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Competence describes more than just your skills and knowledge. Competence represents anything that improves your ability to perform including your knowledge, skills, relationships, resourcefulness, processes, systems and information.

Building your competence boosts your confidence … and confidence is a close friend to high achievers. Building your competence is like cleaning your house. If you stop cleaning, dust collects. The need to clean never ends. In order to stick to it and achieve the success you deserve, the task of building competence also never ends. Scientist and heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey’s life clearly illustrates this.

Often called “the father of modern cardiovascular surgery,” Dr. Michael E. DeBakey came from simple beginnings, born to immigrant parents in Lake Charles, Louisiana. As a boy, he discovered the Encyclopedia Britannica at the public library and had read every volume by the time he graduated from high school.

In 1966, DeBakey performed the first successful implantation of an artificial heart, and in 1968, he supervised the first successful multi-organ transplantation, when a heart, both kidneys and a lung were transplanted from a single donor to four separate recipients.

For more than four decades, Dr. DeBakey’s work has either directly or indirectly saved thousands of lives. Up until he died at 99-years-old in 2008, Dr. DeBakey continued to build his competence with a daily routine — established in his boyhood — to rise at 5 a.m., to read and to write.

Here are eight tips from 107 Ways to Stick to It that Dr. DeBakey and other highly successful people have used to build their competence and boost their confidence:

#37Seek feedback about your performance.  Building competence requires courage…courage to face the facts. Be ready for what you might hear and be prepared to make changes that might feel uncomfortable but will build your competence.

#38Take baby steps. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is our competence. Start with just one new skill, one tool or one new area of knowledge. Use it until it becomes a habit. First you form your habits, and then your habits form you.

#40Listen more than you talk. Remember what Mark Twain said, “If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two mouths and one ear.” When you listen, you learn and also prevent “blind spots” — weaknesses that are apparent to others but not to you. The higher your rise in an organization, the more you must listen.

#43Build your BEST team — Buddies who Encourage Success and Truth. You may have seen me discuss this topic in my interview with Zig Ziglar. Choose your team wisely. Ensure each member offers the energy, truth and positive perspective you need to succeed. Connect with your BEST team, individually or as a group, on a consistent basis. Learn from them and help them — it goes both ways.

#48Create it once, use it many times. If you know you will perform a task more than once, create a checklist, form or template to save time and improve your consistency over the long haul. No need to reinvent the wheel every time you conduct or coordinate an off-site meeting, prepare a proposal, send out a mailing, plan a new project timeline, etc.

#49Learn along the way. After you complete each task, ask yourself, “What should I Stop, Start and Keep?” Identify those things that did not go so well (Stop), those you did not do that would have helped (Start) and those that went well (Keep). Continually improving your performance is a powerful way to build competence — it turns good to great!

#54Ask the right questions. The fastest way to change the answers you receive — from yourself and others — is to change the questions you ask. Asking the right questions will get you better answers whether you are asking it of yourself or of others. The questions you ask will either limit or expand the possible responses.

#60Be decisive! Get 80% of the information you need, then make the best decision you can. Don’t let being perfect stop you from doing something good. Remember, good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.

Check out 107 Ways to Stick to It for 99 more tips.

In the words of George W. Crane, “Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.”