher level. If, over the past five years, you have moved your business from a six to a nine, you have nothing to worry about when the eight arrives; you just keep doing what you are doing.

So it is in your personal life. If looking outward motivates you to be a ten, so be it. But I believe there are many in this world individually and many collectively who determine where the lowest the bar can be set and then seek to meet the bar. Does your job require you to be at work from eight to five? Do you always arrive at 7:59 and leave at 5:01? It sounds like you have determined the minimum and just barely squeak by. Do you refuse to ever do any work related project at home because you are only paid for time during business hours? If being a five is adequate, why be a ten?

Zig Ziglar shared in one of his talks years ago in Roswell that each employee should add more to their job than what is expected. He used the example of making a bed. If your blanket reaches the edge of the bed and goes no further, you may get cold at night, but if you make sure the blanket is long enough to turn over at the edges and then tuck it in, you will have all the warmth you need.

If you arrive a little early each day at work, are working hard when your shift begins, and then don’t slow down until five minutes after your shift is to end, you are covering both ends and you will increase your value. After all, job security is easy; simply do such a good job at what you do so that your shoes would be nearly impossible to fill with another. Your value to your organization will prevent others from even considering replacing you.

In your family you may be in the habit of bringing home flowers or writing cards on various days throughout the year. Why not bring home flowers or write a card on what is calendared as just another day. Surprise your child with an afternoon playing frisbee at a park or take him out to an unexpected lunch.

My challenge to you today is to not live a minimum life. It is so easy to barely squeak by day to day staying one small step ahead of what is expected of you. Don’t be a person who spends time dwelling on what the minimum is that is required for you.

Who cares what the minimum is? Be a maximum person who flies higher than any minimum that is set and seek a higher benchmark tied to what your best efforts can accomplish. Your benchmark is up to you; it is your choice.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.orgmailto:thekraftlawfirm@aol.com or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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