The Assistant’s Manual: The Pursuit of Excellence with Alissa Zimmerman
We all go through multiple phases in our lives in the pursuit of finding ourselves and becoming the person we were meant to be. For many, that pursuit comes in multiple phases and continued personal growth over the course of their life. The person you think you were meant to be when you were 18 is not the same person you thought you were meant to be at 25. This evolution in self-value is what I consider the pursuit of excellence—personal excellence, that is.
I recently celebrated my fourth year as a member of Team Cincotta. I looked back over the course of those four years to see the person I have become—someone I never would have imagined existed just four short years ago. Sal has groomed me into a leader, a fighter, a competitor, a savvy businessperson. More importantly, I have pushed myself to be all of these things just as much as he has pushed me, because I never want to lose this incredible opportunity I’ve been given—and while I may not be an owner of my own company, this article should resonate with many of you as business owners and entrepreneurs.
I read an Inc. article on our flight home from China called “Top 10 Qualities of Highly Successful People,” by Lolly Daskal. It got me thinking about the qualities I see in Sal and the ones I strive for in myself. The article talks about qualities that benefit those around you, but my biggest takeaway was the fact that the majority of the top qualities were those that focused more on the self. As Daskal writes, “If you live your life as most people do, you will get what most people get. If you settle, you will get a settled life. If you give yourself your best, every day, your best will give back to you.” I couldn’t agree more.
As I sat thinking about the article, I realized that so much of what I have accomplished over the past four years has to do with learning to live and let go, to trust myself and my instincts and let go of fears and insecurities—all things that were stopping me from growing as a person and in my role in this company.
Learning to trust yourself is huge. There was a point in my life when I let fear dictate my every decision. Which, of course, got me nowhere. I had big dreams, and even bigger disappointments when I couldn’t find a way to avoid the fear of challenges or failures. It’s always easier to give up and blame someone or something for not allowing you to accomplish your goals. It takes a strong person, however, to channel those fears into productive behaviors that motivate you to succeed—to look at your challenges and potential failures as opportunities to kick ass and take names. That was one of the biggest mind shifts I had to go through to get me to where I am today.
People: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Surrounding yourself with the right people in the pursuit of excellence is another crucial piece of the puzzle. We’ve all been there before: You grow up with a certain group of friends, then separate when you go off to college. Then the friends you make in college soon go in their own directions as well. Life is all about experiencing new things and meeting new people. That doesn’t mean these people have to remain a key factor in your life forever. Sometimes the best way to move forward and accomplish your goals is to let go of cancerous relationships—the ones that hold you back from being the best version of yourself. It’s a tough idea to process for many, to just weed through friends. Yet, it is one of the most freeing feelings to not have the weight of haters in your life. At this point in our lives, a true friend is someone who believes in you—supports you, regardless of how insane your ideas or goals may be.
Not only do you need to filter out the negative people in your life, but this is also the time to start surrounding yourself with like-minded people—individuals who have the same or similar passions, who want to see you accomplish great things. The people who understand that starting a business takes a lot of time and attention, and don’t get butt-hurt if you can’t chat on the phone every night or go out drinking every weekend.
Suck It Up
Working for a New Yorker has been one of the most impactful experiences in my growth. For someone who started out as a people-pleaser, being around this blunt, sarcastic, honest and usually pretty harsh personality has given me incredibly thick skin. Life is too short to beat around the bush, especially with people you truly care about—this goes back to my point about surrounding yourself with the right people. I have never once thought Sal’s blunt honesty was about putting me down or belittling me. Instead, I see it for what it is: honesty that will push me in the right direction of bettering myself and growing into the employee he needs.
With that thick skin also comes a sense of pride in yourself and your work. I have learned to never accept no for an answer—that results come from being persistent and confident in what you bring to the table. Again, life is too short to waste time with niceties. You want something? Go get it. Someone tells you it can’t be done? Prove them wrong.
The pursuit of excellence starts with yourself. Once you learn to understand and trust yourself, the rest falls into place. As a business owner or as an incredibly driven employee of a business owner, you should never stop pushing yourself and those around you in your own personal pursuits. Of course, it’s always easier to give up, to take the short cuts or the easy way out—but what’s fun about a life with no challenges?