To Dominate Your Industry Make Everything You Do 'World Class'
People say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But that’s no way to get ahead in business. A better quote for success comes from Hunter S. Thompson: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”
Without a doubt, that’s the philosophy that has made Ann Miura-Ko one of the most respected venture capitalists in the country.
Miura-Ko is the daughter of immigrants, and her father, a rocket scientist at NASA, was passionate about the concept of excellence and had high expectations of his children. According to Miura-Ko, one of the most enduring principles her father instilled in her was that everything she did, no matter how trivial, deserved “world-class” effort.
This idea was put to the test when she secured a job as an administrative assistant in the office of the dean of engineering at Yale. On her first day of work, she told her father she’d be making copies and filing.
That’s pretty mundane stuff, but he immediately suggested she think about how she could be world-class in her new job. This inspired Miura-Ko to change her approach. She created crisp copies that could not be discerned from the original document; she printed labels for her files rather than write them freehand; and, when she was tasked with bringing doughnuts to the office, she chose the freshest available.
Her goal? To make everything a “delight moment” for her colleagues. A few years passed, and one day the dean asked Miura-Ko to give his friend Lewis a tour around the engineering school. Remembering her father’s words, Miura-Ko gave a great tour and developed a good rapport with the gentleman she was showing around.
In the end, he was so impressed that he asked if she would like to come to California for a tour of his company. That was when she learned that “Lewis” was Lewis “Lew” Platt, CEO of Hewlett Packard (HP).
Miura-Ko jumped at the opportunity to visit HP, and when she returned to campus, Lew sent her two pictures. The first one was of herself sitting next to Lew. The second picture was of Bill Gates sitting exactly where she had sat. This image left a lasting impression on Miura-Ko, and Platt became a key figure in her professional development.
Today, Ann Miura-Ko is “the most powerful woman in startups,” according to Forbes. She has played a key role in helping to shatter the glass ceiling for women in her industry.
While at times it may seem incredibly challenging to put every ounce of your effort into even tiny tasks, remember that no one expects great things of people who can’t be bothered to “sweat the small stuff.” Here are three ways to follow the wisdom imparted by Miura-Ko’s father and make your own endeavors more “world class.”
1. Make excellence a habit.
No matter how insignificant a task might seem at the time, there is joy to be had in a job well done. What’s more, people tend to judge others by their actions, and they remember mistakes.
Think about it. Who are you more likely to hire again? The painter who left drips on your floor and tracked mud onto your rug or the painter who left your house neat and clean?
When we commit to being excellent in all that we do, we are choosing to own our circumstances. This enables us to direct our lives and career paths, rather than simply react as if we are at the mercy of fate, circumstance, other people or external events. A commitment to excellence puts us in the driver’s seat.
2. Create “delight moments.”
While some jobs can be a bore, good people make any workplace more fun and interesting. When you make other people happy -- even in small ways -- you create that feedback loop of joy. As Miura-Ko discovered, bringing other people joy can really pay dividends professionally. As a bonus, spreading joy also helps create a terrific workplace culture.
Related: There's No Such Thing as Good Luck
3. Be prepared for good luck to strike.
The Roman philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Miura-Ko didn’t know she was giving a tour to the CEO of a major company; she just gave the best tour she could. In other words, she was prepared to impress anyone, and her preparation paid off.
Is there sometimes just plain ol’ luck involved? Sure. But, it’s also possible to create your own luck. If one of the top investors in the world got her break making copies, labeling, selecting fresh doughnuts and demonstrating accountability, where might you be able to do better?
To hear Ann Miura-Ko’s full story, I highly recommend listening to her detailed interview with Tim Ferris.