Beating the Baseline

beating a baseline

We all have baselines in our lives in every area. There are baselines in our finances, or relationships, our talents, and every other conceivable aspect of ourselves. Baselines aren’t a problem. They are just our location on the journey of life at any particular day. They are our place in the race.

Where we go wrong is assuming that our baseline is our ceiling. For anyone, especially leaders this short-sighted way of thinking is dangerous and a true success killer. For example, when I was 5 my baseline for riding a bike was a Huffy dirt bike with training wheels that I was nervous about removing.

Would I fall? Likely. Would I skin up my knees and bash my shins? Probably. But was that little kindergartener content to keep those training wheels when my other friends were dropping their their’s and riding like big kids? Hell no!

It took a couple hours of tumbles and false starts with the help of my first mentor, my dad, but later that day I pushed through and learned to ride a bike like a big kid without the need for training wheels. My baseline had just changed.

As the years went by, I rode more and got better, riding with no hands, doing tricks on a ramp, and eventually in my twenties I was riding my road bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for charity. My baseline on bicycling had moved so far that I couldn’t fathom needing training wheels anymore.

How Do You Beat The Baseline?

It’s easy to get comfortable in a baseline, even if it’s a place where you’re not incredibly happy. Change is hard and beating a baseline is all about change. The first step is accepting that your baseline is not your ceiling, and your best today doesn’t have to be the same as your best tomorrow then there is an easy process I’ve used to continually push my baselines forward.

You can remember it with a simple acronym called G.A.P. which is appropriate because beating a baseline is all about crossing the gap between where you are and where you want to be.


To beat that baseline you need to gather information. Read books, watch videos, listen to podcasts, interview others, study, study, study. If you have better information you can make better decisions and there are always people and resources out there to provide you with a wealth of information on any topic you could desire.

For years, I have strived to read 52 books a year on topics I want to be better at. That’s a book a week. Some are autobiographies of people I respect, some are classics, but all are about topics I want to better understand. The variety of perspectives and ideas I get from these books has transformed me as a leader. I see things clearer and have the perspectives of all these different minds, some great and some crazy, but all provide something different than what my baseline was.

If you want to beat your baseline on a topic then you need to be a voracious consumer of information on that topic.


As you begin gathering information it’s hard to know what to do with that information. It’s new to you and therefore, isn’t easily classifiable by your brain. All those pieces of information are like puzzle pieces to a puzzle you’ve never seen. It’s time to ask. Ask for guidance.

Proverbs 11:14 says “A nation falls through a lack of guidance, but victory comes through the counsel of many.”

Want advice on business? Ask other business leaders. Want advice on improving your fitness? Ask a personal trainer. Whatever the topic find an expert in the field and treat them to lunch and pick their brain about the information your been gathering and how it might fit together.

Some people will help you form the edges of the puzzle, others might know a certain section where they have specialized for years. Keep asking and the path forward will become clearer.


You’ve gathered information and gotten guidance, but none of it will do any good unless you put it into practice. Expect that you will fail at first (possibly a lot) and plan for it. It’s part of the process. You have to push through this failure phase when you are trying something new, and when you come out the other side of it you will have crossed the gap and beat your baseline.

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” Jimmy Dungan’s classic line in A League of Their Own really says it all about this step. Practicing something you are bad at is tough. Let’s be honest, it sucks!

Nobody likes doing things they are terrible at (except golfers), but if you want to beat your baseline you have to practice and practice hard.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t born a skilled basketball player. He did what he called “666” workouts where he would workout for 6 months, 6 days a week, for 6 hours a day. This consisted of 2 hours of basketball skills, 2 hours of weightlifting, and then 2 hours of cardio.

How Much Do You Want It?

So, the question comes down to how dedicated are you to beating your baseline? How bad do you want it? If you don’t want it then there is nothing that will change your baseline. Only those who want it will put in the time and effort to really beat their baselines, and the truly great among us don’t just beat their personal baselines, they beat the baselines that society has set.

Beating the 4-minute mile, climbing Mount Everest, flying the first plane, walking on the moon, were all done by people who decided the world’s baselines didn’t apply to them. So, I ask again, what will you do?

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