Play Full Out

Woody Allen was once quoted as saying,”Eighty percent of success is showing up.”  Given how important showing up is, however, it’s amazing how many people don’t even do that, whether it’s the student who cuts more classes than she attends, the dad who promises to throw a ball with his kid but always has some excuse, or the friend who keeps canceling lunch dates with you because it’s too much to commit.  When you don’t show up, it hurts you because you can’t be trusted and are viewed in a negative light.  How often do people say things like, “We should have lunch sometime,” but not really mean it and never once suggest a date?  One of the most important things I’ve taught my kids is that they need to be a person of their word. If they say that they are going to do something, they need to do it. Reliable people are becoming a rare breed unfortunately.

But what about the other 20% of success?  I think that is reserved for the people who choose to play full out, no matter what, and who go the extra mile.  When I was in coaching school, the number one rule for our class and for being a coach in general was to play full out.  This meant being open to everyone and everything, being willing to try new things and look silly, and being open to learning and being wrong and looking foolish.  It’s no wonder we all felt so alive during our training, because for the first time in our lives, everyone was 100% committed.  What would our lives and our businesses look like if we all played full out and gave more than was expected?  What kind of world would we have, where people spent less time complaining that they can’t get ahead and more time doing kind things for others, whether picking up trash along a river, or helping a homeless person feel less lonely?  Today, I noticed a woman was trying to load her large toddler into a shopping cart and the cart kept moving.  I just grabbed the cart to steady it and said, “Take your time.  I got this.” She seemed so relieved and it was so easy.  Another woman was parking illegally and didn’t know it, so I pulled down my window and warned her so that she wouldn’t get a ticket or get towed.  Other people have done the same for me.  When I was backpacking in Europe in my twenties, I was always lost since I have a bad sense of direction (and this was before GPS) and I was always running late for the train.  Strangers came out of nowhere to grab my bags and run with me to make the train and help me get where I needed to go.  I will always be grateful.

There is no greater business secret in my mind than providing such “wow” service that people can’t help but rave about you.  Places like Amazon and Nordstrom’s do that beautifully.  Because so many businesses don’t do that, however, it’s not that hard to compete if you always put the customer first.  As both my father and my grandfather, both successful businessmen, taught me, “The customer is always right.”  I also learned that it’s easier to keep a customer than to win a new one, so serving your customers makes bottom line sense.  What about beyond business?  As a parent, if you consistently spend time with your kids when they are little and if you keep your promises, they will want to spend time with you when they are older and don’t need you as much.  Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they remember what you value– not in words but in action– throughout their childhood.  The same thing applies to friends.  Are you there for your friends in a real world way or do you just chat sometimes on Facebook?  They are not the same thing, and yet increasingly people seem to think that they are.

To find your world stage, it’s not about who wins.  It’s about being there for your family and friends and teammates and customers, trying your hardest, and knowing that no matter what, that you showed up and you played full out and you gave it your all. If you do that, you will be unforgettable.


This is my daughter in a school x-country race.


Sharing Space

I was flying with my kids recently from Boston to California.  Before take-off, I noticed a family of 4, two on one side and two on the other, in the exit row.  Their kids were young and they seemed pleased to have the extra leg room that comes with that row.  The only problem is that children are not allowed in the exit row.  The family was told by the flight attendants that they would have to figure out how to switch with other passengers since children can’t be in that row for safety reasons.  They looked like they cared, but then ignored the crew, hoping that the flight crew would forget that they were there.  At one point the mom looked over at me, since I was traveling with my kids, to get assurance that it was alright for her to stay in that row with her kids.  I said, “No offense, but I don’t want to rely on your 7 year old to get me out of the plane if we have to get out in an emergency.”  She seemed a bit embarrassed, but finally moved with her child. Her husband on the other side refused to move.  Finally, one of the flight attendants shouted, “We need two adults to switch places with this man and his child or we’re not taking off.”  No one budged, so she added, “I’m happy to go back to my hotel and get more sleep if you prefer not to take off.” Finally, two people switched with the man who was forced to leave the row.
I have thought a lot about that incident in the days that followed.  So often we want to do what is convenient for us.  We all want the exit row, whether literally or figuratively.  But sometimes what we want gets in the way of what is good or right for others, and we have to defer to them.  In a world of instant gratification, sometimes we have to wait, sometimes we don’t get what we want because the greater good matters more.  At my son’s sleep-away camp, which was founded in 1903, there are banners flying in the dining hall that sound antiquated now:  “Manners maketh the man” and “Better faithful than famous.”  How many of us in modern society believe that being a good person is more important than being famous?  
As you look to find your world stage, think about how you can create something better for the world that may involve you stepping away from your comfort zone.  How many of us really allow ourselves to be uncomfortable?  What would happen if we put our responsibility to others and the world ahead of our own individual rights?
The world is waiting for you.  Sometimes the first step is doing the right thing without having to be asked.