Motivation is a tricky little character. Being a "worker" often leads to large swings in motivation influenced by our bosses, co-workers, family life and a myriad of factors often outside of our control. Some days we walk in the door like we own the place and proceed to crush it like a BAWSE! And some days we do just enough to get through the day, staring at our watches wondering if sneaking out at 4:30pm would raise any eyebrows. And then the company superstar walks by. Smiling. Affable. Perfectly dressed. Asking how your daughter's presentation went at school. She totally remembered. Worse, you totally forgot.
Superstars seem to move and operate in a parallel universe. They have this air of confidence and omniscience that is not only genuine, but impermeable. They never seem to get their feathers ruffled. They're often the first ones providing a solution vs. complaining like the rest of the herd. Sure, they have haters, but it's not because of anything they've actually done to anyone. It's simply because they're just so annoyingly nice, polite, prepared, confident, optimistic and right on time. Like, all the damn time. UGH!!!
I can only speak from my own experience in business. I believe everyone has a superstar within them. I also believe that a majority of us are too lazy to put in the work it takes to become and maintain superstar status. Let's be clear. It's hard work that requires a dedication and repetition that most people lack. However, that doesn't mean it's not achievable.
Here are what I consider to be the tenets of becoming a superstar. Mastering these things over time will eventually give you all you need to become a superstar in your chosen field.
1. Get motivated: I've found that motivation is often directly impacted by your physicality. Those who don't move physically on a daily basis tend to be less motivated. Let me unpack that a bit further. Those who don't, by choice, get up and move around tend to be less motivated. Hitting the gym with a goal requires motivation. Hiking with a bud intent on reaching the top of the peak requires motivation. Slapping on a FitBit and making sure you get that buzzy "wrist party" at 10,000 steps each day feeds your motivation. I look at motivation like a muscle. In order for a muscle to grow you have to overload it...literally injure it a bit by feeding it more than it's designed to handle at that point in time. As it heals it fortifies so that it's strong enough to handle a little more. With repetition and more weight the muscle grows. Motivation is no different. Creating and maintaining motivation requires repetition and consistency. Once you are moving and curious and wanting to influence an outcome as often as you can, the motivation will be there innately. The easiest way to create the cycle and build upon it is to up your physicality. Do something physically that puts you in a state that requires motivation. And do it as often as you can.
2. Identify and seize upon opportunities: I teach Executive Assistants to recognize the power they actually possess. Most don't believe they have any. In fact, they fall for BS excuses like, "My boss thinks I'm stupid," or "She doesn't value my contribution." To which I ask, "Sooooo...what are you going to do about it?" I then remind them that everything they need to become a superstar and succeed wildly is right in front of their faces every single morning they log in. The one thing they and everyone in the company forget is that Executive Assistants have access to information up and down the chain. They typically have the same permissions and access to information their bosses have because they're likely being cc:ed in the same email chains to schedule the meetings, follow-up internally and externally, book the travel, etc. If they would just take the time to read through that vast amount of information for context, they would identify a myriad of opportunities to create efficiencies or warn of potential conflicts or even identify something nefarious or potentially catastrophic because they'd actually experienced the same thing at a previous company with the same players. Hidden within all of the back and forth are opportunities to conduct research or take on a metric and speak to it at the Leadership Team meeting or ask to join a team on a project that moves the needle. It goes back to motivation. You have to open your eyes and actually look for the opportunities that lead to more responsibility or that put you front-and-center in the eyes of the people you support. That's how you superstar. However, most EAs are too busy worrying about simply completing the myriad of tasks in their inboxes instead of understanding how those tasks influence the overall objectives of their bosses and how they can likely eliminate a myriad of those tasks by creating efficiencies based off the information they have unrestricted access to every day. Superstars actually read the fine print. Superstars want to already know, not be told what to do. And superstars understand that comfort is the Siren's Song. Anytime you feel comfortable you're probably missing out on a myriad opportunities because you're not actively seeking them out. Wake up, 6.
3. Work and maintain your contacts list: Superstars have contacts lists that rival the FBI's. They can range from the best local florist to Anna Wintour's direct office line (I actually have it!) Over the years I've learned to maintain my contacts lists by reaching out from time-to-time to stay in touch or provide some value to those in my contacts list. There is a bit of quid pro quo required, but it pays off in ways you can't even imagine. One of the biggest bonuses of hiring me as an Executive Assistant is that my contacts list is insane. I'm 25.5 years deep in the role. My career started right before Dot Com 1.0. I've met more CEOs, dignitaries, celebrities, vendors, event planners, caterers, travel planners and randos than most people could fathom. I can pick up the phone at any point in the day and connect my boss to pretty much anyone on the planet he's looking to meet or talk with because I've likely already met them or know someone trusted who can make the introduction. This factor alone makes me indispensable. I could totally f*cking suck at being an Assistant, but my contacts list makes me invaluable. And the fact that I'm actually a kickass Assistant allows me to retain full superstar status with all the associated privileges.
4. Get curious: I don't know about you, but I don't typically take anything (or anyone for that matter) at face value. I need to know beyond the shadow of a doubt that something truly is as it's stated or that someone is exactly whom they say they are. If Google creates an implantable search chip, I will fight all comers to be first in line at the surgeon's office. My curiosity alone makes me a superstar. I need to know how things work. I need to know that what you're feeding me as truth or law is, indeed, true and lawful. The world has, generally, become too lazy and trusting for my liking. We blithely accept things as truth simply because it's on the internet and has more than a handful of likes to support it or because our favorite celebrity said so. Superstars ain't falling for that shit. We want facts. And we want receipts. We're curious, inquisitive, and more than a little persistent and annoying until we're satisfied with the answer. That's what separates the sheep from the superstars. Curiosity. Needing to know and validate for themselves vs. being told and accepting a truth they haven't verified. It's a different world out there, peeps. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. You have to get curious as a way of staying informed, engaged and, yes, relevant. You have to put people on notice by asking questions and holding them accountable to the words they say. You need to pick apart everything until you're satisfied that it actually IS what it is. That's how to superstar.
5. Dress the part, please: Newsflash: Superstars aren't rocking a messy bun, destroyed jeans and Uggs on the daily. Startup or not. As much as we all love a good dose of individuality, there are rules. Sorry (not sorry) to be that person to have to break it to you. I judge. In fact, everyone does. Even if they choose not to admit it. How you step to me automatically gives me access to information to start processing what I think about you. If you're showing up like you just rolled out of bed, my warped little mind is already making assumptions of your character. If you're right on time vs. 3 minutes late vs. 10 minutes late, I'm judging away. If you just snatched on that weave and glued it down with the dead giveaway half moon hair line and didn't take the time to grab some tweezers and pluck yourself a believable hair line in that lace front, yep, I'm judging. If you're wearing outdated clothes, but are impeccably pulled together and rocking a big, confident smile, I'll likely have way more respect for you than some entitled, label whore with a shitty attitude and RBF showing up 10 minutes late to my meeting. Superstars not only physically dress the part, they embody a level of respect, attention to detail, and brand awareness that transcends what's physically draped on their frame. They are acutely aware of their brand, not just the conversation they're having in the moment. Business casual did us an injustice decades ago. The lack of clearly defined rules kicked the gate wide open allowing the sheep to go on a tear! Wanna be a superstar? DRESS THE PART. Dress as if you own the company. Dress as an ambassador of the CEO. Dress to be taken seriously in any context or environment you might find yourself in. That is how you superstar. Do less and expect lesser treatment and respect.
6. Be authentic: My self confidence is off the charts. There's nothing that anyone can say to me that can make me doubt WHO I AM for even a second or throw me off my path. Trust me, it's taken a loooooooong time to get here. And I will never go back. In fact, it's why I wrote the book I'm releasing in a few months. The one thing I believe is more important than anything on this page in becoming a superstar is showing up as your authentic self. Not some cobbled together, fake smiling mess you crafted from every self-help book, LinkedIn Top 5s posts, and poorly emulated behaviors of your favorite movie character. It's simply showing up as YOU...complete with imperfections, quirks, etc. But with a purity of intention, unshakable belief in your abilities, respect for your fellow man and the aforementioned motivation, curiosity and reciprocity. That, more than anything, is how you superstar. If you don't truly believe in who you are and what you offer to the world HONESTLY and without pretense, then no one else will. This may sound like some self help BS, but it's true. Here are two phrases I always keep in my front pocket that have helped me change my life: 1. When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. (Maya Angelou) 2. If you sense a red flag in something someone is telling you, multiply it by three and that's likely what you're going to experience day-to-day." (I wrote that.) These two phrases have saved me so much grief and disappointment when dealing with inauthentic people and situations. And they've been 100% accurate. BE AUTHENTIC. Never loosen your standards to be anything other than who you are. If you're not a smiler, that's okay. Rock that resting bitch face, but maybe tell a few more jokes to round the edges a bit. If you're not naturally confident, that's cool. But be the most prepared person in the room at all times. You'll quickly find that your confidence will soar and you'll speak out much more simply to correct the inaccuracies of all the lazy asses in the room who don't have their facts straight.
7. Level up your tribe: Sometimes you have to let people go from your tribe. Or you need to seek out another one. I've found that we often emulate the habits and beliefs of the tribes we hang with. There are elements of comfort and peer pressure and norms set by the general consensus of the tribe vs. everyone truly having and defending their own, unique opinions. It's just too much work for some. They'd rather disagree in silence and let a racist comment slide or nod in agreement while feeling completely annoyed by the loud mouth they in no way respect. Superstars seek out people who motivate them to be better. And often that is with people who most tribe members would deem as out of their league. The funny thing about people is that we're all fundamentally the same. We have similar motivations. We love similar things. Those with millions of dollars still lose their shit over a good, sloppy cheeseburger from that restaurant in the cut. We attach all of these labels and false narratives onto one another that simply aren't true and intentionally divisive. This practice often keeps us stunted and holding court at the table with the same uninspiring, negative, short sighted people who in no way help us grow. And this can often lead to our own discontent because get trapped and reeled back in as we try and grow and spread our wings beyond what we've always known. Sometimes you have to let go of your tribe and find a new one that feeds you and that you can contribute to and learn from. Cutting off contact with negative family members can often lead to unparalleled growth. Sometimes you'll realize you actually married the wrong person because they're constantly holding you back selfishly instead of motivating you, because they're afraid of getting left behind. Sometimes, you have to remove yourself from the popular office clique because nothing they're saying is really worth your time and energy and likely doing you harm just by guilt of perceived association. Find people who feed your soul and who motivate you to achieve a higher consciousness or better version of yourself. Surround yourself with people who are smarter, more successful, deeper, more spiritual, more confident, more aggressive, more experienced....not less than you, your motivations or aspirations. It's okay to cut ties with people who hold you back. You can still love them. But from over here vs. over there.
Becoming a superstar is really no different than becoming a zillionaire. It's about motivation, building unwavering self confidence, identifying and seizing on opportunities, working your contacts list, having an obsession with what you love, building the right muscles and habits through repetition and surrounding yourself with like-minded people. These are all traits we have at our disposal. Whether or not we choose to use them is what separates us from the herd. Superstarring is hard work. But once you build the muscles and routines and really start reaping the benefits of being a superstar, you'll never look back. And your life will be forever changed.
Phoenix is coaching and supporting American billionaires, CEOs and executive teams in tech, retail and banking for over 25 years. He also founded and created MEGA Assistant University, a revolutionary skills and mindset “boot camp” for top Executive and Personal Assistants who want to level up quickly and begin forging a mutually successful business partnership with their executives and teams. Phoenix holds a Bachelors of Arts in European Studies/Civilisation from Trinity College Dublin.