B is for The Beliefs, Basics And Brilliance Approach  

There are many ways to do your best. One approach is to keep doing what you believe in, doing the basics and then, when appropriate, adding the brilliance. This is especially important when aiming to do superb work on big occasions.

Different people follow these steps in different ways. Here are some examples of how people have translated their beliefs into action.

Dame Cicely Saunders believed in providing loving care for people who were coming to the end of their lives. She followed this belief by founding the modern hospice movement in the UK. This was translated into providing compassionate care for the person and their families.

John Wooden believed in following certain principles to help young basketball players to achieve success. Though he never talked about winning, his college teams won more titles than any other.

John encouraged the players to follow certain basic principles both on and off the court. He defined success as:

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.

Looking back on your life, can you think of a situation when you translated your beliefs into action? This could have been in your personal or professional life.

What did you do then to follow your beliefs? How did you keep doing the necessary basics? If appropriate, what did you do to try to add the brilliance?

You may have been encouraging a person, teaching a class or doing a creative project. You may have been leading a team, working for a cause or pursuing another activity.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific situation in the past when you followed your beliefs, kept doing the basics and, if appropriate, tried to add the brilliance. 

Describe the specific things you did then to take these steps. 

Describe the specific things that happened as a result of taking these steps.


Belief is a strong driving force and it can take many forms. Different people may use different terms when talking about these drivers. They may refer to:

Their beliefs, moral compass or values  

Their life philosophy, spiritual faith or the principles they want to follow in life.

Their sense of purpose, mission or vocation.  

People may use different terms, but their beliefs are often manifested in a common factor. It is their desire to translate these drivers into action in their daily lives and work.

The first step, of course, is to clarify your beliefs. There are many ways to make this happen. One approach is to describe the beliefs – or the principles – you want to follow in your life.

If you wish, you can brainstorm ideas on the following topic and then maybe choose three themes to focus on.

My Beliefs

The beliefs I have that I want
to follow in my life are these.

I want:

* To …

* To …

* To …

Different people describe different beliefs when doing this exercise but there are often similarities. Here are some of the most common themes.

I want:

To be kind … To care for my loved ones … To appreciate life … To serve my maker … To help people to become the best they can be. 

To create beauty … To show people a better way … To leave a positive legacy … To help to build a better world.

The exercise mentioned here is deliberately phrased in a certain way. It encourages a person to focus on the beliefs they want to translate into action rather than it just being a philosophical exercise.

Sometimes it can also be useful for a person to go a step further. They can clarify the specific projects or other activities where they want to translate their beliefs into action.

Looking at my own life, for example, the beliefs I want to try to follow are:

To be a positive encourager.

To encourage people to build on their strengths and achieve their picture of success. 

To help to build a positive planet.  

There are several projects that provide the opportunity to follow these beliefs. These include the work I do when mentoring and helping people to build super teams. Writing also provides the opportunity to pass on practical tools that people can use in their daily lives and work.

You will have your own ways of translating your beliefs into action. If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the beliefs you have that you want to try to follow in your life. 

Describe the specific projects and other activities where you want to try to translate your beliefs into action.


Imagine that you have clarified your beliefs. You may have also identified some potential projects where you can translate these into action.

You may want to do so when encouraging a person, running a workshop, renovating a house or doing a creative project. You may want to do so when raising money for a cause, coaching a sports team, building a successful prototype or whatever.

Looking ahead, what may be project you want to pursue? Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to ask some of the following questions.

What is the specific project I want to tackle? What are my reasons for wanting to do the project? What will be the benefits – both for myself and for other people? 

What are the real results I want to achieve with the project? What is the picture of success? What the actual words that the stakeholders – including myself – will be saying that will show that I have achieved the picture of success? 

What are the key strategies I can follow to give myself the greatest chance of success? How can I translate these strategies into action? How can I get the support required? How can I build momentum by getting an early success?

What are the basic things that must be done to deliver the picture of success? How can I make sure all these necessary tasks get done? How can I keep following the daily disciplines required to perform these tasks?  

How can I encourage myself and others on the journey? How can I keep following the ethic of constant improvement?  How can I keep focusing on: a) What is going well and how to do it more; b) What can be done better and how?

Imagine that you have chosen to focus on a specific project. The basics you need to deliver will depend on the specific activity. You will require different skills, for example, to run a mentoring session, perform surgery, lead a sports team or do another project.

Superb workers keep doing the basics. Whether working as therapists, educators, chefs, designers or in other roles, they consistently deliver high professional standards. This creates the platform for producing peak performances.

Great teams have a similar ethic. John Wooden, for example, encouraged his basketball players to following good habits. They would then increase their chances of delivering the goods. Here is a video of John explaining his view of success.

During his early career John began developing what later became known as his famous Pyramid of Success. This described the guiding principles that the athletes could follow both on and off the court.

The base of the pyramid consisted of phrases such as: Industriousness; Friendship: Loyalty; Cooperation; Enthusiasm. Behind each of these words is an explanation.

Below are excerpts regarding what he says about Industriousness and Enthusiasm. You can discover more at the official Coach Wooden website via the following link.



In plain and simple English this means hard work. Very hard work. There is no substitute for very hard work when it comes to success. 

I have not known, heard of, or read about any individual anywhere who achieved real success without working extremely hard.  

In fact, the great successes we all know about are individuals who almost always have greatly outworked their competition.


The two cornerstones of my Pyramid of Success, Industriousness and Enthusiasm, provide strength individually but much more strength when combined as one. 

I described Industriousness: very hard work. But hard work is not enough.

It must be ignited, lit a fire by something that will raise it to the extraordinary level required for success.  

That ‘something’ is your Enthusiasm which infuses hard work with inspired power that all great competitors have.

Your heart must be in your work. Your energy and Enthusiasm stimulates those you work with.  

It is the ingredient that transforms Industriousness into something of great magnitude – the engine that powers all blocks of the Pyramid.

It is why I chose Industriousness and Enthusiasm as the cornerstones of my Pyramid of Success. It is where everything begins.

There are several levels to the Pyramid of Success. It culminates in the principle of Competitive Greatness. John Wooden explains this in the following way:

Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.

Let’s return to the project you may wish to pursue. What are the basics you need to keep doing? How can you keep doing the right things in the right way? How can you keep delivering high professional standards?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific project where you want to keep following your beliefs, doing the basics and then adding the brilliance.  

Describe the specific things you can do to keep doing the basics when pursuing this project.


Great workers follow their beliefs. They do the basics and, when appropriate, they add the brilliance. Different people do this in different ways.

Superb sprinters employ their talents and technique to get in sight of the tape. They then flow, focus and finish. Superb singers take their audiences into another dimension. They use their talents to sing in a way that touches people’s souls.

Such workers often have a sense of mission and maintain high professional standards. They also develop a mentality that enables them to do marvellous work when it matters.

Good leaders also enable people to take these steps. They often create a positive environment in which motivated people can achieve peak performance.

Such leaders employ self-motivated people who choose to be positive and professional. They then create a framework in which people can channel their talents to achieve the agreed picture of success.

Different leaders take different approaches to making this happen. One approach is for the leader to start by communicating the beliefs – the principles – that people in the team are encouraged to follow to reach the goals. They also explain the reasons for these guidelines.

The leader gives people the chance to discuss these ideas. At an appropriate time, however, they invite people to decide if they want to opt-in and follow the guidelines towards achieving the aims.

Such leaders then encourage people to use their expertise to translate the beliefs into action. There are many ways to make this happen. One approach is described below. This is based on an exercise that I have used many times with teams.

The leader invites the team members to do the following things.

To describe the specific things that people in the team can do to keep doing the basics required to translate the beliefs into action. 

To describe the specific things that people in the team can do to, when appropriate, add the brilliance.  

The leader encourages people to explore these ideas and then focus on the key themes under each heading. They then finalise the team’s agreements under the headings of beliefs, basics and brilliance. These become the guiding principles for the team.

The leader ensures that the team keeps focusing on these themes. They may, for example, keep highlighting examples of when people have followed the guidelines and achieved success.

Here is the exercise that people can do to focus on the beliefs, basics and brilliance. The team’s output can then become the guiding compass for their daily work.

Good leaders give their people a sense of ownership. They also encourage people to become more self-managing and enable them to use their strengths to achieve the picture of success.

Different leaders do this in different ways. Jim Collins has described various leadership styles in his books such as Good To Great and Great By Choice. He has used the term Level 5 Leadership to describe leaders who enable people to achieve ongoing success.

Jim found that Level 5 Leaders build enduring greatness in an organisation through combining qualities that, on the surface, appear paradoxical. They combine personal humility with professional will.

Such leaders are committed to the work rather than their own self-promotion. Below is an illustration that describes Jim’s view of the different contributions that people can make to an organisation. You can discover more via the following link.

Jim Collins Level 5 Leadership

Let’s return to your own life and work. Imagine that you are doing a project in which you are following your beliefs. You are already doing the basics. How can you add the brilliance? How can you add that touch of class?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific project where you want to keep following your beliefs, doing the basics and then adding the brilliance.

Describe the specific things you can do to, if appropriate, add the brilliance when doing the project.

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