Resonance, Leadership and Purpose of Life

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UVA-OB-0626

RESONANCE, LEADERSHIP, AND THE PURPOSE OF LIFE
I’ve always been interested in the mountains. The first time I went to Switzerland, I saw the mountains, and I said, “This is where I’ve got to be.” I dropped everything and found a mountain-climbing school and spent a couple of weeks in Switzerland and learned some basics of climbing, how to cut ice steps in glaciers and basic mountaineering. I really liked that. Clearly, in technical climbing you get in situations where, if you slip, you are dead. You don’t consciously seek those situations, but you reach dicey points where you basically can only go forward rather than back. And the level of concentration and thrill of operating at that level is just. . . you are alive then, and it’s almost like your sense of. . . your visual acuity and sensual acuity dial up tenfold, and you can see things and you are aware of things that you are not aware of in everyday life. That is the part of rock climbing that I really enjoy.

—Tom Curren, former senior vice president of strategic planning, Marriott Corporation

A world renowned musician performs in concerts all over the globe. The world record holder in a swimming event wins the gold medal at the Olympics.
The CEO of a consumer electronics firm reports annualized growth of 40 percent per year for the last ten years.
The head of thoracic surgery at a major teaching hospital performs a coronary bypass operation on his 400th patient
What do all of these people have in common? First, and most obviously, they are performing at the peak of their professions and probably at the peak of their abilities. Second, they are performing at these high levels repeatedly, not just on an occasion here and an occasion there. Third, surprisingly, although they come from radically different backgrounds and are performing in very different careers, they seem to be following a consistent pattern. Interestingly, what seems to work in music also seems to work in surgery; what works in athletics also seems to work in business. Each of the people described above and almost four hundred others like them in a study of world class performers conducted by Doug Newburg,

This technical note was prepared by James G. Clawson and Doug Newburg. Copyright  1997 by the University of Virginia Darden School Foundation, Charlottesville, VA. All rights reserved. To order copies, send an e-mail to sales@dardenpublishing.com. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, used in a spreadsheet, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the permission of the Darden School Foundation. Rev. 10/01. ◊

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UVA-OB-0626

Ph.D. in Sports Psychology,1 seem to be following a pattern of thinking and behaving that is remarkably consistent. From interviews with these world-class performers in various professions, Mr. Newburg2 has developed a powerful model of world-class performance. The concepts in this model relate directly to our discussion of leadership and could help you learn how to perform better, be happier in your work, even engage a simple but powerful definition of the meaning of life, and therefore become a more powerful, centered leader. World-class performers (WCPs) as used here refer to people who are performing at the pinnacle of their professions. The people in Newburg’s study include, for example, a world record holder and Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meter back stroke, a two-time NCAA basketball Player of the Year, an internationally known jazz musician, the director of training in the thoracic surgery department of a major university medical center, military personnel responsible for the lives of highly trained pilots and their equipment, and the CEO of a high-tech retail chain that has grown at double digits for the last fifteen years. The model that Newburg

saw in his interviews consists of
WORLD CLASS PERFORMANCE
the following:...
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