Regardless of ability and experience, most people wish they could accomplish more in doing whatever matters most to them. The struggling golfer dreams of breaking 100, a score that would be a nightmare for a good golfer. The solid B student fondly contemplates the satisfaction that a single A would bring.

Top performers have different kinds of goals. They may seek to pass their best prior accomplishment on every attempt. Their eyes might even be fixed on surpassing all others, feeling intense disquiet until they do.

Consequently, while such goals might lead to high performance being achieved more often, high performers may also be more frustrated -- a source of increased determination that can contribute to gaining greater mastery.

Ironically, people with more modest dreams often enjoy pursuing and accomplishing their achievements more than top performers do.

Wouldn’t it be nice if almost everyone could achieve top results … but without the pain of frustration? I believe that such a happy result is often available to those who follow poet Robert Frost’s advice and take the road less traveled. Let me explain what I mean.

When I look around, it’s easy to find performances where the current best isn’t actually very good compared to what’s needed. Let’s look at an example drawn from medical diagnostics.

Colon cancer is a leading cause of death. Today’s most reliable test for this disease is a visual inspection called a colonoscopy. In the United States the test usually costs over $1,000. While this test is primarily ordered for those with the highest risk of colon cancer, only a very small percentage of tests reveal cancer.

Surely someone will eventually find a more effective, lower-cost way to test. Rather than try for more productivity from visual colon inspections, the breakthrough test will probably take a totally different tack, such as by swallowing a tiny, low-cost sensor that monitors many factors throughout the colon and wirelessly transmits the results.

In support of my argument, consider that many medical breakthroughs have come from taking quite different approaches including:

-- penicillin’s disease-fighting capability being discovered and developed after some mold accidentally contaminated a petri dish and dissolved all the bacteria near it

-- stomach ulcer biopsies frequently revealing bacterial infections, eventually leading to successfully treating many such ulcers with antibiotics

-- studies of youngsters with certain kinds of broken bones showing that casts contributed to poorer healing, leading to cast-free treatments for some breaks

You may be thinking that these are all older examples, taken from times when medical science wasn’t as advanced as today. From that observation, you might conclude that such opportunities don’t still exist.

What are today’s opportunities to take the road less traveled?

Just considering the medical field, I believe that the opportunities to successfully innovate from under-examined areas are outstanding. Let me share an example drawn from the work of John Jaquish, Ph.D., a recent graduate of Rushmore University who has developed patented methods for increasing bone density without medicine.

Here’s some background. About 15 percent of people will have osteoporosis at some point in their lives, a condition that’s associated with more frequent bone fractures, poor healing, and health complications from extended immobility. In extreme cases premature death can occur.

Osteoporosis and low bone density have often been treated with bisphosphonate medications, which seek to slow or stop the natural process of dissolving bone tissue. Since bone cells refresh on a six-year cycle, this intervention falters in time. In addition, these medicines cause severe side effects in some patients.

Because of these problems Dr. Jaquish became interested in how to create a better outcome for those with low bone density than what medications provide. While reviewing medical research that was almost a century old, he noted that physical impact was how younger people increased their bone density, a not-surprising finding given their generally higher activity levels.

During such impacts a physical load slightly distorts the bone matrix. After the load is released, the bone springs back to its original state. Impact helps because nerves monitor the stress on bones caused by muscle action, and any substantial increase sends signals to build more bone. Irritation from repeated shifting enables the bone to absorb more minerals, decreasing porosity.

Is this just one person’s arbitrary view of some old research? No, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report dated October 14, 2004 cited impact as the greatest way to increase or maintain bone mass density.

After understanding this information many people would have been satisfied to write papers and make speeches about the value of increased exercise for those at greater risk for broken bones and complications. Dr. Jaquish had a different goal in mind: enable older people to safely absorb more physical impact than they may have experienced when they were young.

After carefully examining the body’s capabilities, he designed equipment that individuals safely adjust to receive bone-density-building impact. Consider how effectively this works: While using his patented bioDensity™ equipment, women between the ages of 80 and 99 have safely absorbed leg-press loads of over 600 pounds.

As a result of safely increasing impact, your bones can grow stronger while you grow older. Can you imagine the joy that Dr. Jaquish experienced as he developed such solutions? There was certainly no room for frustration. It was a bit like trying to break 100 in golf and quickly finding that you could score below par.

What are the lessons for you getting to be the best?

1. Look for problems where today’s best solutions (such as colonoscopies to screen for colon cancer) aren’t highly efficient compared to their costs. Think of this search as being like setting a goal of breaking 100 in golf.

2. Explore all the logical alternative solutions that few have focused on.

3. Pay special attention to methods that work well with the best natural processes and human nature.

4. Work with open-minded experts to effectively apply the best apparent method.

5. Share the good news about your discoveries.

When will you start?

What are you waiting for?

Author's Bio: 

Donald W. Mitchell is a professor at Rushmore University who often teaches people who want to improve their business effectiveness in order to accomplish career breakthroughs through earning advanced degrees. For more information about ways to engage in fruitful lifelong learning at Rushmore University to increase your effectiveness, I invite you to visit