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7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners

7 Habits of Top Performers and World-Class Learners

What is it that makes icons like Michael Jordan or Tony Robbins stand out from the world?

What is the difference between world-class performers and average people? It’s their habits.

Each top performer in their industry has lofty goals they want to achieve, but they focus on the process on how to get there.

From their productive morning habits of training each morning, their evening habits of picking up a valuable book to gain a competitive edge, it’s the little habits that have accumulated to make these individuals who they are.

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” -Derek Sivers

Here are 7 habits that top performers and world-class learners have to achieve more success and effectiveness.

1. Set Specific Goals

Have you ever had your eyes set on buying a specific car, let’s say a Red Volkswagen, and for the next week that’s all you saw being driven on the streets? Or maybe you recently decided to learn a new language (Spanish), and you could immediately recognize it the moment you heard it on the radio, movies, or on the streets?

It’s the same thing with goals.

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As Tony Robbins often states, “clarity is power.” If we know exactly where we’re going and what the outcome will be, our brains will figure out how to get there. And the more specific we can get, the higher chance you’ll have in getting what you want.

For example, an example of an unspecific goal would be: I want to learn a new language.

A specific goal would be: I want to learn how to speak Spanish, and hold up a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days.

See the difference? The specific goal pinpoints exactly what you want, how you’ll measure success, and the timeline you’ll have to reach it.

2. Plan of action

A goal means nothing if we don’t have a plan of action to get there. It’s like having a final destination of where we want to go on the map, but not knowing where we are on the map nor how to navigate to our destination.

The good news is, we can start to build an action plan around the specific goal we have set.

If your goal is to have a 30-minute conversation with a native speaker in 90 days, then you first need to assess where you are.

In this example, let’s say you have zero knowledge. Your goal could be to memorize 30 of the most common words a day, and by 90 days you’ll have memorized 2,700 words, which will allow you to understand 60% of the spoken language.

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3. Schedule it

Time is the most valuable commodity we take for granted, yet we all have time constraints.

Not enough time to go to the gym. Not enough time to learn a language. The list goes on…

“What Doesn’t Get Scheduled, Doesn’t Get Done.”

Top performers can always get more done than the average person, because they have everything scheduled in their calendars.

Despite running a multi-billion dollar empire, Warren Buffett still manages to schedule time to read over 500+ pages everyday. This is anonymously the habits of successful people and top performers across all industries.

“I just sit in my office and read all day.” — Warren Buffett

Take this time to schedule your action task somewhere in your calendar. The more frequent you can schedule it, the better.
If you want to memorize 30 words a day, then you can schedule at time from 7pm-7:30pm after work each day to get it done.

Scheduling opens up time slots we never knew we had, and it allows us to get more done than we think we can.

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4. Have a coach

According to Coaches.com, coaches:

  • Create a safe environment in which you see yourself more clearly;
  • Identify gaps between where you are now and where you need or want to be
  • Ask for more intentional thought, action and behavior changes than you thought you could accomplish
  • Guide the building of the structure, accountability, and support necessary to ensure sustained commitment

This applies to every industry out there from: sports, dating, business, language learning, etc.

World-class learners not only have one coach, but they often have several. Top performers understand that even the little things can accumulate, and they’re looking for the slightest bit of advantage they can find. By bringing the best qualified experts and coaches to help them improve their jump shot for basketball, their marketing for business, or their accents for language learning, they can reach goals in life faster.

5. Embrace failure

Anyone who is playing at the top of their level had to crawl and sweat to get to where they are.

It’s often our failures that make up who we are, and it’s our failures teaching us the best lessons in life.

Lessons lead to not only faster progress, but a spark of innovation. Silicon Valley is an example.

Having built a culture that celebrates failure and even encourages it, budding entrepreneurs are not afraid to dream big and go all in on their projects, which is what made Silicon Valley one of the most innovative cities in the world.

What is something you’ve failed at recently that you should embrace?

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6. Know how to listen

When Michelle Obama is having a conversation with someone, it’s said that she’s talking only 20% of the time, while listening 80% of the time.

You would imagine that the First Lady of the United States would want to have more to say than that, but listening 80% of the time is how she has gotten to where she is.

Successful people know that there’s a lesson to be learned with every interaction and conversation. They’re sponges for new knowledge that they can apply in their lives, and understand that they’re not learning a thing while they’re speaking.

Focus on speaking 20% of the time, and you’ll be surprised by not only the knowledge you learn from the other person, but the connection they’ll feel with you after the conversation.

7. Know your best learning style

In Peter Drucker’s book Managing One Self, he states that the most important skill you can learn is self-awareness.

This means:

  • Understanding how you best learn: audio, visual, and kinesthetic
  • How you best work: alone, with others, as a subordinate, or as part of a team.
  • Your best learning environment: at home, classroom, lecture halls, small groups.

Being self-aware with your strengths and weaknesses can not only save you years of wasting time, but it can allow you to focus on improving your strengths even further to achieve your end goal.

More by this author

Sean Kim

Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Why Working 9 to 5 Is Outdated

Bristol is the most congested city in England. Whenever I have to work at the office, I ride there, like most of us do. Furthermore, I always make sure to go at off hours; otherwise, the roads are jam-packed with cars, buses, bikes, even pedestrians. Why is that? Because everyone is working a traditional 9 to 5 work day.

Where did the “9 to 5” Come From?

It all started back in 1946. The United States government implemented the 40 hour work week for all federal employees, and all companies adopted the practice afterwards. That’s 67 years with the same schedule. Let’s think about all the things that have changed in the 67 years:

  • We went to the moon, and astronauts now live in space on the ISS.

  • Computers used to take up entire rooms and took hours to make a single calculation. Now we have more powerful computers in our purses and back pockets with our smartphones.

  • Lots of employees can now telecommute to the office from hundreds, and even thousands of miles away.

In 1946 a 9-5 job made sense because we had time after 5pm for a social life, a family life. Now we’re constantly connected to other people and the office, with the Internet, email on our smartphones, and hashtags in our movies and television shows. There is no downtime anymore.

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Different Folks, Different Strokes

Enjoying your downtime is an important part of life. It recharges your batteries and lets you be more productive. Allowing people to balance life and work can provide them with much needed perspective and motivation to see the bigger picture of what they are trying to achieve.

Some people are just more productive when they’re working at their optimal time of day, after feeling well rested and personally fulfilled.  For some that can be  from 4 a.m. to 9 a.m; for others, it could be  2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

People have their own rhythms and routines. It would be great if we could sync our work schedule to match. Simply put, the imposed 8-hour work day can be a creativity and morale killer for the average person in today’s world.

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Productivity and Trust Killer

Fostering creativity among employees is not always an easy endeavor, but perhaps a good place to start is by simply not tying their tasks and goals to a fixed time period. Let them work on their to-do list at their own pace, and chances are, you’ll get the best out of your employee who feels empowered instead of babysat.

That’s not to say that you should  allow your team to run wild and do whatever they want, but restricting them to a 9 to 5 time frame can quickly demoralize people. Set parameters and deadlines, and let them work at their own creative best with the understanding that their work is crucial to the functioning of the entire team.

Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur who previously worked in broadcasting, noted to Inc that from her experience, “treating employees like grown-ups made it more likely that they would behave the same way.” The principle here is to have your employees work to get things done, not to just follow the hands on the clock.

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A Flexible Remote Working Policy

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously recalled all her remote workers, saying she wanted to improve innovation and collaboration, but was that the right decision? We’ve all said that we’re often more productive in a half day working from home than a full day working in the office, right? So why not let your employees work remotely from home?

There are definitely varying schools of thought on remote working. Some believe that innovation and collaboration can only happen in a boardroom with markers, whiteboards and post-it notes and of course, this can be true for some. But do a few great brainstorms trump a team that feels a little less stressed and a little more free?

Those who champion remote working often note that these employees are not counting the clock, worried about getting home, cooking dinner or rushing through errands post-work. No one works their 9-5 straight without breaks here and there.  Allowing some time for remote working means employees can handle some non-work related tasks and feel more accomplished throughout the day. Also, sometimes we all need to have a taste of working in our pajamas, right?

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It’ll be interesting to see how many traditional companies and industries start giving their employees more freedom with their work schedule. And how many end up rescinding their policies like Yahoo did.

What are your thoughts of the traditional 9-5 schedule and what are you doing to help foster your team’s productivity and creativity? Hit the comments and let us know.

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