Show Up Early – Something Good is Bound to Happen

Woody Allen
Cover of Woody Allen

Woody Allen’s famous line – “80% of success is showing up” – has a correlate from Edward Tufte; “Show up early, something good is bound to happen.”

While showing up early for a cocktail party may not be the best advice, taking both pieces of advice to heart (and into action) from Allen and Tufte about any other business, presentation, or community event/activity gives you a leg up on any number of things.

Why? Because most people don’t. As in don’t show up, show up but aren’t really present, and seldom come early. All three small behaviors are goldmines of opportunity for you to make a better first, second, and lasting impression.

  • Just showing up is the easy one. I’ve talked to job candidates who thought it wasn’t fair that they got eliminated because something important came up and they had to miss an interview (I kid you not) or were late and were put out that interviewers didn’t move mountains to accommodate their schedule. I’ve talked to parents in the hypercompetitive world of San Francisco private kindergarten admissions (not as bad as Manhattan, but pretty hard) who blew off their parent’s interview and were surprised they didn’t get into the school of their choice. And we’re not talking about Billy or Vanessa Getty; Billy and Vanessa are people would know to show up and on time.
  • Being present can be a little tougher. It means “be here now” as Ram Dass might suggest. Put aside the smartphones, focus and enjoy the moment and the flow and conversation, and setting. There is time aplenty to catch up on other stuff – it mostly isn’t going away. The research on multitasking is pretty clear; it’s not an enduringly successful strategy (and you can check out your ability here via the NY Times).
  • Last is the idea of showing up early when you can. A tougher one for some people, including my spouse who I sometimes suspect has a mantra of “why show up early if you can show up late instead?” But when you show up early (think speeches you are giving, concerts you are hearing, kids you’re dropping off or picking up, etc.) a couple things happen. One is that you’re opening up the opportunity for serendipity; good things that normally pass you by in your rush now get on your radar screen. Second, you get to meet interesting people with whom you’d otherwise never connect. As somebody who has half their consulting practice working with start-up and leadership teams, showing up early at things like off-sites has saved by bottom more times that I can even begin to count. (“Room next to the noisy subway won’t work? Good thing we’ve got time to make a switch.” “Help a speaker – who you’ve been keen to meet – kill some time before their speech or help them set up a room? A real treat.” “Get the inside poop on a place from the people at a company who know all that things that happen like receptionists and security guards? My pleasure.“) You get the picture. Something good is bound to happen – even if it’s a chance to catch your breath and glance at some reading material on your iPhone that you wanted to read.

So that it’s; three things you can do that will improve the quality of your life, and improve the outcomes you get from life.

P. S. And for folks keen on a set of good tips for meetings and presentations, see these from Edward Tufte (noted above) as well as read Scott Berkun’s book “Confessions of a Public Speaker.”

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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