I watched the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in a press conference after Game 3 of the NBA Finals. The Lakers had just beaten the Celtics and the series was now 2-1 with the Celtics up. In May, Kobe, won the league’s award as the Most Valuable Player and is arguably one of the best players to have ever played basketball. To lose two games in a row to the Celtics was both out of character and unacceptable to such a competitor. “I told my guys after the two losses in Boston that there was no reason to give in, we played really well all year. Tonight, I played my game. I was aggressive and really took it to them.”

When asked about how the media’s negativity affected him and his team, Kobe said “I don’t listen to the radio, it’s always negative. It has to be as it is more interesting that way. I just look at it as pure entertainment.” Many might collapse under the pressure. Kobe mentioned that he loves the buzz and the hype, but when the game starts “I concentrate only on how we are going to win this game.”

In the end, this year’s NBA Finals belonged to the Celtics. Kevin Garnett, a power forward for over 10 years in the league, and a big reason for the Celtics winning this year’s championship, was finally getting his ring. It was an emotional series for him since the naysayers doubted his ability to win a championship despite being one of the best in the game. “No excuses, was our motto. The three of us – Paul, Ray and I – said at the beginning of the year that we had what it took to do something big. We needed to put aside our own egos and come together as a team. We sacrificed the pursuit of our own individual records to something greater. And, we did it with the little things. Game after game, we would talk and make incremental changes.”

Tiger Woods put together one of the most memorable US Opens in history. He walked over 21 miles in four days powering through 18 holes of golf with an injured left knee. Tiger’s performance each day was the “come from behind” variety making it even tougher mentally. In the end, Tiger beats all odds and won on a shootout round. How? “I’m patient,” said Tiger. “I look for opportunities in certain shots to constantly give myself a chance.”

Oprah Winfrey was the keynote speaker for “The Stanford University Commencement” ceremony just last week. Undoubtedly, she is one of the most influential people in the world reaching audiences of every demographic. She told this group of elite students to “be open to the lessons…walk through life eager and open to self-improvement and that which is going to best help you evolve, because that is really why we are here – to evolve as human beings… I know that inner wisdom is more precious than wealth. The more you spend it, the more you gain.”

These individuals are “high achievers.” We are lucky to observe their experiences in our lifetime. It has been a lifelong hobby of mine to listen a little deeper to not only these types of individuals but to others as well to hear the messages they have for me. And, this list includes you members! As a teacher and studio owner, I get to see first hand the work it takes to become a high achiever in the hot yoga room. It is not a path for everyone. Yoga is relentless, grinding, and it can take every last bit of pride right out of you. While the class itself ebbs and flows, balancing effort with surrender, the high achiever (you) knows that the task is simple: show up, stay present, be patient and eventually brilliance will emerge. Staying mediocre is not an option. As an old proverb says, “A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.”

John Noe, author of Peak Performance Principles for High Achievers and an accomplished mountain climber, describes the essential attitudes necessary to be a high achiever:

  • High achievers make no small plans
  • High achievers are willing to do what they fear
  • High achievers are willing to prepare
  • High achievers are willing to risk failure
  • High achievers are teachable
  • High achievers have heart

Furthermore, he brings up an interesting concept called “out-of-self motivation.” The idea is that we are three dimensional human beings with a mind, body and spirit. “Our spirit needs to be fed and exercised or it gets weak and ineffective.” Confidence, a powerful term, meaning “in faith” or believing in something greater than what you are today is a required component to becoming a high achiever.
“When spiritual doubt takes hold of our lives, we become immobilized and cannot realize our potential,” states John.

I love the term high achiever. It allows for making “God-sized goals” with the idea that you are becoming, as opposed to accomplishing. There is no end to your potential. It is not about competing with or comparing to anything or anyone and is accessible to everyone!

There is a unique idea, “everyone is special and no one is special.” As I read about these well known individuals, I take in their stories as if they were mine. I take them in as if these stories were yours too. Isn’t it true that when we start a practice, we feel like the odds are stacked up against us with the heat, the pain, our broken bodies and we feel that we will never touch our head to the floor in Separate Leg Stretching pose? Adversity visits everyday. It doesn’t cripple us, however. One day it seems to have subsided and the next day it’s all we can do to just stay in the room. And, one day it happens! Your forehead is on the floor.

It comes from perseverance, preparation, attitude, patience, confidence – attributes of high achievers like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey…and you! All these remarkable attributes are yours for the taking.

In his book, To be Victorious in Life, Paramahansa Yogananda explains, “so long as you are trying, so long as you pick yourself up when you fall, you will succeed. It is not the victory itself that brings pleasure, but the power and satisfaction that come when you conquer a weakness.” Make it a point to study those whom you admire and see them within yourself. Why shouldn’t you have that kind of determination? “Don’t deny your own supreme power within yourself,” says Yogananda.