Being World-Class

What it Takes to be World-Class

Being a business owner for more than a decade, I have been forced to become a student of the marketplace. It’s my opinion that the only businesses that will continue to thrive in the coming years are those who are determined to be world-class. Not just good or even great, but only world-class organizations will be able to navigate the rapidly changing and volatile business climate. Unfortunately, good enough will not cut it the way it used to in generations past. Technology has vastly improved our lives, but it has also created increased competition in the work place and removed many of the boundaries and limitations businesses have, leading to more businesses being able to compete in a global marketplace. Businesses who compete in a crowded marketplace will all eventually reach the same fate unless they are able to break out and become world-class. What follows is what I believe makes a company (or an individual) world-class:

  1. Inspire a feeling in people–World-class companies inspire certain feelings in others. It’s as if there is something special the company does, and other people want to be a part of what is special. A world-class company has no problem finding great people to join the organization because great people want to be around other great people. Think about world-class companies–Apple, Disney, Lego, Rolex, Ferrari, for example–all of these can be associated with some special feeling. The best companies make people feel special about buying their product or being part of their team. They inspire a sense of pride.

 

  1. Obsess about being the best at only a few key things–World-class companies and individuals understand that in order to be the best in the game, their focus has to be on being the best and doing what it takes to achieve that distinction. World-class performers know that only the best get recognized and acknowledged long-term. For world-class companies, it’s about leaving a legacy and only being one of the best companies will ensure that. The key is to only focus on the things you can be world-class at and not be distracted by those you cannot.

 

  1. Work to be better all the time–The best understand they must constantly work to improve or they will not be the best for long. For people, progress equals happiness and the same goes for companies. For world-class companies, making progress is a necessity.

 

  1. Fixing and anticipating problems before they arise–Problems are a part of life and business. The longer you live or stay in business, new problems will arise that will force you to grow and adapt. World-class companies differ in that they are able to anticipate problems before they occur because they have fully thought through and tested their ideas. If problems do occur, world-class performers are quick to make it right for the client.

 

  1. Almost anyone would recognize its greatness–This almost goes without saying. World-class and greatness are almost synonymous. It’s worth repeating that the greatest companies and performers are recognized by others outside the industry as being world-class. The reputation of world-class companies is important to uphold.

 

  1. People talk about the high quality and refer others without hesitation–Great companies make it exceptionally easily for clients to refer them to others. World-class companies’ products are like a status symbol. Having the product or service means something, and stands for something.

 

  1. Paying attention to details–The gardeners at Disneyland are meticulous about exactly how they plant the flowers and which way the plants are facing. The janitors, also known as Cast Members, are careful to pick up trash and clean spills immediately. They take pride in making the clients experience a special one. This happens by paying attention to detail. The beautiful wrapping of an Apple product illicits a special feeling in the customer because they understand the company they are doing business with is paying attention to detail. When a car’s upholstery is hand stitched, the same attention to detail allows the business’ driver to take pride in doing business with them. Clients of world-class companies are happy to do business with them. This matters a great deal because the client knows if the company can pay attention to detail, they will pay attention to them as a person, even care about them! Focusing on details as well as the overall picture is what separates the merely good from the world-class.

 

I’ve struggled to move up from being good or great at certain things to world-class. Like many things in life, even if you have a roadmap on how to get somewhere, it can be exceptionally difficult to actually get there. In fact, most just look at the arduous journey and never take the first step. Still, others try for a while and then move on to something else or settle for “good enough.” My sincere desire is that everyone become world-class at one thing in their live; a world-class parent, athlete, student, philosopher, teacher, salesperson, employer, employee, CEO, speaker, actor–anything that helps other people. I think we should all strive to be world-class at whatever we do. After all, if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and world-class companies do it right more often than not.

In Heath,

Sean

The Problem With Passion

We are often told to find something we are passionate about to do for our work because it will make us happy. I think this is terrible advice. How many people tried out their passion in the marketplace and ended up on unemployment and food stamps? Where do you think the term “starving artist” comes from? Don’t get me wrong, if you can find something you’re passionate about and also make a good living doing, that’s fantastic! But first and foremost, making money is about providing value to others in the marketplace. Finding an occupation that others value and are willing to pay for is the fastest way for most people to produce income. You may not be passionate about what you are doing, but at least you can fulfill financial needs. After you accumulate some savings, you may be able to start a side business based around something you are really passionate about and make it flourish. However, there are a couple of warnings that I would offer regarding mixing passion and work…

1. What you are passionate about today may change in the future. I can tell you from personal experience that what I was really passionate about in the past, I no longer have any interest in. Some things I believe I will always be passionate about–fitness, business, and writing. But some things, like Magic the Gathering and wrestling, which I used to be very passionate about, no longer do it for me. If I had decided out of high school to start a business selling comics and playing cards, or becoming a wrestler, I imagine that I’d be wildly unhappy today. I’d probably also be struggling to make ends meat.

2. Work and business have a tendency to make you question whether you are really passionate about something. In other words, it can lead some people to actually hate what they used to be passionate about. For example, I learned very quickly after I opened a health club, that my passion for bodybuilding and fitness had nothing to do whatsoever with actually owning and running a health club. My skills as a bodybuilder did not translate into increased revenues, decreased business expenses, higher employee morale, or anything necessary to make my businesses a success. Also, as some members of my clubs will tell you, I have a problem with buying too much new equipment because I personally want it, rather than examining whether it truly adds value to the customer experience or the value of the business as a whole. If I’m being totally honest, my passion for fitness has faded at times because now I associate many new problems and stresses with something that is my passion. That is a very difficult thing for most people to handle emotionally. It has taken me many years to figure out how to separate training with the realities of owning a training facility.

3. Being passionate about something does not necessarily mean that you will be good at doing it for a living, nor does it mean that you were meant to do it. What I’m trying to hint at here is that your purpose in this life may not be what you believe you are passionate about. If you are very lucky, you will find passion in your purpose. If this is the case, you will be one of the few who can produce income, by doing what you like and also by helping others (purpose). I suggest that you look for purpose first, and then try to find what it is about fulfilling your purpose that you can be passionate about. For instance, as a bodybuilder and health club owner with autoimmune disease, I can build businesses for others to become healthy and transform themselves, and also serve as an example for overcoming certain disabilities. I can’t do that only by lifting weights though. No one is going to pay me for lifting weights and doing cardio. (I wish they would!) I can, however use my passion for lifting and mix it with my purpose (helping others overcome obstacles). This is why I continue to own health clubs as opposed to doing all passive investing in things like real estate.

4. Passion often does not mix with logic. The Stoics advised us to always use reason instead of emotion, because they understood that our emotions could deceive us. Have you ever been in an argument and said some atrocious things? Looking back you may realize that saying those things were not useful in the least and you regret not thinking before speaking. This is an example of letting passion overcome reason. Eleanor Roosevelt was once complimented on her “passion” for getting social legislation passed. She responded, “I hardly think the word passion applies to me.” The First Lady understood that she was driven by something more important than passion. She was driven by purpose. If she let herself become too passionate about anything, she may have forgotten reason to ensure that her purpose was realized. Eleanor Roosevelt understood that purpose is more useful and longer lasting than passion.

So beware of any advice suggesting that if you always follow your passion, you’ll be happy. You may not. Passions fade. Passions confuse our ability to reason. What we are passionate about today may change. Perhaps no one will pay us to engage in our passion. Instead, focus on mixing purpose with passion. Finding your purpose and then finding areas where you can be passionate about that purpose will lead to far more fulfillment and likely far more income than choosing to follow a career based on passion alone.

In health,
Sean

Yes, It’s Hard!

Yes, It’s Hard.

Sometimes it serves us to admit that certain things are just plain hard. It does us no good to dwell on that fact, but facing reality is important. Without a doubt, life is much easier than it used to be for our ancestors. Almost everyone on the planet now has access to water, food shelter, even technology like radio, television and the internet. This was not always the case. The simplest luxuries today like refrigeration and air conditioning were not available to even to richest people just 150 years ago. Still, as humans we adapt to our environment and become habituated to the world around us. It’s easy to forget how much better the standard of living is today than any other point in history because most people born after the 1990’s don’t know any different. The struggle to survive raise a family with food and shelter has been replaced with more modern struggles. Namely, these are struggles of the marketplace. While the marketplace has raised up even the poorest nations through mass dissemination of products, technology and information, a host of stressors has pervaded our culture as we find a way to make a living and try to dent the universe with our existence.

In a crowded global marketplace where incredibly large businesses dominate and make it difficult to thrive let alone succeed for employees and entrepreneurs, a stress of doing well can lead to tremendous uncertainty and anxiety. The purpose of life used to not be that complicated- you are born, you have to work to survive doing a certain craft or skill, (usually whatever trade your parents did like farming, masonry, etc.), you marry, have children, start a household of your own, and hopefully leave some wealth and real estate to pass on to your heirs when you die. Questions like, “Who am I becoming in this job?”, “Why am I on this planet?”, “Does this job have medical benefits?”, “How do I expand my market share?”, “What companies should I invest in to give me income later in life?”, “What major should I pursue in college?”, “What should I study to make more money and have a happy life?”- these questions were not usually applicable. Today, however, they pervade our very existence. We think about these questions so much because we are so unsure about what our purpose is.

While the marketplace has done so much for humanity, not the least of which allowing seemingly endless opportunities for people to amass wealth, we see examples of wealth and power and wonder whether we are on the right track ourselves. Statistics from the Bureau of Labor show that most Americans stay at job for an average of 4.6 years. This is actually slightly longer than it was in 1983, but much less than it has been in previous generations. The days of staying in a career for 20-30 years and then retiring with a pension are largely over. I believe this uncertainty in the job market has led to a high level of anxiety and uncertainty. Although the marketplace has led to vast choices for consumers and producers, the need for certainty can outweigh the benefit of having multiple choices.

We are, at the same time, presented with unlimited choices and overwhelming uncertainty about where our talents are best suited. The fear that we may be wasting our talents has led to job hopping as well as record numbers of workers consuming opioids and antidepressants. While this type of anxiety is not rooted in actual survival, (most of us know where our next meal is coming from and that we will have a roof over our head), it is still very real. It is, in fact, difficult to know how to succeed and be fulfilled in the modern world. Some things are just plain hard, regardless of how well humanity has it today. It’s hard to know how to choose a job or college major. It’s hard to know exactly why we are here and what our purpose is. It’s hard to know how to invest for the future. It’s hard to hire the right person. It’s hard to choose a career only to find out you are not fulfilled. It’s hard to pay bills every month and then look at your bank balance afterwards and worry about having too much month left for the money that’s left. It’s hard to make a living doing something that you’re passionate about, but it doesn’t pay well. It’s hard to wade through the endless information thrown at us everyday and decipher exactly what it means and what to do. It’s hard to anticipate how consumers will react and how markets will behave. It’s hard to competition-proof your company so your bottom line isn’t affect by others. It’s hard to deal with customer complaints. It’s hard to wait in line at a restaurant when you’re hungry or the DMV when you need a license. It’s hard to know what information and technology you all your children to consume. It’s hard to teach your kids how to survive in a marketplace that is always changing. IT’S HARD. It is. However, at the end of the day, I’d rather deal with all these hard things than go back where humanity used to be. I much prefer the benefits and anxieties of modern society than 200 years ago. I love my internet, refrigerator, car, air conditioning and the supermarket too much. I’m willing to adapt to an ever-changing business climate and deal with all the hard things associated with it. How about you?
Keep grinding,
Sean