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How You Can Have What it Takes to Be a Top Performer

Tags:  Career advice, Life after college

The year was 2005. The place was the 18th green of the Masters Tournament in Augusta, GA. Tiger Woods thrust a fist into the air and let out a scream before he walked off to hug family and friends. Another victory for a young man who seems to have an endless wealth of talent and the tenacity to keep on keeping on.

For Tiger it could have been any number of places because he has had so many victories along with a strong desire to do what he does best. But not everyone can say that. And if you are a recent college graduate or if you plan on graduating in the next few years, you need to give consideration as to whether or not you have what it takes to be a top performer.

Being on Top Isn't Always About Pedigree

Some people might believe that if you graduate from an Ivy League college and/or you work for name brand organizations you are destined to greatness. Truth is it's not about the wrappings -- it's about the gift.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates and entertainment mogul David Geffen do not have college degrees and they've managed to do well for themselves. It's great if you come with the right credentials, but if you don't live up to the hype, you're sunk.

Real top performers are individuals who perform at a high level regardless of their education and work backgrounds. Yes, they might also have an MBA from Harvard, but your education just might come from the school of hard knocks, too.

Being a top performer comes from the gut; it's personal. Ask Tiger. Or better yet, be a tiger. If you want to rise to the top, here are the five qualities that will make you like Tiger.


You want to talk about tenacity? Well, Tiger has it. With his June 16, 2008, season-ending win at the U.S. open, Tiger endured the pain of a double stress fracture of his tibia to play to a dramatic sudden-death ending. Now with reconstructive surgery on his left knee he is out the remainder of the 2008 PGA Tour season.

Having this kind of commitment and passion for your career is what will launch you into the stratosphere. Top performers set goals and not only stick to them, they achieve them. It's a singular ambition that drives you to be the best at what you do and to continue to learn how to get better, even when it's tough.


Top performers don't play it safe. They don't sit in their cubicles or office and wait for something to happen. They are on the front line making it happen.

Look at Tiger. During the 2003-2004 golf season, when he lost his first place standing to Vijay Singh and many took this slump as a sign that problems with long-time swing coach, Butch Harmon, were taking their toll, Tiger took control of the situation and announced that he was working on changes to his swing in order to reduce the stress to his surgically repaired knee.

Top performers don't play it safe. They stretch themselves everyday. They are willing to fail in order to succeed by trying something new. It's that old worn out concept of ""thinking outside the box.""


What do you aspire to be? Top performers are not lazy. They work hard for what they want and live by the old adage, ""practice makes perfect."" They believe in their own ability and what they have to offer their team mates, their company and the world.

Tiger's greatness comes not only from his performance on the golf course, but what he embraces in his life, his generosity. His Tiger Woods Foundation as well as the Tiger Woods Learning Center represent the best in giving back, and are why he was honored by Golf Writers Association of America ""for unselfish contributions to the betterment of society.""


The ability to articulate ideas with a polished professionalism that others want to emulate. That's a top performer.

Tiger's inviting smile and boyish good looks and his signature red shirt on Sunday define a man that is warm and appealing to large audiences. His regular column in Golf Digest demonstrates an ability to express himself.

What a top performer has is eloquence: in presentation and communication. It's that ability to turn heads by your mere presence and still be humble about it. It's about presenting an idea so that it is accessible to everyone who is within earshot. It's about being persuasive and elegant.


His face has graced the cover of Time magazine as well as the front of a Wheaties box. He does commercials for products both in and outside of sports, including Buick, Gillette, and Nike. He's the number one golf player in the world. Is he recognizable?

But recognizability doesn't mean you have to be known the world over. In fact, it's enough to be recognized by your peers and superiors. Recognizablity is not always about having arrived, it can be about having the potential. It may be untapped or unexplored, but you have that something special.

Back in the twenties they called that something ""it,"" as in Clara Bow and the ""It Girl."" If you have it, others know. You are recognized for your accomplishments, for your talents and strengths, and for that something special that you bring to your work. You are a visible part of the corporation.

Tiger has had an illustrious career for such a young man. And even though he left prestigious Stanford University short of graduating in order to pursue golf, he hasn't lost sight of what is important: continuous learning.

Top performers take the opportunity to learn something new everyday. They ask questions, stay abreast of current events, and investigate new ideas. They are always in school, even after they have graduated. And that's what Tiger Woods brings to his game. What do you bring?


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