Push beyond comfort zone

Few days ago, I watched Whiplash which was recommended to me by someone. What an amazing movie with a lot of wisdom.

One of the amazing conversation from the movie:

Andrew: But is there a line? You know, maybe you go too far, and you discourage the next Charlie Parker from ever becoming Charlie Parker?
Terence Fletcher: No, man, no. Because the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged.

Terence Fletcher: There are no two words in the English language more harmful than “good job”.

Terence Fletcher: I was there to push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that’s an absolute necessity.

I was corelating events of the movie with some real life events. Imagine, what would have happened if Ramakant Achrekar would have told Sachin Tendulkar after some reasonably good innings. Hey, Good job Sachin, you have done well. Sachin might have felt good about himself and might have found satisfaction playing domestic cricket. The world would not have got to see Sachin and neither anyone would have knew who Ramakant Achrekar was.

In real life, there are many such mentees out there who just stop and feel good after achieving above average performance in their field. They would never unravel their true potential. It’s like you don’t even know what you are capable of. You yourself don’t know what is the limiting factor in your absolute performance?

Its worthwhile to think how organizations and the managers in those organizations push their employees beyond what’s expected of them. In big organizations, this activity is usually gets performed in the name of performance appraisals. From my experience, even the highest performance in the organizations is usually just above average performance. As per bell curve, 70% of employees in any organization are anyway “average” performers. Those who slightly perform above average are bucketed in 20% “high performers”.

Do managers consciously push even more to uncover the next Sachin, Charlie Parker in their field? I doubt so. Why? Because such “push” can lead to anxiety, mental breakdown in most (if not all). And these behaviors go outside the usual norm of buzzwords like work life balance, family benefits etc etc which organizations use to attract and retain talent. Such push would actually risk the attrition of high performing talent.

What’s the conclusion? If you strive to become next Sachin in your field, no big / medium size organization can help you do that. You are better off finding a mentor like Fletcher who would push you way beyond your comfort zone.

PS: Some people might not like the methodology of Fletcher to eke out the best performance. It might not work for all performers. I believe the point is not that. The point is that extraordinary performance requires extraordinary practice and methods. If you go via what is “standard” OR “average” OR what most people or organizations do, you would end up having average results. Extraordinary results in any field requires enduring pain, whichever method it comes through. No pain, no gain

Update: I received a comment:

Why would you need an organization or a mentor to “push” you somewhere? You can just do it yourself, if you want it. An organization can, however, give you more responsibility or more of a chance to prove yourself, all you have to do is ask.

The first step towards performing above average is to stop thinking of yourself as this passive child that someone needs to guide all the time.

I agree. It is not always possible that someone would be always to guide all the time. It might be possible in fields like sports where there is a coach usually to guide but this is not possible in all the fields. In other fields, it is upto individual.