I like to learn from top performers. I like to observe how they achieve their level of performance.
From my observation, there is one characteristic that I notice again and again. It seems to be a common thread among them. It seems to be something that they all have.
That characteristic is immersion. Top performers are immersed in their fields. They live and breathe what they do.
I realized this when I observed world chess champion Magnus Carlsen. Once, in an interview, he was quizzed about chess positions from games decades ago. The interviewer asked him to identify the games where the positions come from: who the players were and when the games were played. And guess what? He could identify each one of them!
How is that possible? How could he do such a thing?
The short answer is that he thought about chess all the time. He was immersed in it. He even said that during the interview, as he was speaking, he had chess positions flashing through his minds. Wow!
I see this characteristic again and again in top performers. Jiro Ono, for instance, was so immersed in the art of sushi making that he dreamt about new kinds of sushi at night. That’s how he got many of his ideas. And that’s why the title of his documentary (a very good documentary, by the way) is Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Another example is Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart. In his biography, he said that wherever he was, he always took time to visit local stores. Why? Because he wanted to find new ideas and inspiration. He did it even during vacations. He simply thought about retail business all the time.
One more example is Warren Buffett. As a young analyst before the age of personal computers, he was so immersed in numbers that he had the financial reports of many companies in his mind. A businessman whom he met at that time was embarrassed to realize that Buffett remembered his company’s numbers that he himself had forgotten!
I could give you more examples, but the point is clear: top performers are immersed in their fields. They live and breathe what they do.
So here is the lesson: if you want to become a top performer in your field, immerse yourself in it. Be so immersed in it that you think about it virtually all the time. That’s the proven way to mastery.