1. They Aren’t a Two-Book “Expert” (And They Don’t Hire People Who Are)
Dominant Players (or DPs for short) ensure they have current and relevant mastery and expertise in a subject (or subjects) before they open their mouths to tell you what they know. They don’t read an article in Inc. magazine and decide they’re now well-schooled in the subject and can give you advice — or, worse yet, sell you their advice or consulting services.
It’s fine to have an opinion, but make sure you aren’t delusional about your level of expertise — and never hire anyone who is.
2. They Know Learning Is Like Breathing: Stop and You Die
Learning is the oxygen that feeds a DP’s success in life and in business. As such, they recognize the importance of learning something new every day, whether it’s refining their knowledge of a subject they already have mastery in or embarking on a new course of learning. DPs go to bed smarter than they were when they woke up. We have saying in our home that stems from our years homeschooling our girls: “What did you learn today?” Ask yourself that question before your head hits your pillow.
In a world that’s rapidly evolving, your education never truly ends — at least not if you intend to stay at the top of your game (which you do if you’re a DP). Learning is a daily habit and not a one-off act. If you aren’t learning and growing, you are essentially becoming ignorant and irrelevant. And there’s no reason not to be learning in this digital age. The world is your classroom, and an explosion of online education gives you access to unparalleled learning opportunities.
I love the Charlie Munger’s quote that goes, “This is really crucial: Warren [Buffett] is one of the best learning machines on this earth. The turtles who outrun the hares are learning machines. If you stop learning in this world, the world rushes right by you.” Keep learning and you’ll never hear that swoosh as the world passes you by.
3. They Are Doers and Can-Doers (And They Surround Themselves With the Same)
DPs are problem-solvers and bright-side-lookers. They make their own “luck” with their positive attitude and willingness to see setbacks as nothing more than challenges to be overcome. They never allow themselves to fall into a victim mentality — they take charge of their own fate and if they fall down, they’re never down for long.
A CEO I work with calls the consultants on her team “strategic doers” because they hit the ground running when they’re brought on in by major companies like Amazon and Microsoft. These strategic doers have no agenda, no baggage and no corporate-ladder-climb they’re trying to protect. Their focus is simply on doing the high-impact work they’ve been hired to do as swiftly and effectively as possible, and because of this, they produce results (great ones).
Be a strategic doer, and surround yourself with strategic doers. You truly are as great as the company you keep.
4. They Understand the Power of Giving
DPs know that when you give (and give first), you get so much more in return — you can almost look at it like receiving interest on your generosity. When you give first, people see that you’re committed to their causes or their goals; you’re not just “in it for yourself.” As a result, they’re eager to give value to you as you’ve given value to them.
Yes, you can make the case that there are some big dogs in the world who take, take and take some more, but we’re not talking about those individuals. DPs aren’t money-grabbers or plummet-the-earth-and-people titans whose sole goal is dollars, no matter the cost to anyone else.
A Dominant Player is someone who transforms their industry and their world for the better, creating value for themselves and the people around them. Does this often result in wealth? Absolutely. Do DPs want to make more money? Of course. It’s not shameful to admit that most businesspeople are in it at least partially for the money. But DPs are in it for more than just money — they’re in it to make a difference, to transform their surroundings, to solve problems, to leave a legacy.
5. They Know Fear and Doubt Are Just Feelings, and Feelings Can Be Overcome
DPs know that fear and doubt are natural human reactions, and they don’t feel less-than for experiencing these feelings. They also know that feelings can be overcome.
True success doesn’t stem from an absence of fear or doubt, but from an ability to work through fear and doubt. I see this everyday in the Dominant Players I work with. They experience fear and doubt like we all do — they wouldn’t be human if they didn’t — but they recognize that these are just feelings and that they have the power to do amazing things despite them. (Some of DPs even use these feelings to spur themselves into action; DPs love to rise to a good challenge!)
You don’t need to acknowledge or act on every emotion you feel, especially the negative ones. At a private event I attended, Seth Godin said, “When my lizard brain starts rattling on about all the ways something won’t work, I simply say, ‘Thank you for sharing,’ and I move on.”
Fear and doubt are just reminders that you’re on the right path, because DPs create big things, and creating big things doesn’t come with a smooth and proven roadmap.
6. They Are Highly Self-Monitoring
By all means, be original and stand out from the crowd. Let your freak flag fly. Just realize that in some social and business situations, you need to assess the best way to engage with your audience or team, and that may mean toning things down a bit. I’m not suggesting you change who you are fundamentally, become a bland version of yourself or act like someone you’re not — just that you realize when it may be prudent to leave certain things out of the conversation.
DPs understand the importance of evaluating their environment and determining the most effective way to frame what they can share within that environment. I’ve been on education boards in the virtual schooling industry where I often fielded questions about my educational journey with my girls from fellow board members (who were mostly men). They’d discuss how their kids were conventionally educated and sometimes share snippets of their family lives. When my turn came, I shared how we unschooled our girls into college and had many wonderful non-conventional learning adventures along the way. What I did not mention were things like how we practiced family bed when our girls were little or that I breastfed my girls into their twos.
I recognized that this was not the audience for that kind of information. However, when I come across new moms at my Dailey Method workout classes, the conversation can and does transition into my pro-breastfeeding stance, because that is an appropriate environment for that kind of discussion. When I speak with close friends who also homeschooled their kids, I can “let my hair down” a bit more as we speak in the same vernacular and have similar values for our families and our children’s education. I’m not afraid of sharing my thoughts and experience with anyone, but I recognize which audiences are the right ones for certain topics. Context is king.
7. They Are Laser-Focused
DPs aren’t forever chasing the next shiny opportunity. Healthy obsession is the hallmark of a DP. They don’t try to be good at 30 things; they try to be great at one. They practice what author Greg McKeown calls “essentialism” (“Essentialism is not a way to do one more thing; it is a different way of doing everything”).
I’ve never met or worked with a DP who didn’t have a laser focus on what they could bring to world, what they were uniquely skilled at. They never wavered from that purpose or were distracted off into side paths; they doubled down and worked like mad until they become number one in their industry or company.
It’s like that famous Steve Jobs quote: “It’s what Apple said ‘NO’ to that ultimately made them successful.” What have you said ‘NO’ to today?
8. They “Give It All”
Whatever a DP has chosen to focus on, they give it everything they’ve got and leave nothing on the playing field. They are spent at the end of the day. It’s the next level of Steven Pressfield’s “Do The Work” — do the work, but do it with unwavering determination. Bring your A-game to every moment and task in front of you.
There’s a quote by Joe DiMaggio I liked so much I chose it as the rallying cry for our Joltin’ Joe coffee brand. When asked how he approached each at-bat during his record-breaking 56-game hitting streak, DiMaggio said, “I was out there to play and give it all I had… I looked at it like, ‘I’m doing my best.’ If I got the hit, fine. I always felt good that I had given my best.”
That “Give It All” mindset is a common denominator among all DPs. They don’t do anything halfway. They deliver 100%+.
9. They Know Time Is the Most Precious Asset They Have
DPs know what’s important in their lives, both personally and professionally, and they live accordingly. They spend their time in alignment with their priorities because they know that their time on this planet is limited.
It seems trite to say, but DPs can’t imagine not doing the work they do… so they do it. They also can’t imagine not having healthy relationships with their family and close friends, so they make the time for those, too. They know the importance of taking care of themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, so they make time to keep their minds and bodies sharp so they can tackle the other priorities on their list.
Everything else? DPs know it’s extraneous and not worthy of their life energy. They treat life like the terminal disease that it is. We’re all busy and inundated 24/7 with information and wannabe attention-robbers. But DPs ignore the chatter. If you have to keep struggling to find that elusive “work-life balance” in your life, then you haven’t really decided what’s important to you.
10. They Don’t Micro-Manage Their Team
“Do what you do best and outsource the rest!” That’s the advice legendary business consultant Peter Drucker gave to companies. It’s great advice, but what most people wind up doing in reality is outsourcing to an expert or company and then telling them precisely how to do the work (even when they have no expertise in that industry).
The whole point of bringing on partners, contractors or suppliers is to supplement the gaps in your own knowledge and expertise and remove the burden of that work from your shoulders. Micro-managing defeats the whole purpose.
DPs know what their genius is and stick with that. They listen to the advice of those they’ve hired for their unique expertise. And since they made sure to hire the best (see #1), they trust those they’ve hired to get the work done and done right, so that the DPs themselves can go back to focusing on what they do best.