#26 – Show Up

This is #26 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For.” Here’s another one you might enjoy.


Years ago, just after launching my business as a leadership coach and organizational consultant, I decided to market myself through speaking engagements. Organizations like the Rotary Club need a new speaker every week and this newly minted sole-practitioner needed both the practice and the exposure.

I secured a listing in Rotary’s online speaker’s bureau for San Diego county and was fortunate to receive a few invitations. One of these was a lunchtime engagement for a club about 30 miles from my home. I was assured that this was a lively and well-attended meeting, with “at least 20 to 25” participants on a regular basis.

I was diligent in my preparation, I dressed for success and I showed up plenty early for the event. Upon arrival, the well-inflated balloon of my anticipation started to leak a little air. At first it was because the restaurant’s “private meeting room” was no more than a converted back-room storage area just off the kitchen. This means that it was both small and noisy.

The loss of air continued when, at five minutes before noon there were only four people there. If you know anything about Rotary you know that it is a punctual organization. I’ve been to at least a dozen different clubs over the years and not one has failed to start on time.

It seemed a long shot that four people was going to turn into “at least 20 to 25” in the next few minutes so I launched into what can only be described as a good, strong sulk. Picking at my Cobb salad I felt a warm rush of self-pity punctuated with the question, “What the hell am I doing here? I dressed my best, prepared myself and drove all this way, and for what?” 

I felt cheated, for sure, and worse than that, I was stuck.

When it was obvious that the meeting was about to begin and there were, and would only be, six people in attendance, I snapped out of it and made a decision. I saw the faces of my mentors looking back at me, I examined the truth of my own intentions and I decided that if I was going to do this, I wasn’t just going to survive it, I was going to make a splash. I found a way to turn that surge of self-pity into a surge of productive energy and I decided to speak to those six people no differently that I would speak to 60 or even 600.

I decided to give them all I had. I gave them my very best.

As a result – would you believe it? – one of those six thrust a business card into my hand and invited me to meet with his organization. That meeting, just days later, turned into a bona fide project that itself became a multi-year engagement. It was the most significant financial transaction of my first year in business, by far. It is the reason that my business got off the ground and that seven fortunate and meaningful years later I can look back on it with so much pride and appreciation.

All of that because I decided to show up, not just to fulfill an expectation, but to give myself the gift of being able to look in the mirror with the pride of full commitment. I needed that badly and I also needed a reminder of what I will never forget: that it is never my place to predict or assume the outcome of my efforts. It is only my place to do the very best that I can do and trust that the rest will take care of itself.


city skateboard skate

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#5 – Speak Your Aspirations

This is #5 in the series, “50 Ideas Worth Fighting For”



Declaring what you want requires courage.

It takes a lot of vulnerability to name a goal, especially a big one. Once you do so, you’re on the hook to follow through, and that is the moment that separates fantasy from reality.

And no one can help you until you do.

And the thing it took me a very long time to learn is that people want to help. People will and do help once they know what you are hoping/trying to accomplish.  

Do you aspire to write a book? You can suffer in silence or you can spread the word. Telling people about it doesn’t free you from the responsibility to sit down and write, but it may unlock a community of support, a wealth of resources, a path through the maze of a difficult process.

And it’s the same for starting a company, turning pro, leading a team, running a marathon, inventing a product. The courage to name a goal like that is the courage to trust that once you do so, “mighty forces will come to your aid.” (Basil King)

But what if you let them down? What if you fail? What if change your mind? I can only offer what experience has taught me about that: you pick yourself up and move on.

You name your next aspiration, tell the world about it, and get to work.


grayscale photograph of a hook hitch

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Not the Same

Today did not go how I thought it would.

When I went to bed last night, I had a clear idea of how the day would unfold. It did not go that way.

When I woke up at 3am I tossed and turned about how today would go. It did not go that way.

On my walk this morning I knew just how the rest of the day would go. It did not go that way.

It never does.

Professional people understand this and accept it.

They understand that no plan, however well-imagined or articulated, survives contact with reality.

Plans are a useful, if temporary reservoir for our anxiety about the unknown. Reality is the landscape on which we learn and grow.


 

my secret plan to rule the world book

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Onward and Awkward

I gave a keynote speech yesterday on the topic of “Leading Change.”

After my talk, an attendee approached me and shared that an old boss of his used to advise his team to keep moving “onward and awkward.”

There is no change or learning or growth without the uncomfortable feelings that attend us into the unknown.

Those feelings are a reliable early warning system that it is time to pay close attention to ourselves and our surroundings, a time to be more connected to others rather than less, and a time to fully embrace a beginner’s mindset.

That’s a lot to juggle all at once and doing so will always feel awkward.

But isn’t that awkwardness, even when it lasts longer than we think we can stand, a far better alternative than giving up on learning?

Your ego and your expertise and all of your lived experience – everything that draws you back to the safety of the status quo – will survive the truth that there’s still so much to learn.


blue jeans

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A Body in Motion (II)

Begin and adjust or wait and wonder.

Get started and discover what’s possible or delay until you’re “ready” and forever dream what might have been.

“This is incredibly difficult,” is only said by those with the courage to begin.

“This is extraordinary! Look what we found!” is only said by those who get underway.

“The water is freezing and deep and frightening and powerful,” is only said by those who will themselves to jump.

“My team is capable of more than I ever imagined,” is only said by those who let them run.

“We failed miserably even though we did our very best,” is only said by those who take the chance.

No guarantees of success, only the chance…every single day…to know what it means to be alive.

Starting is everything.

Begin.


man skating on street

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