Ups and downs

Often when people ask me how things are going at NextGen Center, I'm pretty optimistic, because there's been a lot of positive news. We're taking on new engagements. We're connecting with people. We're building community and creating access and impact for leaders.

But then there are months like this past April, where things don't go as expected. I got sick with laryngitis and learned firsthand how valuable an asset my voice has become in my work. This is something I knew intellectually, but when I felt it physically it had a different impact.

What I reinforced in April is that, of all things, health is paramount. One of many areas where personal and professional life integrate with each other. And again, I already knew this and intellectualized it, but to feel it firsthand is different. It has an impact on my work and how I want to show up, especially as a leader.

These ups and downs are common for all of us. An inspiring month seems to be followed up by something less successful. We have fulfilling days. We have depleting days. We have moments of celebration and moments that seem like setback. But at the heart of it all, it's just part of the journey that we sign up for and frankly, the journey of life.

Instead of getting too high or too low in a particular moment or context, I often think about the journey in terms of incremental growth, and rolling averages. As a competitive tennis player, I have learned over the years that the “level” of player I am is not defined by how I perform on my best day or how I perform on my worst day, but more in line with rolling averages. On average, how am I performing? And how has my performance changed over time?

I bring this up because often times I competed with players who would say, “When I compete with someone better than I am, I raise my game. But when I compete with someone who is worse than I am, my game tends to drop.”  

As an experienced tennis player, when I hear this it signals to me that this player’s level is unpredictable, with an average somewhere in between raising his game and his level dropping. And if you think about yourself as a mix of when you're high, low, and in-between, what you want to be doing is trending upward over time.

Rating systems for competitive tennis are not always great at highlighting this. But the notion of rolling averages is a compelling way to look at the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and/or performance. We're going to have good days. We're going to have bad days. And on the whole, we want to be moving in a direction that's in alignment with our desired future state. Towards the level of “showing up” as the  friend, leader, and person we aspire to become.

That's not to say we shouldn't celebrate the wins. We absolutely should! But we also shouldn't beat ourselves up too much about days and moments when we underperform. It is not realistic to deliver exceptional performance every single day, all... the... time.

Most of us have a lot of outside interests and other important factors in our lives. Because of that, it’s important to ask ourselves what incremental changes we can make to raise our bar - our rolling average.

We are not defined by our isolated moments of greatness, or our isolated moments of setbacks. Instead, it’s important to focus on the day-to-day habits and behaviors that move our rolling average of performance in the direction we aspire to move.

That is the essence of growth.

Brian Alvo