By: Will Baggett, @W_Baggs
As ambitious and innately competitive professionals, we sometimes get ahead of ourselves and overlook critical aspects of our professional development. In this series entitled, The Process, we discuss the foundational constructs essential for the long-term success of young professionals. We’ll begin this journey on the inside and work our way outward. Seatbelts!
We’re all familiar with the slang term “A-1” and the positive connotations associated with it. As the letter “A” comes first in the alphabet and “one” is foremost in our numeral system, when the two are combined, it’s natural for our minds to immediately associate the tandem with something cutting edge and/or excellent. Recognizing this connection, Atlanta-based rapper Future went as far as to coin his recording label “A1-FBG,” touting his expertise in artistry among others in his camp. Similarly, few would argue that A1 Steak Sauce is essentially bottled excellence in its own right.
In this article, I endeavor to introduce a spinoff of the “A-1” term that represents an equal level of proficiency specific to rising professionals. It’s called the “I-1 Mental1ty.” Ironically, I’ve literally been wearing this philosophy on my sleeve in the form of a rubber wristband I earned as an athletic performance coach at Baylor University. (Yes, I had to earn a wristband.) Inscribed on it is the word “Hab1ts.” You’ll notice the letter “I” has been supplanted for numeral uno.
For the longest time, as evidenced by the previous sentence, I thought the letter “I” had simply been replaced by the number 1. Not so. In fact, the two are fully dependent on one another and you must equally embrace both if you wish to fulfill the intended purpose of the interchange. I came across the following poem by Edward Everett Hale, and its content aided in revealing the true meaning of Hab1ts:
I am only one, but still I am one.
I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.
According to the first line of the poem, “I” is equal to “one.” With this in mind, and for the purposes of this exercise, refer to yourself as Agent I-1. Sorry, 007 was already taken. But stay with me here.
It’s no secret that you as an autonomous being have unrestricted control over your thoughts, words, and most importantly your actions. Thus, you are an agent of innovation, communication, and effort among countless other competencies. So let’s take a closer look at the word “Hab1ts” and what this variation of the word truly indicates. In the poem to follow, English poet John Dryden writes that our habits ultimately define who we are as individuals. Check it out:
“We first make our habits, and then our habits make us.”
Logical. Now take into account the following quote by Greek philosopher Aristotle:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Also logical. By definition, we’ve already established A-1 as being synonymous with excellence. Similarly, Hale proclaimed “I” is equal to “one,” Dryden spoke of how we are individuals of habit; while Aristotle cemented that excellence is a habit.
Shall we step back before we press forward? You requested it, so we rewind.
A-I = Excellence
I = One = I-1
I-1 = Habit
Habit = Excellence
Therefore, Excellence = I-1 = Habit
Make sense? Though you are only one, but still one, you are by nature expected to practice excellence as a Hab1t.
And you thought those proofs you learned in Geometry class would never come in handy! Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of how this principle applies to your professional career. Oh, and I promise not to defy the rules of English grammar for the rest of this article.
Again referencing Edward Hale’s aforementioned poem, you alone cannot do everything- but you can do something. And because you can’t do everything, you must not refuse to do that which you actually can. Furthermore, why not make a concerted effort to do what little you can at a level of mastery; a level of excellence.
The first portion of this article was spent dissecting the underlying meaning of specific terms and phrases both to showcase their power as well as to highlight a common misconception in modern society. Often times, we make the mistake of interchanging “working hard” with “hard working.” But there’s a stark distinction between the two. Working hard can be situational. You can choose to work hard on a given assignment in light of external pressures, influences, or potential rewards specific to that one project.
Hard working, however, or shall we say work ethic, is neither a conscious decision nor is it contextual- it’s a habit. Your work ethic is engrained into your moral fiber and doesn’t require activation by an external stimulus. The moment you are charged with a task- BAM! It’s on.
I elected to shed light on this misinterpretation to inspire you to assume and sustain an uncompromising work ethic in your ascension as a professional. Varying situations will call for different types of effort. But your level of effort should remain consistent and span across any spectrum. Is your current level of effort predicated on the potential benefits associated with a given endeavor, or rather the principle of habitual excellence in all things you do?
Every day when you wake up, you begin a new battle against yourself. The internal struggle deals with whether you are going to be better today than you were yesterday. You are in competition with yourself, so who’s left to decide the victor of the contest? I’m glad you asked.
We all know there is no “I” in “team.” But you can’t fully contribute to the success of a team until you first win the battle within. And as you’d have it, there is in fact an “I” in “win.”
So do me a favor…. say “I-1” out loud three times fast. What does it sound like to the untrained ear?
Your answer: I WON.
Your new I-1 Mental1ty has been officially approved. Allow this thought process to permeate all aspects of your life and begin to enjoy the good fruit it is sure to bear.
Thanks for reading, and please share if you enjoyed the journey to your newfound I-1 mental1ty. Join me next time for the second installment of The Process.