Are you at the top of your game?  Do you stand out from the crowd?  If not, would you like to rise to the top?  Here is a simple formula to help you get there over time: give just a little extra, just an extra 5% or 10% on everything you do.  It’s really that simple. 


During one’s working career and personal life, there are things that must be handled: that is the minimum expectation.  In order to rise to the top over time, you don’t need to redouble your effort at every opportunity.  There will certainly be times where temporary substantial additional effort is required for a project at work or a problem at home, but day-to-day, it’s not generally required.  If you find that it IS required for the majority of the things that you do, then reviewing your work-life balance is probably in order as a first step and you can stop reading here.  But assuming that’s not the case for you, then this simple plan will work. 


Let’s start with the premise that most people want to do a good job and be successful at whatever they endeavor to do in life.  That has been my experience dealing with people in all aspects of life.  That means that for the most part, most people will do at least the minimum expectation.  That level of effort will get them by, and that will allow for a generally healthy happy life experience.  And that approach is perfectly fine.  But if you want to rise to the top, then something more than the minimum expectation is required. 


I propose to you that you don’t need to give up your work-life balance to stand out from the crowd.  What you need to do is start early, or if you haven’t already started, start today, giving just that little extra effort at everything you do.  Here is where the idea of compound interest comes into play.  If you always make the effort of that extra 10%, on average over time it shouldn’t materially impact your work-life balance.  You can still have a healthy work and home life and you can be there for your significant other, kids, family or whatever else you hold important to you.  Your life won’t be disrupted. But what will start to happen is the extra 10% will start building on itself, much like compound interest in your bank savings account or 401K, resulting in your having a viewpoint and set of skills over time that will be materially different, and materially more marketable and satisfying than for those who just perform to the minimum expectations.  It’s not a big investment to make, but it carries very big results. 


Obviously the earlier you start this process the more you will benefit, but starting at any time is better than not starting at all if you want to rise to the top. 


Now, not everyone wants to rise to the top in everything they do, but I’ve found very few individuals that don’t take some amount of pride in some part of their lives.  If you are one of those individuals, consider putting in that extra 10% into the part of your life that matters most to you as a start.  Whether that is work, church, family, community, politics, finance, music or anything else that has priority for you, it’s where to start thinking about that extra 10% every day. 


After a forty years of playing multiple instruments at a high level in a variety of formats and venues, I recently decided to conquer playing the guitar, a new and surprisingly difficult endeavor for me.  My commitment to the guitar is one hour per day, 5 days a week.  That’s 60 minutes a day most days.  10% more is an additional 6 minutes per day.  That doesn’t seem like much, but over time, that little extra effort adds up and has materially accelerated my ability to play and enjoy the guitar.  Nobody misses that 6 minutes, it’s a blip in the day, but that little extra effort has made a huge difference in total.  And once the activity becomes more enjoyable because you are more adept at it, that extra 10% easily turns into an extra 50%.  That’s part of the magic of this approach (with an eye, of course, to maintaining work-life balance). 


Select what you want to rise to the top at, and ask yourself if you can put in an additional 10%.  I’ll bet that you can, and if you do, I’ll bet that you’ll be surprisingly happy with the results. 


Scot Berkey

Managing Director, FullPeak