21st Century Alchemy: X-Factor

It’s Friday evening and my wife and daughter are thinking about watching this week’s episode of ‘X Factor’. I too am thinking about X-factor, not the Danish TV program, but that noteworthy special talent or quality that sets someone apart from the rest – not necessarily unique but rare in how it’s applied. X-Factor is that critical variable that has a significant impact on the outcome of any situation.

Brilliance in basketball
During his first season in the NBA, Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls faced the Milwaukee Bucks, a perennial powerhouse in the 1980s and winner of seven straight division titles. After trailing the Bucks for most of the game, Jordan scored 22 points in the fourth quarter to seal the victory for the Bulls.

The Bucks head coach, Don Nelson, later said: “He was sensational down the stretch. We couldn’t do anything with him. We double-teamed him, and he went over the double-team.”

Jordan was the Bulls’ X-Factor.

Peerless in pro cycling
Being a cyclist in the pro peloton requires unequalled fitness and unparalleled physical integrity (consistency and reliability). Yet when it comes to a critical stage, there are a few who consistently outperform the others.

These super-elite invariably place near the top, either in the GC or in the sprinters’ competition. How? Why? It can’t just be the team, the training, or their physical condition (their biometrics are nearly the same).

There must be something extra. There must be an X-Factor.

Delivering when needed
X-Factor is excellence. Excellence distinguishes the superior from the inferior. It separates the ‘winners’ from the ‘losers’. Jordan was the X-Factor because when excellence was needed, he delivered. Super-elite cyclists are the same. When it’s needed, their performance is excellent.

Excellence is what drives you to consistently and reliably do better than you did before. It’s a hunger, a craving, an addiction – a desperate, all-consuming, and life-long attempt to please an eternally-dissatisfied internal taskmaster who expects, no demands you to do better and be better, always.

Limitless, boundless
But those who pursue excellence, corporately or individually, aren’t necessarily naturally gifted or talented. Rather, these men and women are unwaveringly motivated and unrelentingly hard-working. They’re adapters and innovators – people who’ve learned to use every situation and perspective to be better, even when they don’t enjoy it or agree with it.

And when you’re excellent, you no longer measure yourself by the competition or limit your performance to the minimum required for a ‘win.’ That’s why the standard of the excellent is limitless and their growth boundless; they invariably finish best (e.g the tortoise and the hare).

True excellence
Are you the X-Factor in your game? Is your contribution the difference when needed?

Regardless of whether you’re an athlete, a business owner or an employee, the potential impact of your X-Factor will always depend on the skill of the individual or group using it.

And because it’s what distinguishes you – what makes you superior – it can never be measured by the comparative efforts of others.

Its power to influence will only ever be limited by the drive, diligence, and determination you have to consistently and reliably do better than you did before.

That’s excellence. That’s X-Factor.