5 traits to help you become world-class at whatever you do

You know what you want from life – but you look around and feel dispirited. There are many obstacles in your way. It seems very hard, if not impossible, to reach your goal.

The passion is there.  But you just don’t know how to move forward. Many things are holding you back. And competition is one of them. You’re worried that thousands or millions of people are trying to achieve the same things you are.

After all, there are just 24 hours in a day. You have bills to pay, responsibilities to take care of, relationships to give time to, a job to focus on. It’s all so overwhelming; it seems hopeless.

With so much going on, it just makes sense to start tomorrow. Moreover, the learning curve is so steep and time so limited. What should you do? How do you get out of the rat race? How do you stand out from the crowd? How do you become world-class at your gift when you’re stuck trying to start?

The truth is, it is very easy to surpass most people at a competitive level. They are dealing with the same practical and existential crises that you are. Most of them give up and quit before reaching mastery at their craft. They have little or nothing to show for their efforts. Others keep playing at the level of mediocrity.

With a few adjustments and tweaks to your lifestyle, you can quickly jump to the top 5-10% of your field. That’s where the real challenge begins. Your next target is to get to the top 1%. And it requires a change in your very being.

Getting to the top 1% also means you’ll have to alter your entire life to become focused on your creative expression. Every moment of your life will either take away from your performance or add to it.

Take the first step

Taking the first step in a new venture, whether it’s a business or career path, is always daunting. I remember how difficult it seemed when I wanted to start a blog. First, I kept thinking about starting it for months.

Then I got stuck trying to find the right niche because I’m multi-passionate. When I finally decided on one, I still had to figure out a load of technical stuff like SEO and keyword research.

There was just one obstacle after another. I’d be lying if I said I never doubted myself. I often wondered if my efforts were even worth it.

Suddenly I found myself in an unexpected situation; I got pregnant and had some complications. My doctor advised strict bed rest. I said goodbye to my fulltime job, but my mind needed something to focus on. I needed an outlet for my creative energy. That’s when I actually started the blog I had been thinking about for the past 2 years.

Everyone starts as an amateur. Don’t compare yourself with someone who is far ahead in her journey. Have humility.

Here’s a story I really like. Meet Kenzie and Harris. They both dropped out of Brigham Young University, got married and were working at an Apple Store. They were both passionate about music and kept recording music covers on YouTube and Vines.

They had enough money between them to last a year and decided to quit their jobs and focus on their music fulltime. They kept uploading videos for months – without gaining much traction or being noticed. At max, they had a few thousand followers.

Then one day, everything changed. They posted a Vine that went viral. Suddenly, they were being called by agents for contracts and other Viners.

What did Kenzie and Harris do that most people don’t? They put themselves out there again and again and again. They had the courage to take the first step.

Get educated

Take your dreams seriously. Most people don’t. Commit to your dreams if you really want to be world-class in your endeavors. Get educated. Find a mentor. Join a course. Take a class. Go back to school if you have to.

When I first started my blog, I thought all I needed was to know how to write. And then I discovered writers who were so much better. Their work could cast a spell on readers, and I went on to spend hours each day studying how they crafted their pieces.

I immersed myself in the process to the extent that it was easy to forget about time when I was working on my blog.

I also had a mentor who helped guide me and taught me more in 2 months than I could ever learn on my own. I’m still not where I want to be, but I’m confident that I soon will.

Be consistent until you have a breakthrough

To become truly world-class at what you do, be consistent. It is another area where most people fail. Everything meaningful in life is a marathon – not a sprint. It tests your willpower and commitment.

Most people burn out and quit. Consistency is the most fundamental virtue to becoming the person you most want to be.

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” Cus D’Amato

If you want it bad enough, you’ll do whatever it takes to make it happen. Even a lack of results won’t stop you. In fact, obsessing over a specific result will make your efforts forced, instead of natural.

When you truly want something, you’ll be willing to forego sleep, lessen time with friends and hobbies and take risks. When you have that resilient consistency in you, you’ll be surprised at how quickly results start to show.

Transcend guidelines and follow your instincts

This is the final stage of the process of becoming world-class. Putting yourself and your work out there in the world will get you ready for this part. As you do that enough number of times, you’ll develop keen instincts. It is now easy, almost natural for you to transcend guidelines and bring the best of your art to the world.

At times, when you’re following your instincts, you’ll be told it won’t work. And regardless of how frequently you’re told this, the idea wouldn’t enter your head.

At this point, you are becoming more holistic about your art.

You’re going above and beyond what it takes to be great. Everything you do – the way you sleep, what you eat, how you organize your life around your work, how you spend your mornings and evenings – is focused on optimizing your performance. You’ll follow creative and insightful bursts of energy to get your best work out with consistency.

Most people have no structure to their lives. They are living a long bout of reaction to everything that happens. They open their eyes and check their email or social media, they talk endlessly about other people, they focus on the negative, they waste time, they eat unhealthily, they don’t exercise, and then they wonder what’s wrong.

Stellar performance requires: a mindset and 10,000 hours of practice

Skills, talent, and initiative are all required to be the best in your field. But there’s another element; the right mindset, confidence in yourself and your abilities, and faith. And then there’s the effort. Real, backbreaking hard work and sacrifice.

A now popular study was conducted in 1993 where three psychologists picked 10 of the best violin students who could become international soloists. They picked another group of 10 students who were good enough to be part of the orchestra and 10 more who could become music teachers.

All of them had started playing the violin at age eight, and had decided to become musicians at the age of 15. In addition, each of them spent 50 hours every week at their academy practicing violin.

The top two groups of violinists spent exactly 24 hours each week practicing on their own, while the bottom group spent 9 hours practicing outside the academy.

The difference between the very best in any field and the average ones is almost always the amount of time each person spends practicing their craft. And then there’s the mindset.

Phil Knight, founder of Nike and author of ‘Shoe Dog’ said,

“I thought back on my running career at Oregon. I’d competed with, and against, men far better, faster, more physically gifted. Many were future Olympians. And yet I’d trained myself to forget this unhappy fact.

People reflexively assume that competition is always a good thing, that it always brings out the best in people, but that’s only true of people who can forget the competition. The art of competing, I’d learned from track, was the art of forgetting, and I now reminded myself of that fact. You must forget your limits. You must forget your doubts, your pain, your past.


How to make your customers love you

Are you making your customers fall in love with your business? Have you ever thought of romancing your customers? Or treating them as valued partners who help your business grow?

These cultures are adopted by companies that are on the fast track to growth. And such mindsets, when embodied by employees, can create win-win situations every single time.

Major change begins from the inside out. To provide exceptional customer service, you need to value your employees and be interested in their growth too, because happy employees literally equal happy customers.

The Ritz-Carlton understands this all too well. In an interview with Forbes, Ritz-Carlton Group President and COO, Herve Humler, has one word to describe their outstanding customer service: employee engagement.

He said, “I believe in the power of recognition and empowerment leading to great employee engagement. And employee engagement is critical to guest engagement.”

The hotel chain is so well-known for its exceptional customer service that many stories about it have made into books. Author John R DiJulius in his bookWhat’s the secret to providing world-class customer experience?’ shares one such experience.

He left the Ritz-Carlton Sarasota in a rush and forgot his laptop charger behind. He planned to call the hotel when he got into his office, but before he could, he received a next-day air package from The Ritz-Carlton with his charger. It also had a note that said;

“Mr. DiJulius, I wanted to make sure we got this to you right away. I am sure you need it, and, just in case, I sent you an extra charger for your laptop.” The note was signed by Larry K. Kinney, in Loss Prevention.”

This customer service story, and many others like it, are so over-the top-good, they sound unreal. But the Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to stellar customer service is evident from the fact that every employee is allowed to spend up to $2000 per day to improve customer experience in some way.

If you’re just starting a business, this is the one differentiating factor that will give you a clear advantage [apart from having a great product or service offering, of course].

The battle for customers, it seems, is based on price points and features. But the fact is, it is often decidedly more emotional.  The more you demonstrate your care and consideration for the customer, the easier it is to capture and retain their loyalty.

Amazon is yet another company that has grown its business to one of the largest in the world on the back of exceptional customer service. They’ve built a billion-dollar business on their ability to go the extra mile for each buyer.

Here’s what Jeff Bezos has to say about it,

“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” 

Source

To run a successful online business today, it’s not enough to just close the sale. You must turn your customers into raving fans who adore your brand and don’t even want to look elsewhere for the product or service you provide.

Today, everyone is talking about creating a business and employing a marketing strategy that’s customer-centric. But when we get right down to it, not many brands are actually doing it. It’s a great opportunity for smart brands to outshine the competition.

Customers are craving good experiences. Research confirms that people are willing to pay as much as 55% more for a positive experience.

Source

And while you may think losing a customer or two isn’t a big deal, let me tell you this. It is also anywhere from 5-25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. On an average, smart business owners understand that every business relationship lost costs them $289 per year.

To thrive in the competitive business world of today, you need to focus on exceptional customer service as the differentiating factor.

Recognize the value of word of mouth marketing

Word of mouth marketing is the most priceless asset for any brand, and when utilized right, can be used to propel a business towards profitability. According to the Wharton School of Business, a customer acquired through word of mouth has a 16-25% higher lifetime value than a customer acquired from other sources.

So when you combine word of mouth marketing with proven techniques to improve your sales and carefully analyze what your competitors are doing; you have a definite advantage.

Almost 92% of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends more than any other form of marketing.

 

Source: Nilson Global Trust in Advertising Survey, Q3 2011.

On that topic, Zappos’ founder and CEO Tony Hsieh, says, “Our philosophy has been to take most of the money we would have spent on paid advertising and invest it into customer service and customer experience instead, letting our customers do the marketing for us through word of mouth.” Source

The goal is simple: make your customers fall in love with your brand. At the end of the day, happy and satisfied customers mean you’re creating a league of devoted brand ambassadors who work round the clock to get you more business.

Netflix is a great example of a company that utilizes word of mouth to retain and acquire customers. Its core products such as House of Cards and Stranger Things offer an original customer experience that people naturally want to talk about. Netflix boosts customer experience by tapping into user data and sentiments to create and deliver shows that customers really want.

Start the journey before they become customers

The key to driving great customer satisfaction lies in one thing: understanding the mind of your customer. For this, you need to create clear customer profiles – based on data – that are sure to benefit the most from your business offering. Next, you need to see how you can offer a seamless experience that they remember.

Knowing your customers well will lay the groundwork for strong relationships with them.

Here’s a complete guide to understanding consumer psychology.

 

Once you’ve understood customer psychology, you can now work to provide them with an experience they’ll never forget.

Get up close and personal

Think of customers as the most special people in the life of your business. When you consistently put the needs of your customers at the center of everything you do, your business will grow.

Did you know that bad customer experiences cost US business $40billion every year?

 

Source

Get up and personal with your customers. Talk to them as if they’re your friends and you’ve known them for a long time. Even if you don’t have a one-on-one connection with them, you can still add personal touches to your business experience.

You can use their first names in emails; you can engage them via social media, etc. Find a way to show your business’s personality and let customers feel that you care.

Here’s how asking the right questions from your customers will help you create better experiences for them.

Are you going to extra mile to make your customers feel special? Maybe bending the rules a little can make a big impact in someone’s life. A passenger on Virgin Trains East Coast experienced this firsthand when the train’s manager allowed him to change their travel dates to accommodate their son’s hospital stay.

And not just that, the manager also moved the family to 1st class so the child could sleep comfortably.

 

The family shared their experience on social media, and their tweet garnered over 1.2k likes, 94 comments, and 77 retweets. That’s the power of providing positive customer experiences.

Here’s another example from Warby Parker – the glasses manufacturer. The company revolutionized the pricey glasses industry and made itself a beloved brand thanks to its affordable frames and its try-at-home program.

Here’s an interesting customer service story that gained a lot of traction. A customer forgot a pair of reading glasses on a train and got home to find a new pair waiting for him! Here’s how he narrates the story;

 

This kind of customer service may be hard to replicate on a daily basis, but it sure does highlight Warby Parker’s commitment to exceptional customer experience.

Listen to and implement customer feedback

This is what some of the best companies are really good at doing. They treat customer feedback as a treasure trove of information and use it to better their product and service offerings. The key here is to embrace two-way communication where you treat customers as valued partners.

Here’s what Target did when regular shopper Stephanie Giese posted a blog revealing her distaste for the company’s overly sexualized children’s clothing. Her post became viral, and many concerned parents added their voices to hers. Target was quick to respond and asked Ms. Giese to collaborate with them to change their ways.

 

In a follow-up post, she wrote “I am beyond thrilled to announce that I am going to start working with Target towards change, starting in my own house.

They have asked me to provide them with some specific feedback about children’s clothes, and I am going to start working toward a behind-the-scenes partnership with them to get more of what moms and girls want into their stores. Thank you Target for hearing our voices and taking our concerns very seriously!”

With their quick response, Target was able to turn a strong backlash against it into a minor bump along the road, all the while helping create/ acquire a product that parents of girls actually want.

Not sure how to effectively gain valuable customer feedback? Here’s a detailed guide by Hubspot to get you started.

 

Source: Hubspot

Learn how to manage unhappy customers

We all want to avoid such tricky situations – but it’s a skill that can prove to be very valuable in business. When faced with a client who is dissatisfied or downright angry, most people take the loser’s path by putting off handling the situation. Or worse, they handle it inappropriately.

Postponement may make you lose a client. Now you may think that losing one client is okay – but it’s not. Like I mentioned above, one happy customer will sing your company praises and work as a brand ambassador round the clock. Imagine what an unhappy customer would do?

Here are some tips to help you manage unhappy customers with ease;

  • Acknowledge their anger quickly: Nothing makes a customer more resentful that a company which is unresponsive to her complaints.
  • Show your concern
  • Ask questions and get them talking about solutions
  • Agree on a solution
  • Help them out

Companies are raising the bar every day by not just how they conceive, design, and create those products and services – but by keeping the customer at the center of everything they do.

Let me conclude by this quote from Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.” Source.

And that’s exactly what we mean when we say stellar customer service.

Have you experienced customer service that was unforgettable? Share your stories in the comments below.