A Few Related Thoughts on High Standards

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After some discussion on this post, I wrote a follow-up post here—On High Standards (Part 2). It expands on some elements this post misses.

While traveling to New York, I recently listened to two podcasts related to high standards.

First, I listened to the interview with Dave Castro (Director of the CrossFit Games) on the Pursuing Health podcast. As the host describes in the interview, Castro is a polarizing figure within the CrossFit space. He’s well-known for having exceptionally high standards for his team and holding them to those standards.

I hold people to a really high standard, and you can’t hold people to a really high standard if you don’t hold yourself to a really high standard.

Dave Castro

He goes on to discuss his time in the military, which informed many of his views on team and individual performance, which brings me to the other podcast I revisited during my trip.

Jocko Willink is well known for his podcast, Jocko Podcast, which offers leadership tactics through the lens of the military. I’ve listened to one episode multiple times in particular—“Set Standards. Aspire to Achieve Them. Become an Eminently Qualified Human.” The episode walks through the Marine Corp Overall Fitness Assessment.

This document embodies the idea of having high standards. Let’s look at the rating scale for “Performance”:

Meets requirements of billet and additional duties. Aptitude, commitment, and competence meet expectations. Results maintain status quo.

Sounds solid, right? That’s one of the lowest possible rankings. Here’s the top (bold added by me for emphasis):

Results far surpass expectations. Recognizes and exploits new resources; creates opportunities. Emulated; sought after as an expert with influence beyond unit. Impact significant; innovative approaches to problems produce significant gains in quality and efficiency.

That’s an incredibly high bar! At the end of the assessment, they provide this chart:

Courtesy of the NAVMC 10835 Assessment Form

The takeaway is clear—very few should be correctly graded at the top of the pyramid. Most professionals will fall in the middle of the pack.

Summarizing the two big takeaways I had listening to these two podcasts together:

  1. It’s okay to have high standards and to hold people to them.
  2. A prerequisite is to hold yourself to an even higher set of standards.
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