One Simple Key to Success? Show Up – Here’s How

Woody Allen in concert in New York City.

Woody Allen

There are the hard things to do to be successful in careers and business, and then there are the easy ones that get you along the way as well.

This post is about on the easy ones.

But first an intro story.

My week last week was probably like yours; lost of stuff to do, and perhaps too little time to do it. Some stuff I could do on my own, some stuff I needed the help or follow-up from others.

  • A well-financed VC-backed Australian software startup thought my experience was “intriguing” and that I could be of help to them to get sorely needed talent acquisition traction (HR buzz talk for recruiting) in San Francisco. I can be of significant help. They really need it. They would get back to me last week. A follow-up thank you from me, and a check-in email went unanswered. Three weeks later no follow-up from them. My interest has waned somewhat, and my calendar availability has gotten smaller and likely more expensive. No word yet.
  • A financial services firm had a high touch client offsite that could use some strong facilitation, the third thing I do along with exec and career coaching with individuals, and teaming work with start-up and leadership teams. Several emails back and forth and a quick phone call to credential me. I’d hold a couple of days for them later in June – they’d get back to me early last week. A thank you note with a bio, and a follow-up email. No response.
  • My spouse and I are refinancing our mortgage to lock in cheaper rates. Follow-up was due from Bank of America. You guessed. No follow-up.

Wood Allen suggested that “80% of success if showing up.

I agree. Simply showing up – merely doing what you said you would do in the first place separates you from the 80% of people who don’t. One of the reasons why I think there’s tension between Hollywood and Silicon Valley is that when folks in Hollywood say “Let’s have lunch” they don’t mean it. In Silicon Valley, people have lunch and move on.

It’s a matter of simply showing up.

So what’s the secret to showing up? I have four easy steps:

  1. When you say you’re doing to do something, write it down. I’m not a Luddite but I carry a notebook around to write stuff down when I make a commitment. Why? The physical act of writing helps my remember it. If not, I take a look at my notes at the end of the day to make sure I’ve captured things.
  2. When you say you’re doing to do something book time to do it. Perhaps it’s 15 minutes for a number of things, but if you don’t book the 15 minutes it won’t get done. Big stuff gets more calendar time – perhaps in a series of blocks of time.
  3. People underestimate the time things take – and overestimate their ability to turn things around. Do the reverse. Book too much time to get things done so they’ll get done. Worst case if you have extra time to do something else (which is why I’ve got tech gear like an iPad/iPhone and a notebook with me all the time so I have something to do when spare time pops up – like outline this blog post.)
  4. Underpromise and overdeliver. It’s the easiest way to being a success that there is. In fact, doing what you said you were going to do in the first place saves you all sorts of time (no reminder emails from people like me) and gets you to the head of the line.

P.S. – I did a follow-up phone call with the financial services firm. They were too busy to get back to me about the engagement for which they discovered they didn’t have budget. They would like to meet with me later this month now that they’ve found me because they think I might be of a lot of help. The Australian startup who could use some help? Still  AWOL. Maybe they’ve run off with Bank of America.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.


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