How to go from good to GREAT

When I started working at my new job at a nonprofit in the Outer Sunset, one of the very first things my boss had me do was read a book called "Good to Great." The book had a lot of excellent points about what makes a company or a nonprofit transition from being a good but average performer to a truly great company or nonprofit organization. It got me thinking about what steps our nonprofit would need to take to make the leap and be sustainable and successful for years to come, and what role I can play in helping accomplish that goal. But after I left the office, I began to ask myself, "what do I need to do to go from being a good collegiate runner to a GREAT professional runner who is competitive at the national (and maybe international) level?"

Well, the first thing is I need to fully commit myself to running. At least in the next year or two, I need to stop trying to kick ass in the classroom, on the track, and in the volunteer world... trying to do all three of these at the same time is not conducive to being the very best athlete you can be. But being the very best athlete wasn't my goal these past 5 years. My goal was to be the best student-athlete I could be, to be the most well-rounded person I could and to get the most out of my college experience. Now, my college coach might not have been a fan of that goal, but I firmly believe that you go to college for an education first, an athletic experience second, and that each of those experiences complements the other. I won't go into any more detail about this in a public blog, but I'll leave you with this -- as an undergrad I got to study abroad, intern in DC, volunteer in South America, and lead a student organization... all of which were very formative experiences that contributed to my personal growth, and therefore to my development as an athlete. I wouldn't have wanted college to be any other way.

But now I'm out of college, so my goal is no longer to kick ass in the classroom (at least until grad school)... and while I want to continue my involvement in the volunteer/nonprofit world, I've got my whole career for that... so right now, I'm trying to discover how good I can be athletically. To work toward that goal, I'm taking a step back from professional responsibilities and only working part-time, which enables me to spend more hours focused on the little things that can help you get from good to great: proper rest and recovery, regular ice baths and massages, proper nutrition, double days and additional strength work...

The things I just listed aren't too hard to figure out... it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that you run faster when you get more sleep or when you're fueling your body well. But that list is pretty specific to running... I'm more interested in what it takes to be a great athlete, no matter the sport. What are the qualities that "the greats" -- Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, etc -- possess that enabled them to reach that elite level? What attributes do I admire in some of my athletic role models? This is some of what I came up with -- feel free to add your thoughts!

What does it take to be an elite athlete?
--confidence/belief in oneself
--consistency
--competitive attitude and spirit; the will to win
--ability to push through pain, doubts, or mental weakness
--dedication and discipline

I'm working on each of these, and am always trying to ask myself what I can do to continually improve and how I can be better. Suggestions and constructive criticism welcomed! :)