Mackay: Harvey's short course in class

  • Article by: HARVEY MACKAY
  • January 26, 2014 - 2:00 PM

You have probably heard the phrase “She is a class act.” It’s always a compliment. But exactly what does it mean?

Class is easy to recognize but much harder to define. Similarly, the absence of class is easy to detect — and a serious flaw for anyone who aspires to be successful.

First of all, class is not an “act.” It’s a deep-seated way of life for those who possess it. Having class involves good manners, politeness, pride without showboating, empathy, humility and an abundance of self-control. The actions of classy people speak louder than their words.

Money, notoriety or success by themselves won’t give you class. Class comes from within.

As an explanation, I’ve created an acronym of what it means to be a class act:

C is for calm, courteous and in control. People who have class don’t lose their temper. They are respectful and use good manners. They don’t use crude language or criticize or complain in public. They don’t interrupt others.

L is for living by high standards. Class acts set goals in both their career and personal life. They are not afraid to push themselves beyond their limits to see how successful they can become.

A is for above it all. Class acts take the high road and refuse to stoop to the level of their adversaries. They don’t have to apologize for their unfortunate words because they know better than to give in to the heat of the moment.

S is for self-respect, and respect for others as well. They don’t gossip or say mean and petty things about others. They take every opportunity to make others feel appreciated and good about themselves.

S is for self-confidence without being arrogant. Class acts understand their abilities and are not afraid to use them. You can develop confidence if you are willing to work hard. Class acts also increase the confidence of others.

A is for accountability. Class acts take responsibility for their actions and results, whether it’s a success or failure.

C is for compassion. Classy people understand that helping someone up will never pull you down. Compassion is a vital part of class acts.

T is for trust. Truthfulness and integrity are the basis for trust. Classy people understand the importance of maintaining confidentiality. To me the most important five-letter word in business is T-R-U-S-T.

In his book “The Success Principles,” my friend Jack Canfield lists “Be a Class Act” as Principle No. 55. What I found most intriguing are his reasons for why being a class act helps you succeed.

He writes: “People want to do business with you or become involved in your sphere of influence. They perceive you as successful and someone who can expand their possibilities. They trust you to act with responsibility, integrity and aplomb. Class acts tend to attract people who are at the top of their game.”

Are your friends, co-workers, customers and so on class acts? Whether you realize it or not, they are a reflection of you.

Make a decision to re-create yourself as a class act. Do fewer things, but do them with excellence. Change your behavior for the better. Raise the quality of your attitude. When you have a higher level of personal standards, you get better treatment from everyone around you.

Mackay’s Moral: A class act can say a lot without uttering a word.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail

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