LeBron James is considered one of the best basketball players of all time, but it isn’t necessarily because of his top-end skill. When he’s playing great he’s certainly amazing, but it’s what he’s been able to put on the court consistently for years that has made him a Hall of Fame-level player.
Not only is he consistent with his scoring, averaging 27 points per game over the last 18 years, but he’s rarely hurt. In the past 18 seasons, he’s played in an average of 72 games per season (out of 82 in the regular season). Consistently is huge.
I recently heard Malcolm Gladwell and Adam Grant talking about this, and that’s where Malcolm mentioned the quote that I used for the title, and he expanded a bit further:
It’s not your maximum performance that makes you great but it’s your typical performance
We see this with people in all walks of life. When you’re hiring a new employee, you’re getting their maximum performance during the interview. There’s nothing wrong with that, but what that employee does on their very best days isn’t what matters most — it’s what they do for the other 350 days when they’re not at their peak.
To use another sports analogy, let’s look at Hank Aaron. He has the second most home runs of all time with 755, but he did it across 23 seasons. In any given season, the most he ever hit was 44 home runs. There have been 149 other times where a player has hit 45 or more home runs in a season, yet Hank Aaron never did. Somehow, through sheer consistency, he became the all-time leader in home runs and still ranks second today.
If you can be amazing at something, please don’t hold back your talent. If you can be consistently good, though, that’s likely to take you even further.