The Pursuit of Excellence Book Summary - The Pursuit of Excellence Book explained in key points
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The Pursuit of Excellence summary

Ryan Hawk

The Uncommon Behaviors of the World's Most Productive Achievers

4.7 (944 ratings)
22 mins

Brief summary

The Pursuit of Excellence by Ryan Hawk is a practical guide for achieving success in all aspects of life. It focuses on developing key skills such as leadership, communication, and self-awareness, and provides inspiring stories from top performers in various fields.

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    The Pursuit of Excellence
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    Achieving excellence requires a Purpose Mindset which focuses on the process.

    Before we get into the three key habits, let’s look at how the pursuit of excellence rather than success can lead to the kind of rewards that make life truly fulfilling. When we shift our focus from success to excellence, we get more personal. We’re not in competition with some external factor we have no control over. The pursuit of excellence is all about becoming better at what you do – becoming more skillful, more knowledgeable.

    The other big difference is that success is generally a finite game. You set a goal, hit it, and are then left to wonder what’s next. The pursuit of excellence, on the other hand, is an infinite game. As such, it’ll keep you focused on growing, getting better, and achieving your greatest potential. In other words, the pursuit of excellence is always there to provide purpose and meaning, no matter where you find yourself. And this is exactly what a fulfilling and satisfying life needs: purpose. 

    Now, you’ve likely heard the old advice that says all you need to do is follow your passion. When your work involves doing something you’re truly passionate about, then it won’t even feel like work at all. Or so the saying goes.

    This advice is well-intentioned, but it’s also problematic. Many of us have followed our passion and run into the kind of setbacks that lead to doubts and second-guessing. Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be effortless once we found our passion? That’s why the better advice is this: don’t let anyone tell you it’ll be easy. Excellence, and achieving great results, requires hard work. It takes the kind of focus and determination that will test your boundaries. There are no shortcuts, cheats, or hacks that will allow you to avoid the hard work. But don’t let this get you down. Once you shift gears and adopt the purpose mindset, you’ll find that the rewards are constant and can propel you forward – even when times are tough. 

    A purpose mindset is one that is focused on the process. It’s about achieving steady, constant growth rather than finite results. And this is one of the first keys to pursuing excellence: respect the process. 

    What does this mean? Well, the process is about long-term results. That means you don’t let setbacks or mistakes derail you. Even better, when you focus on the process, you’ll find that the results take care of themselves. In a way, this can provide a welcome sense of freedom. Your responsibility is to create the plan and then stick to it. This is what you can control; the rest doesn’t matter. You can let it go.

    In mathematical terms, this concept is described as freedom equals discipline. This was one of the big conclusions the author made from looking at the career of Eliud Kipchoge. Kipchoge was born in Kenya, grew up in a modest household, and went on to become what many consider the greatest marathon racer of all time.

    As Kipchoge puts it, “If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods and passions.” Not only that – you’re also a slave to outside factors like your competitors, politics, or what other people are saying or doing. If you’re disciplined and focused on a daily process of improvement, then you don’t have to worry about these external things. You can rest easy knowing that you’re following your plan and doing the hard work.

    Kipchoge is blunt about it. He says, “To win is not important. To be successful is not even important. How to plan and prepare is crucial.” When you plan and prepare well, success and winning will follow. In other words, when you respect the process, the results will take care of themselves.

    Respecting the process also means that you don’t have to come out of the gate like a champion. Your only expectation is in doing something today that will make you better than you were yesterday. It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, planning out a series of small, doable steps is the better way to go.

    This is the first of the three big tips the author learned from his conversations with James Clear, the best-selling author of the book Atomic Habits. The second is to turn positive behaviors, the kind that will help you reach those goals, into rituals or habits. The third is to remove obstacles from your environment.

    Let’s look at a few examples of how these three tips go hand-in-hand.

    Say you want to write a novel. Which plan sounds more likely to succeed: setting one big end-of-the-year deadline, or setting a series of goals to write a minimum of one hundred words per day? The latter one, right? It’s all about establishing a process – or, as Clear calls it, a habit or ritual – that guarantees progress. 

    There's a good quote from the nineteenth-century journalist Jacob A. Riis – which is still so relevant today, in fact, that it can be found in the locker room of the San Antonio Spurs basketball team. It reads, “When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that last blow that did it, but all that had gone before.” This is respecting the process. Your job is to chip away a little bit each day, knowing that your persistence is the hard work that will pay off in the end.

    Unfortunately, results don’t come just from setting goals. But they do come from forming new habits and rituals, which only happens when you adopt a new lifestyle. Changing your lifestyle is basically another way of saying you’re starting a new plan and adopting a new process. And this is what gets results. 

    You might say, From now on I’m going to eat better, get in shape, and waste less time watching television. Well, that’s great – but in order for it to happen, you’ll need to establish a new lifestyle that supports these goals. If you keep following your old one, it’s extremely doubtful that you’ll get the results you’re after. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

    Along with your new lifestyle, removing obstacles in your life will help as well. You might change your habits by getting up a little earlier in the morning to make time for a prebreakfast workout ritual. But it’s also a good idea to remove temptations from your environment. If you want to eat a healthier diet, why not make it easier by removing the sugary snacks from your cupboards? If you want to watch less television, then remove the TV from your workroom. Make your environment conducive to your plan. It may sound simple, but it’s very effective. Lots of things are out of your control, but you can control your lifestyle, your habits, and your home environment.

    All of these tips are about taking action. It’s easy to make plans. Many of us do this at the start of every new year. In order to follow through, you need to actually make the change and then keep at it day after day. This slow and steady determination – a commitment to gradual improvement – is what separates excellence from mediocrity.

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    What is The Pursuit of Excellence about?

    The Pursuit of Excellence (2022) offers a thoughtful approach on how to become the best, most excellent version of yourself. Compiling wisdom from hundreds of interviews with world renowned experts and entrepreneurs, the author lays out the best habits and practices that anyone can use to improve their career and their lives.

    The Pursuit of Excellence Review

    The Pursuit of Excellence (2021) by Ryan Hawk is a book that explores the path to achieving excellence in our personal and professional lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Packed with practical strategies and insights, it offers a roadmap for individuals who want to push beyond their limits and reach their full potential.
    • By sharing real-life stories of successful individuals from various fields, the book provides valuable lessons and inspiration for anyone striving for greatness.
    • With its engaging storytelling and actionable advice, the book manages to captivate readers and keep them motivated throughout their journey towards excellence.

    Who should read The Pursuit of Excellence?

    • Anyone eager to raise their game and find more satisfaction in life
    • People looking for tips on how to achieve more in their career
    • Leaders and entrepreneurs eager to perform better

    About the Author

    Ryan Hawk is the driving force behind The Learning Leader Show, a podcast featuring over 450 interviews with experts who shed light on how to be better and wiser in the pursuit of excellence. He is also the author of the bestselling book Welcome to Management: How to Grow from Top Performer to Excellent Leader (2020).

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    The Pursuit of Excellence FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Pursuit of Excellence?

    The main message of The Pursuit of Excellence is to strive for personal and professional greatness.

    How long does it take to read The Pursuit of Excellence?

    The reading time for The Pursuit of Excellence varies, but it can be completed in several hours. The Blinkist summary takes just 15 minutes.

    Is The Pursuit of Excellence a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Pursuit of Excellence is worth reading as it provides valuable insights and strategies for achieving excellence in all areas of life.

    Who is the author of The Pursuit of Excellence?

    The author of The Pursuit of Excellence is Ryan Hawk.

    What to read after The Pursuit of Excellence?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Pursuit of Excellence, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • The Power of One More by Ed Mylett
    • The Motivation Manifesto by Brendon Burchard
    • The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes
    • The Greatness Mindset by Lewis Howes
    • Scaling Up Excellence by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao
    • Getting to 50/50 by Sharon Meers and Joanna Strober
    • The Six Disciplines of Strategic Thinking by Michael D. Watkins
    • Mini Habits by Stephen Guise
    • Million Dollar Habits by Brian Tracy
    • Peak Mind by Amishi Jha