Common Sense, Confucius, Roger Federer and High Performance

Today is Wednesday, so this post is on outstanding performance.

This morning, I received the following quote in my in box from the folks at “The superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions” – Confucius. 

If you’re not up on your ancient Chinese Philosophy, Confucius is generally credited for writing a group of commentaries on the I Ching or The Book of Changes in which he suggests what “the superior man” will do in any number of situations.  In this case, he tells us something that I’ve been preaching to my coaching clients for quite some time.  “Under promise and over deliver.”

The I Ching expresses the wisdom and philosophy of ancient China.  To very much over simplify, it is based on three main ideas: simplicity, variability and persistency.  All of these ideas reinforce my common sense approach to business and life:

Simplicity — The fundamental law underlying everything in the universe is utterly plain and simple, no matter how abstruse or complex some things may appear to be.

Variability — Everything in the universe is continually changing. If you grasp this idea, you will realize the importance of flexibility in life and will cultivate the proper attitude for dealing with a multiplicity of diverse situations.

Persistency — While everything in the universe is continually changing, there is a persistent principle, a central rule, which does not vary with space and time.

To me this is the essence of common sense:

Simplicity – Most situations and problems are more simple than they may appear at first.

Variability – While things are simple, the ever changing nature of our world makes it necessary to deal with each situation and problem as unique.

Persistency – While you have to deal with each situation and problem as unique; simple, proven methods are the best way to get positive results.

Enough with the Chinese Philosophy lesson.  Back to the quote and its implication for high performance.  Outstanding performers realize that what they do is more important than what they say.  That’s why they under promise and over deliver.

Here’s an example.  Just yesterday (Tuesday), I promised a client that I would get some information to him by Thursday.  I finished working on it last night and will send it to him today (Wednesday).  This is no big deal in and of itself.  But my clients know that I will always make deadlines, and will usually beat them.  In other words, I under promise and over deliver. 

The Confucius quote also stresses the importance of modesty.  The US Open Tennis Championships are going on right now.  Roger Federer is the top seed and favorite to win the tournament.  Two nights ago, he won another match.  He was especially dominant in the third and fourth sets when he won 35 points in a row on his serve.  That’s almost nine service games without losing a point.  After the match he said something like “I played pretty well tonight.”  He didn’t need to tell the world how well he played, his actions on the court did it for him.

The common sense points here are simple.  Always do what you say you’ll do.  If possible, do it faster and better than you said.  Be humble.  Let your actions and accomplishments – not your words — speak for you.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website to subscribe to my monthly ezine and for more common sense.  Check out my other blog: for common sense advice on leading people and running a small business.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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