How to Be Better By Watching Others



Today I want to talk about how you can significantly shorten your learning curve in any area of your life by watching other people.

I must confess, I’m borrowing this idea from Chris Fussel (@FussellChris), a former Navy SEAL and partner at the McChrystal Group, a leadership consulting firm. He shared some advice given to him by his mentor on a recent Tim Ferris podcast (1:21:00) that really resonated with me. Basically, in order to improve any area in your life, you should have a running list of three people that you are always watching.

I used to do this and still do this, but he was able to really crystalize it, so I wanted to share it with you today.

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Basically, in order to be exponentially better and shorten your learning curve, you should have an active list of 3 people who you are trying to learn from:

  • Someone who is further along than you are in the area of your life you’d like to improve. They’ve been there, done that and you look up to them. This is someone who does the same kind of work that you do; they’re just a lot better at it. Emulate this person.
  • A peer in your field who you think is doing it better than you are.
  • Someone who is doing what you were doing three or four years ago but who’s doing it better.

Our effectiveness in life and in service depends on our ability to observe our fellow human beings. Discerning mood and spirit is crucial, but being able to learn and adapt from what you see is even more important.

At this point in my life as Executive Director of The Last Well, my three people are:

  • Mike Mantel, CEO of Living Water International
  • A talented writer and marketer, but I won’t mention his name
  • Alex Radler, East African Ministries

By watching these three people who I greatly respect, I’m able to gain insights and wisdom from their processes, successes, and failures. Through other people, you get exponentially better.

Here’s your challenge:

Find out what area you’d like to improve in and then find those three people and start watching them, comparing yourself to them.

I hope you make that list for yourself. And remember, it’s an active list that’s bound to change.

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Hey, this is Todd Phillips, your online pastor and high performance coach.

I want to talk today about how to be better in any area of your life by watching other people. Let me say that again—how to be better in any area of your life, professional, personal, whatever, by watching other people.

I actually got this from a gentleman named Chris Fussell. He’s the executive director of the McChrystal Group. He’s also a former Navy SEAL. And I used to do this and still do this, but he was able to really crystalize this, so I wanted to share it with you today.

I’ve always watched other people to try to learn from them, but the way that Chris put this together is just really poignant. And I think it’ll help you; it certainly helped me to really crystallize my thoughts around something I’ve been doing for the last 15-20 years.

And it’s this—it’s a short and to-the-point video today about how to be better by watching others. And it really comes down to this: finding and keeping an active list of the three people that you’re watching in any give area. So let me give you an example of how I’m doing this right now and how it’s affecting me.

I’m the leader, the founder and president of a non-profit organization called The Last Well. You can go find out about that at, the link will be below the video.

But we have a ministry to reach an entire nation with the gospel and clean water by 2020. And in order for me to be better in my role, not just as a founder because that’s just a descriptive role, but as the president, as the leader of this organization trying to reach a whole country.

I’ve been really focusing in on watching other people who do the same kind of work that I do very well. So to give you an example, number 1 the first person that I have on my list is someone that’s further along than me in my field of leading a nonprofit organization. And that person for me is this gentleman named Mike Mantel. He’s the CEO of Living Water International out of Houston, TX.

They’re in over 20 countries doing what we’re doing in one country, they’re doing in twenty. Our budget is a few million dollars a year, they’re budget is 20-something million dollars a year. And there are so many things that I can learn from him. He’s a mentor in my life. And we do talk on the phone, we do email back and forth. But I watch his life, I watch his emails, I watch the way that he leads because he’s seventeen years down the road from where I am right now. He’s lived the successes and the failures, the mountaintops and the valleys of the nonprofit world, the Christian nonprofit world.

And he’s a brilliant thinker, he’s a brilliant strategist, and he’s just an overall brilliant leader.

And so the first person that I want you to think about is are you watching someone that’s further along than you in whatever area that is, whether it’s professional or personal, they’re doing it better and they’ve been doing it longer than you.

The second person that I want to you to think about in your life that is a peer in your field, someone maybe not your age, but they’re in the same stage of life as you. And for me, oh and they’re also more successful. This is the key. It’s someone who’s doing what you’re doing at the same stage that you’re doing it, but they’re doing it better. So they’re more successful and you have respect for them.

And that person in my life is a 41-year-old. He’s just a few years younger than me. And he’s just a brilliant guy. And I won’t even mention his name. He asked me to kind of keep him off the radar, but he’s a brilliant marketer, he’s a brilliant storyteller, he’s a brilliant networker. This guy is just good at what he does. And he’s able to be very successful because of that.

And so although I’ve got a thinker and a strategist with Mike Mantel, this guy that has been further along. This peer, this person that’s in the same stage of life as me, doing the same or similar job as I am, he’s a marketer and a storyteller. He’s able to bring the narrative to life to people both in his personal discussion on camera, but also in the way that he writers.

And so I learned so much from him because he’s doing what I’m doing but he’s doing it better. And it’s OK because I get to learn from him and be better myself. And serve God and have greater impact for God because I watched this man who’s doing the same thing that I’m doing.

And then finally, you probably know where I’m going with this, you’re going to find someone doing what you were doing three or four years ago but who’s doing it better. And this person is Alex Radler for me. He’s a young man, I think he’s in his late twenties, he may be in his early thirties now, but he’s fifteen years younger than me. And he leads up this group called East African Ministries.

And here’s a guy that’s doing what I was doing three or four years ago as he’s building this organization. But he’s doing it with such fervor and such passion. He’s brilliant with people. He’s way ahead of his age in his emotional intelligence. He’s a networking stud. I mean the guy knows everybody.

And so these are the three guys that I watch. Somebody further along than me who’s doing it better, somebody in my peer group that’s doing it better than me, that I perceive as doing it better, and then someone who was doing what I was doing three or four years ago but is doing that better as well.

And what happens is I’m able to take from these three people such insights, such wisdom. I’m able to watch them experience certain things and go through these processes and then do it well and learn from them. You know one of the best things that we can do is shorten our learning curve in given areas of our life.

We can either experience it on our own through trial and error or we can watch other people. This has been such a big thing in my life and I hope it will be for you. Because if you’re not watching someone further along up here and someone who is doing what you were doing three or four years ago—if you don’t have those three people in your life, you’re missing out on the ability to have profound changes in a very short period of time.

You’re missing out on an opportunity to shorten your learning curve in major areas of leadership in the role that you’re currently in. So I hope you’ll have that list. And by the way, this is an active list. I used to have a different list of three people when I was pastoring full time and preaching full time. I had a person that I really respected as a person as a preacher and pastor who was further along—one that was a peer of mine, actually that worked for me, but we were pretty much on the same team together. And then someone who was just starting out preaching.

I watched all three of them. So find out what area you want to be better in in your life and then find those three people and start watching them, comparing your lives to them. Find out what strengths they have and how you can apply those rightly to your life.


[after video]

Hey, it’s Todd. Did you get something out the video you just watched? I really hope you did.

I mean, that’s my passionto give you something that can be applied rightly to your life, right now.

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