When you hear that someone is “world-class,” what does that mean to you?
I really like the definition at BusinessDictionary.com: “World-Class” is Goods, services, and processes that are ranked by customers and industry experts to be among the best of the best. This designation denotes standard-setting excellence in terms of design, performance, quality, and customer satisfaction and value when compared with all similar items from anywhere in the world.
To me, this definition applies to people and the energy they put out into the world, just as much as it applies to a product or service. If you have had the opportunity to be around someone who is so excellent at something and you were certain that you were seeing the best you’ve ever seen at that exact thing, then you may have seen a world-class performance. This person does not have to be a CEO of a company, an Olympic gold medalist, or a Nobel Prize winner. They do not have to be the person of the year on Time Magazine, nor in the top 10 of the richest people in the world. Although, all of these people could be examples of performing at a world-class level – at least in areas that mattered for their success.
It is your decision
Actor, Will Smith, said that he made an active decision to be “World-Class”. He said, “It takes such desperate, obsessive focus to be world-class. In order to move people, to touch people, you need to focus with all your fiber, with your heart, your creativity.”
What I want to tell you today is that YOU can DECIDE to be world-class at something too. An added benefit of working toward excellence in one area is that while you are on the path to becoming world-class at that one thing, you will probably become world-class at multiple things. The changes you make to improve in one area, often bleed over into other areas of your life. Additionally, the things you learn begin to build on each other, and the growth you achieve will be exponential.
Tale of two different people in the same job
Let’s take a look at two people in the same entry-level position and discuss how their attitudes and decisions will dramatically change their outcomes. We’ll use Olive Garden as our example today. For those of you who do not know, Olive Garden is a casual, family-friendly, Italian themed restaurant in the United States. They have over 800 stores across the US. The Olive Garden chain is corporately owned by Darden Concepts, Inc., along with several other popular restaurants like LongHorn Steak House or the Yard House (among others). (NOTE: I do not work for Olive Garden, and this is only a theoretical discussion.)
Person one is named Nellie:
She is 22 years old and works at Olive Garden as a server.
Her attributes follow:
- Always voices annoyance
- Rolls her eyes after her supervisor gives her a task
- Calls in sick just enough to seem slightly unreliable, but not quite enough to actually get fired
- She meets minimum work standards and expectations
- She gossips about other co-workers behind their backs
- She comes into work saying how tired she is and how today is going to be horrible
- She is professional enough to the customers because she wants a tip, but since some of them see her whispering to her co-workers and rolling her eyes, many of them see through her. She does not understand why she doesn’t get as many tips as Francine seems to get with the same tables and the same shift.
- If there is extra work to be done, or if they are short on staff for a shift, she rarely pitches in with the extra work that needs to be done.
- She seems to look at her phone A LOT during her on-clock shift time.
Person two is named Francine:
She will turn 22 years old next week and also works as a server at the same Olive Garden.
Her attributes follow:
- She comes into work with a smile and a great attitude, every single day.
- No one can remember a day she called in sick, except that one time about 6 months ago when she had a severe case of the flu. She is supremely dependable.
- She makes it her absolute mission to think about how she can bring value to her workplace every day. What can she do to make the customers visit exceptional? What can she learn to make better food and wine recommendations? What can she do to improve the working conditions of her co-workers? What can she do to bring value to her immediate supervisor and to the restaurant manager?
- She is an absolute team player and inspires everyone on the shift and makes working the same shift as her pure joy.
- She encourages team members who are having a hard time, she takes the time to train newer servers so they can learn to provide excellence too.
- She wants everyone to succeed and is willing to help make that a reality.
Can you predict the long-term outlook for these two people?
Where will they be in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, if they go forward with these attributes? I’d say, “One of them is world-class” and to the other one, I’d say, “No Thanks, I’ll Pass!” Time after time, without fail.
Nellie will probably end up bouncing from job to job, never promoting much higher than entry-level. This is partly because she continuously leaves previous jobs where she has burned all her bridges. She will end up blaming the entire situation on other people, saying Francine was the manager’s favorite, saying she has health problems, saying the whole world is against her. She will make minimum wage her entire life and that will never change – as long as she remains so negative.
Oh! The places Francine will go, though! Due to her excellence, she quickly rises. First, within her local restaurant, where she becomes a shift supervisor and then eventually an assistant manager. She finds out that the Darden Corporation has leadership and management training and they even have some college tuition assistance benefits, once you get to a certain level. She goes to college in her off time and learns Business with an emphasis on Hospitality. She becomes a constant learner. Her promising and fast growth gets the attention of a regional manager for the corporate and they ask her if she would like to work at the corporate offices. She is not sure she is ready but loves the idea of the challenge, so she relocates. Given all the things she learned about pairings of food and wine in her first year at the restaurant, and now that she is aware of all the opportunities at the corporate level, she finds out there is a sommelier staff so she makes inquiries about that. Come to find out, there is an extensive sommelier training program. Due to her previous excellence, she is accepted to the sommelier training program. Then, because she is so talented and successful there, she ended up traveling the world searching out exquisite but affordable wines to complement the Italian food and atmosphere in the restaurants across the whole country. She has become a world traveler, she has an amazing income, she continues to learn, and she has freedom and autonomy to continue to be world-class.
You do not have to learn it all at once
Tim Ferris, in his books and on his podcast, has also talked, prolifically about becoming an expert, learning new skills, or becoming world class and how you can do that very quickly if you focus properly. Tim reminds us of the Pareto Principle or the 80-20 Rule. In this concept, 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, if you really want to learn something, to be seen as an expert – you should learn the most important 20% first. Learn whatever is central to the knowledge you are trying to gain. If you focus on this, the other 80% will build and build the longer you continue learning, but having the fundamental 20% as a core to build on will quickly make you more knowledgeable about the topic than most people.
It is a mindset YOU can learn
Becoming world class is really a mindset, a decision. You can start today, where you are, and make this mindset a habit as you go through life. Be excellent, bring value, and do it with strength and the attitude that you are making a difference in the world – and you will.