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This Week: The World-Class Framework — How the most powerful woman in startups created the ‘luck’ that launched her career
Ann Miura-Ko (@annimaniac) has been labeled the most powerful woman in start-ups by Forbes.
- A co-founding partner of Floodgate Venture Capital
- An early investor and board member in Lyft
- A lecturer in entrepreneurship at Stanford
- And a world-class debater
Ann’s parents came to America seeking opportunity having grown up in post-WW2 Japan.
They had almost no money, spoke very little English, and had no support system when they arrived.
What they did have was a steely grit and determination to make a life in America.
Her father worked intensely to receive a PhD in mechanical and aerospace engineering.
Eventually, he would become a Rocket Scientist at NASA.
A field of work where there's little room for error.
He would wake up at 5am in the morning, go to work, and then bring home stacks of paper and continue working long into the night.
He was truly dedicated and loved the work he did.
His diligence and relentless focus was something he aimed to instill in Ann from a young age...
...So much so that whenever Ann did anything, he would ask a simple question to ensure she was giving her best effort:
”Hey, is this world-class?”
When a young Ann was writing something and the handwriting wasn’t neat enough, he would ask this question.
Ann would think to herself, “You know, for a five-year-old, yes. This is world-class.”
But the fact remained, he would always push:
”Is this really the best that a five-year old could ever do?”
A constant message—to give her best effort—that she could never quite escape.
After receiving a financial aid package to Yale, Miura-Ko was required to complete 10 hours of work study per week.
She found herself in the office of the Dean of Engineering.
The day before she goes to her first day of work, she calls her parents.
Her Dad gets on the phone and says, “Make sure you do a world-class job.”
Ann responds, “I’m photocopying and filing. There’s no such thing as world-class there.”
And He says, “Well, I’d still think about it.”
So, on her first day, Ann finds herself standing in front of the photocopying machine with a stack of papers thinking:
”What is world-class in this situation?”
She decided it was photocopies where you couldn’t tell it was a photocopy—they would look like the originals.
Ann had many more menial tasks—like getting donuts for the office and labelling files—and every step of the way she would ask herself:
”What does world-class look like?”
No matter how small or boring, she completed each task to the best of her ability without hesitation.
Ann continued this for two years, unnoticed, until one day...
The Dean of Engineering, Allan Bromley—a legendary physicist who’d worked under George Bush, Sr.—poked his head out of his office to see that his executive assistant was out.
He saw Ann and he said, “Who are you?”
She responded, “I’m Ann Miura. I’m your student assistant in this office.”
And he said, “Oh, I’ve heard of you. I need you to go and give my friend a tour of the engineering facilities.”
”I know you’ll do a good job. Sarah (the EA) has told me you’re great.”
So, Ann proceeds to take the friend on a tour of the engineering facilities.
They get along very well and discover that they both come from Palo Alto near San Francisco.
The friend stops in the middle of the conversation and asks, “Hey, what are you doing for spring break?”
Ann was planning on going back to Palo Alto.
”Well, that’s great, because I’m wondering if you want to come and shadow me and see what I do for a living?”
Ann realises she’s spent the whole conversation speaking about herself and hasn’t asked this guy what he did for a living.
So, she asks, “Well, what do you do for a living?”
The man responds, “I’m (Lew Platt) the CEO of Hewlett-Packard.”
Ann realises her mistake—doing what any junior would do in talking about themselves—but quickly responds:
“I think that would be amazing to shadow you.”
So, that spring break, Ann joins Lew in his daily life as the CEO of HP.
They would drive around together, attend meetings together, and do all of the things that Lew had to do.
One day, Bill Gates came to make an announcement about .net with Hewlett-Packard.
Lew invited Ann to attend the meeting and see everything ‘backstage.’
He also invited the photographer in—which Ann didn’t think much of at the time—and he asked for a photo of Him and Ann talking to each other.
A few months later, after the fact, Ann receives some mail...
It’s a thank you letter that reads, “Thanks for coming to visit. I thought you would enjoy these photographs.”
The first photograph shows Ann and Lew sitting next to each other talking.
The second photograph shows Bill—sitting in the exact same seat as Ann was—talking to Lew.
Lew had tried to open Ann’s mind to the possibility that she could one day be sitting where Bill Gates was—she just had to see herself there first.
He saw something in Ann and said, “You know what? You have something and I see it. I’m going to show you something even greater.”
Ann recalls, “It was such a gift. It was so incredible because I hadn’t ever thought about my own personal potential ever.”
From that moment, a raft of new opportunities opened up for Ann including a mentorship with Lew Platt—CEO of HP.
Her career was officially launched.
But, it all comes back to one moment.
The moment that Allan Bromley—the Dean of Engineering—sticks his head out of his office needing an important job done.
He didn’t recognize Ann, but he knew her name.
More importantly, he knew that Ann was known for doing a great job.
It’s hard to find meaning in menial or boring tasks.
There’s often no immediate payoff that comes with them—like any good habit, there’s no immediate gratification.
We just want to get them done as quickly as possible so we can get on with the real, more interesting work.
But, this is a mistake.
Because how you do anything is how you do everything.
Your personal brand is the summation of the thousands of micro-acts you put in over the course of your career or life.
It’s what you do when no one is looking or expecting you to do a great job.
And the surest way in life to find luck is to make sure you give your very best in each and every one of those moments.
Because you never know what might be around the corner.
And you never know when doing your best will lead to a life-changing opportunity.
Every day, you’re not just working for someone else.
You’re working for your future self.
You’re your own boss—the boss of the ‘luck’ that will eventually come your way.
Make the choice to increase your luck by being ‘world-class’ in everything you do.
Ann Miura-Ko — The Path from Shyness to World-Class Debater and Investor (#331)
Photo: Christopher Michel (@chrismichel) “The main difference was that I was willing to outwork and outdo every competitor who walked in through that door.” — Ann Miura-Ko ...
That's it, I hope you enjoyed reading :)