Forty years ago I had never heard of a high performance pattern, but I did know a few things about trial and error.

One summer day, when I was a boy scout. We had backpacked seven miles already that day. Even with an early start, the New Mexican sun had withered us by the time we ground to a stop. Even the youngest scout knew we were lost, but nobody said anything.

Be prepared is the scout motto and we had food, and clothes and our trusty folding knifes, but all we really wanted, was water. There was not a drop to be found between us. Now the cracker and cheese snack we enjoyed a few miles before seemed like a poor choice of food to rinse down with the last of our canteen.

Thirsty, in a way our New Your suburban childhood had never allowed, we were also tired, and discouraged. Adding to the frustration, the trail we were confidently hiking along, turned out to be an old dried out streambed. It was implausible to us as it ended with canyon walls on three sides. Halting us from any possibility of further progress. As we regrouped, our crew was seeking shade and that’s when we had the scare of our young lives. Ambushed by the resonant sound of one very irritated rattlesnake.

Not one of us did the prudent thing and assessed where the serpent was. We all grabbed our gear and ran back in the direction we had come. Only finding out later that several of the boys had ran within two feet of the business end of the snake. Fortunately, she didn’t go to the trouble of plunging her fangs into any of the dehydrated boys.

Adding to the physical conundrum, now we were scared that maybe our future was not so certain. Our anticipated campsite, the one next to the water source, was not going to happen. Doubt is as toxic a poison as rattlesnake venom.

Obviously, I’m writing this, so I lived through the endeavor. It took some time to find our way out of the situation. We ended up hiking an extra five miles in the process. But otherwise we all had a story to tell. The kind where your eyes grow big, your heart becomes humble, and you quietly thank God because you realize catastrophe was close at hand. This story I had told before. I was…prepared. But that didn’t help me when I was asked a question that has changed my life.

“Tell me a story where your experience turned out better than expected.”
I didn’t know what to say! If he had asked me to tell him a story about something that had turned out worse than expected, I could have filled the next five hours with tales. But “better than expected?” I would have to think about that.

The person asking was my personal life coach. We had been working together for about a year and I’d come to value our coaching conversations. So I was all ears when he went on to explain that he would like to help me determine my High Performance Pattern.

“What’s a High Performance Pattern?” I asked.

He explained, “It’s the sequence of steps that you use to get outstanding results.”

“How in the world can you determine that?” I asked?

He took up the challenge and said, “I’ll show you. Before our next session, come up with at least three stories where you had a better than expected experience.”

He encouraged me to choose one from my highschool or college age years. One from the years before I was forty and one from more recently. He said they should be a mix of experiences. Not all work related. There are no rules for this, but some other ideas are experiences related to recreation, relationship, volunteer, community or any other opportunities or experiences that come to mind. As long as the outcome was better that expected.

I was intrigued by the homework and began to dig into my past. He shot me an email that said I should plan to spend about fifteen to twenty minutes telling him about each story.
“You can frame it around the following four windows within any experience… 1. What got you drawn in? 2. How did you get it rolling? 3. How did you keep it rolling? 4. How did you bring it to completion?

After the first session, which lasted quite a bit longer than our typical 45 minute session, I was buzzing with excitement. As I’ve mentioned my personal stories of rattlesnakes and other close calls have been told often. But, this was the first time I had ever shared any one of the three tales fully with another person. The exercise is cathartic in itself, so when he sent me a draft of my High Performance Pattern I was amazed.

During the next two sessions we worked together and refined the pattern…my unique pattern of outstanding performance…to a sharp edged sequence of reproducible steps that I can apply to my life and the opportunities and life experiences that I want to succeed.

Determining my High Performance Pattern was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. It took effort, but it has been one of the top five growth experiences in my life and I suggest everyone work with a trained coach and discover their pattern for excellence. It is an experience that will turn out better than you expected.