Dare to Be Great

“Just do your best.” I am sure you have heard that statement. But I challenge you to go beyond your best, and Dare to be Great. Here’s how.

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Think big. Being outstanding takes courage that can feel like stepping off a cliff into the unknown. This requires dispelling fears of standing out and going out of your comfort zone. Take a deep breath and think big. I remember famous TV executive Ted Turner saying he wanted to do everything very big — and then he did it. He founded an innovative international TV network (CNN), bought large plots of land, and opened an extended chain of restaurants.

Pump up your confidence. One of my favorite exercises I advise people — that’s in my book The Complete Idiots Guide to Dating — is to “up the ante.” Name a quality of yours you like, then describe it twice as big, then three times. For example, if you think you’re smart, bump it up to, “I’m very intelligent”; then “I am even brilliant at times.”

Know the source of greatness. Shakespeare wisely said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” This means you might have a natural knack for what you want to excel in, or other people may put you in a position without you pushing for it, or you might have worked tirelessly to get what you want. All three apply to noted TV interviewer Barbara Walters. Yes, she had a break because her father ran a club that celebrities frequented, and yes, she did get picked as the female co-host of a morning TV talk show when few women were in the broadcasting business, but she admits she worked extra hard to compete and keep her position on top.

Cancel out critics. Performers typically obsess over one bad review and forget praise. The solution: I love the advice from a well-known acting coach I once took classes from, Michael Shurtleff, who told his students to always look at the one person in the audience who is beaming back at you and ignore any scowling or passive faces. Always picture the person proud to tell all how special you are, how brilliant your lecture was, or how becoming your new haircut. As for those who killed your spirit, shushed you when you spoke up or winced when you sang, delete those negative voices from your brain. Katie Couric was told early in her career that she would never make it, but she became the first solo woman anchor of CBS-TV, a “big three” of the weekday nightly TV news broadcasts. I recently heard a male TV journalist who was being interviewed about launching his own show admit that when growing up, his father had told him not to talk so much about himself, so now he’s challenged to put that warning aside.

Brag. Consider your achievements as spreading good news. People who like to hear about the success of their friends are good people; hearing about others’ successes makes them feel good not only about you, but also about themselves.

Copy who you think is great. If you admire Hillary Clinton for power or persistence, or Lady Gaga for daring to wear a raw meat dress, what can you do in your own life like them?

Maximize maxims. I love the sayings, “If you can dream it, you can be it” and “Whatever you can conceive and believe, you can achieve.” Thoughts you put in your mind are more likely to come true, so you might as well fill your mind with encouragement. Repeat these phrases to yourself often, so they stay in your head and inspire you towards your goals.

Dream, then Do. I live by this axiom. Whatever you think you want to do, take action, with even one small step towards your goal. If you want to be a great cook, get books of terrific recipes, try them out and add one small twist to make it your own. If running a triathlon is your dream, join a club to get the facts about what to eat, wear and practice. It takes action to truly be great.

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