I had the good fortune last week to travel to South Korea on a business trip for my new job. I was supposed to use the conference as my first transition point so that I could get a better feel for the organization’s mission, accomplishments, and regional strategy for the next five years, as well as build on my professional skills and network.

One of the sessions that I attended was called “Leadership as Achievement.” During it, the speaker was arguing that achievement was what separated true leaders from those who merely occupy leadership positions. “Excuses are the tool of the losers. Leadership is defined by results, not attributes.”

Our speaker then described a performance formula that many sports coaches use when training professional athletes. The formula is:


Where p=potential and i=interference. The key to maximizing performance, therefore, is to get rid of interference so that performance=potential.

Easier said than done, right? It’s hard to avoid all interference that you might encounter in your day. For example, extrinsic interference is the kind of interference that comes from external factors, or the environment. Let’s say you are training to run long-distance. Due to where you live, there is no where that’s conducive for you to run outside by yourself for long periods of time, so you always run on a treadmill in a gym. The bad thing is, your final goal is to run this particular marathon that you’ve heard has crazy amounts of hills and steep incline. The external factors of suddenly running outside in a non-flat environment is going to interfere with your performance. There is simply no way of completely avoiding them.

The key, however, is managing your internal interference. Internal interference results from your mindset, your behaviors, or your responses to your external environment. You could simply just say, to heck with it, my performance during that marathon won’t be that great so I’m not going to set any crazy goals, OR you could be proactive by switching your running routine with the occasional stepping machine. You could find a place in your neighborhood that has even just one hill, and practice doing drills up and down the hill to build your endurance. You could try your best to simulate what running up hills will feel like by running against the wind or carrying a little bit of weight with you.

By managing our internal interference, we can better minimize the effects of our external interference and come that much closer to achieving performance=p.

While this is clearly a sports metaphor, I thought it was a useful one for me to use in my life, both in my everyday tasks as well as in professional settings. If I am constantly trying to reach a certain level of performance, but never meet my goals, maybe it’s time to start thinking about the interference that are holding me back. Only by proactively managing my obstacles can I finally overcome what’s stopping me and achieve a whole new level of performance and development.

The question is, what’s stopping you?