As someone who has aspirations but, admittedly, is not world-class at anything, I’m always curious about the origins of those who are the very best at what they do. I've learned eight lessons from studying the elite in professions from athletics to business and, occasionally, art to find out what makes them tick and how they reached such rarified air.
1. Live a life of discipline.
Despite his busy schedule shooting and promoting his movies, movie star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson religiously follows a strict diet and fitness regimen, eating seven carefully orchestrated meals designed for maximum health benefits. He wakes up daily at 4 a.m. to eat his first meal and start the day. His approach to fitness is extreme, but it’s a big part of how he’s achieved extreme levels of success. Simply put, he is more disciplined than those who would try to dethrone him at the box office.
2. Be on a mission.
The highest levels of excellence are a result of years of training and preparation. Great inspiration is required to maintain the unflinching discipline to chase, day in and day out, a goal that is unobtainable to the average person. This is a quest that propels you to march forward on your darkest days. Not everyone has a mission that stirs his or her soul. If you are fortunate enough to discover yours, you have the first tool needed to become world-class.
3. Bias towards action.
Thomas Edison once said, “Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait.” There is no more succinct description of what drives the most ambitious and world-class among us. If you pause to consider the countless hours it takes to master anything, you’ll find that getting started now is a necessity. Time is the greatest and rarest of commodities. Those who aspire to achieve world-class status are intimately aware of how precious each day is and know better than to waste a second.
4. Be different.
Steve Jobs personified Apple’s legendary ‘90s campaign Think Different. He paid the dues to become world-class but alway believed he could be. People like Jobs, with an end goal that’s so bold, make many equally daring choices along their journey.
Fitting in isn’t the key to success. Perhaps the opposite is what’s required to reach the pinnacle: world-class status.
5. Have a frightening goal.
Do not aim small. For the world-class, goals that frighten others or even themselves are just the inspiration they need to wake-up early to pursue greatness. The juice for the elite is the fact that their target is daring; a frightening goal is a compelling goal.
6. Turn setbacks into comebacks.
Anyone can get inspired and take the first steps towards achieving at the highest levels. The starting line has no shortage of participants, but the road to the finish line always claims plenty of casualties. The world-class have a resiliency that is simply on a different level than most. They have the ability to treat setbacks as part of the process -- merely roadblocks that are never impassible.
7. Never arrive.
Further along your journey to world-class status, you will know what massive success feels like. Anyone would be tempted to stop and admire the view. For those who do, success can be the enemy, driving an ego out of control or inducing complacency. The world-class avoid these pitfalls. They never allow themselves to fall for the “I’ve arrived” trap. They keep their eyes fixed on the prize.
8. Care less about what others think.
To shoot for world-class with the fortitude to work towards it every day is not normal. Generally speaking, people who do abnormal things make themselves susceptible to criticism. The world-class have the unique ability to shut out the critics, even when no one in the room believes in them. For the soon-to-be elite, doubters only intensify their drive. They can shut out the naysayers and instead focus that mental energy solely on their mission.