How To Define High Achievers Versus High Performers

How to define High Achievers versus High Performers

Today, you are getting a treat. You are getting put in the Wayback Machine. We are actually going to be rerunning a podcast episode. It’s one of the most downloaded podcast episodes that we have, but it was recorded in 2017 or 2018.

If you are a small business owner and still in business right now, first of all, congratulations, because the last few years have been challenging for small businesses and many have gone out of business. If you’re still in business right now, if you still have cash reserves, if you’re still able to pay yourself even a reduced amount, if you still have some team working for you, congratulations, you have made it.

You need to get serious about how you think about your role and your performance as an owner. Because I keep hearing people say when things go back to the way they were, and they kind of language it like, “When the price of eggs goes, down, when the new cycle ends and social media is less chaotic, when the social media companies have figured things out, and they’re changing the algorithm less, when the interest rates come down and it costs less to borrow money, when Facebook ads start working the way they used to, when the labor market is less whatever you think the labor market is right now,” you need to hear me, you need to hear me now, and you need to hear me clearly, this is not going back. There is no going back. This is the new normal.

If you started your business in 2014, 2015, 2016, you had tremendous tailwinds pushing you forward, making it easier for you to succeed. The majority of business owners have confused luck with business acumen. That doesn’t mean that they’re not talented at the things that they do or the technical skills that they have that they have started a business. But the business acumen, the sales skills, the financial acumen that’s required to run a business, that maybe hasn’t been as developed.

Now, you need to be a high performer. You need to gain the business and financial acumen you didn’t prioritize in the past. This now needs to become a priority. 

There will be some of my listeners who resist the term high performer. They associate it with overwork, with burnout, maybe they had a corporate career, pushing, striving, unchecked ambition. But being a high performer is actually the opposite of all of those things. 

The path to high performance is actually the most loving thing you can do. 

High performers train with tremendous effort. They’re agile learners. They move through mental and physical barriers. They set challenges for themselves. They overcome, they adapt, they track and measure their progress. They also rest and recover more. They practice self-compassion and detach from the outcome.

They are coached and have a lot of people who work with them on their mental well-being and their emotional well-being. They focus on the incremental progress they make, so they stay motivated. They surround themselves with people who have shared goals. 

Here’s me from the archive, talking about the difference between high achievers vs high performers. 

How to define high achievers versus high performers is a topic that has been on my heart and mind for a while.

Over the last 4 years, I have worked with some spectacular high achievers, but I noticed something; they often sacrificed true productivity and high-performance protocols for their achievement.

Furthermore, the achievement wound up not really being what they wanted to begin with. There seems to be a giant disconnect between achievement and performance.

Now, this is my opinion. It’s an assumption I’m making based on the anecdotal data. Anecdotal data is based on small, personal accounts and stories that I collect from my clients and community. 

These come from examples and observations I make.

Something to note here is that I have wanted to talk about this subject more but so many people are attached to the label “high achiever”, 

I have been afraid of calling people out or having anyone feeling like I’m pointing a finger at them.

I’m not.

The purpose of this conversation is to call my high achievers up into a higher and ultimately more sustainable level of performance.

My plan is to share some characteristics or examples of what I think a high achiever is vs. what a high performer is.

Before I get started, I want to say that I see this as a spectrum with high achiever on one end and high performer on the other end.  If you’re looking to become a high performer, you have to start somewhere, and starting as a high achiever is a great place to be. 

This is about going from being great to being exceptional or being in a place of excellence. Most of you will probably identify with the high achiever and some of the high performer.


  • Only sees tangible results and ROI in terms of dollars. Things I’ve learned from my first mentor, 20 years ago, have paid themselves forward in all kinds of ways throughout my life — in tangible and intangible ways. Be open to the journey and all you can experience without limiting yourself to the concrete or the here now.
  • Never sees their wins. This will make you successful, never.
  • Focused on short-term results and cash. This will make you successful in the short term but does nothing to build stability and sustainability in your business.
  • Talks a good game — lots of theory and book knowledge and regurgitated learnings from others but hasn’t taken the time to test, hone, evolve, and make their own. This only works if you want to be one step ahead. This is not the pinnacle of leadership.
  • Effort and work come from the energy of not good enough or need to prove yourself worthy or be the smartest person in the room.
  • You don’t understand what your unique and true value is.
  • You’re driven by fear of failure
  • You flex your hustle muscle way too often.
  • You get stuck in perfectionism — here’s why I believe this happens.
  • You carry shame around not hitting your goals because you have the most fantastic death grip on them.
  • You’re crushed by the thought of failure.
  • Constantly outputting.
  • Overconsumption of content
  • Focused on tactics and external sources of success.
  • Hello, control freak!
  • You say you’re open to learning and trying things differently but when people give you feedback or ideas…you’re thinking yeah, but…

High Performers: The equally ambitious but less overworked, worried, and worn-out companion of the high achiever.

High performers do things differently — they are radically intentional and deeply discerning. Essential, as Author Greg McKeown would say., “High performers truly look at the world through a different lens”.

What I find is that many of them have started off as high achievers and walked the path to high performance by carefully mastering key concepts along the way.

I think the first concept is one of recommitment. They recommit to being their highest performing self every day.

They are meticulous about habits and routines to the point of them being ritualistic. 

Everything has a purpose with a high performer. They create filters or rules for how to make decisions to reduce decision fatigue. They routinely press the pause button to put some time between stimulus and response.

Authenticity isn’t a joke. It has a very deep meaning to a high performer. Anything that brings them deeper self-awareness is worth the time and energy.  High performers are in it for the long haul. They are attracted to mastery, and they know the thing they must master first and foremost is themselves.

They know that they are their best tool for the impact that everything they desire or want to birth into the world comes from them. Their energy.

So they fiercely protect themselves. As Greg McKeown discusses in Chapter 6 of Essentialism, they protect the asset. 

All the things a high achiever believes stand in their way of success, high performers double down on — sleep, nutrition, and taking care of themselves emotionally, financially, and spiritually.

High performers get 10x results not because they do 10x the work but because they focus 10x.

They are discerning with everything, including and most importantly, their learning environments.

High achievers think the answer is in the next thing — the next course, the next mentor, the next connection they make. High performers are agile and discerning learners. They are open to learning from life, clients, and peers, but they put themselves in intimate spaces where they feel an energetic connection. They put themselves in safe spaces with inherent and consistent integrity.

High performers are goal-directed not because goals are awesome but because they provide a structure through which things are created. Setting the goal, breaking down the steps, and creating small actions are a part of their process. Then they release attachment to goal, knowing things always work out in their favor.

The #1 fear I hear from successful people is that they won’t reach their true potential. They won’t make the impact they know they are here to make.

They don’t realize that reaching your potential goes hand in hand with leaving your achiever behind and stepping into your highest performing self.