Photo: Courtesy of Guinness World Records
Mike Janela speaks about measuring the world’s largest ice cream sundae and meeting the world’s strongest man with the same gravity that market analysts use to talk about commodities prices.Janela, the Head of the U.S. Records Management Team at Guinness World Records in New York, travels the world as a “watchdog” for the world’s most prestigious recordkeeping entity.
If you’re trying to become a superlative, you’re going to have to pass Janela’s and his colleagues’ watchful eye first.
We recently watched Janela oversee an attempt to break the most-consecutive curtsey record, an event sponsored by London tourism promoter London & Partners in anticipation of this summer’s Olympic games, and talked to him about what it’s like to have his job.
Getting the Gig
In many ways, Janela, 26, feels he’s a perfect fit for Guinness, which has been around since 1955 and has headquarters in London.
He’s used to the roll of “a watchdog.” Janela majored in broadcast journalism at Syracuse University and covered minor league baseball in North Carolina before moving back to New York to join the Guinness team.
“I didn’t even know real people worked here,” Janela said. “I just remembered the obsession everyone had with the book back in second grade.”
The job was real, and gave him the opportunity to incorporate his passion for sports with a job in New York City.
Fortunately for Janela, he’s comfortable in front of a crowd, a plus since he often has to entertain the masses while they’re awaiting a record-breaking attempt. Sometimes he even does it in Portuguese or Spanish.
Adjudicators must take multiple tests, practice presentations and familiarise themselves with past records before their three-month anniversary mark with the company, when they are sent out into the world to officiate record-breaking attempts.
“The best way to learn how to adjudicate is going out and doing,” Janela said. As for the first time he had to tell a group they didn’t break a record—”it’s not my favourite part of the job,” Janela said. “But people understand that the records have to be official and accurate, otherwise no one would take them seriously.”
Adjudicators don’t make appearances at every possible record-setting event. There are more than 50,000 record-breaking attempts made a year, but only around 1,500 of those succeed. To have an adjudicator appear at your record event, a fee is required. The adjudicator then makes a lively presentation and officiates the attempt.
Photo: Courtesy of Guinness World Records
For highly-contested records, such as world’s tallest or shortest man/woman, adjudicators are sent for free to ensure the accuracy of the record. (Fun fact: for the tallest and shortest records, the person must be measured three times, during the day and at night, laying down and standing up, and in the presence of a doctor.)During the scorching summer months, record-breaking attempts hit a peak. Each member of 20-person New York office will be travelling at least twice a month.
Janela has been everywhere from Tokyo for a television spot, to the southernmost tip of Argentina for an adjudication. He’s done more than 80 trips in the past year.
More than a Day Job
Throughout his travels, Janela has been drawn to many prospective record-breakers.
“They all have great stories, and are inspirational in one way or another,” Janela said, adding that it’s easy to become emotionally attached to them.
A few months ago, Janela flew to Puerto Rico to adjudicate a record for “most can tabs collected from aluminium cans in one year.” It had been attempted by a village that planned to sell the melted-down aluminium to fund a new cardiovascular wing at the local hospital.
“The guy organising it had people he lost to heart disease, and I showed up and there were millions of tabs everywhere, and they were counting them,” Janela said. “Everyone has a story of ‘my mother suffered from that, my father suffered from this,’ and to think they are all coming together to turn a Guinness World Record feat into something that will help them in their personal lives, how can you not have your heart strings pulled by that?”
NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.