“I need three things from you over the next few months as we go through this difficult time. First, I need you to be on time. Second, I need you to the present. Third, I need you to be positive. That is all: Be on time, Be present, Be positive.”
These were the orders given to a buddy of mine when he was just starting out in his career from a very successful woman who he was fortunate enough to have as one of his mentors.
Fast forward 20 years. My buddy is now running a successful Venture Capital firm. He has build and sold off numerous companies. He has an amazing relationship with his wife and children, and on top of that, he has more diverse groups of friends and opportunities than anyone I know.
On a recent phone conversation I asked my friend what one piece of advice has attributed to his success more than any other. His answer: the seven words given to him by his mentor close to two decades ago: Be on time. Be Present. Be Positive.
Not just when times get tough, but each and every day, he views these words as his marching orders, and as long as he is conscious of them, no matter how the dominos fall, he knows he has done all that he can.
BE ON TIME:
My friend told me that he starts every day by making his bed. This little act first thing in the morning provides him with a calming sense of control. He knows that many of the things that he will face during the day will fall outside of his reach, so he makes it a point to make sure the things he can control, he does. Like making the bed, being on time shows that you that take pride in yourself, it shows that you are organised, and it shows that you are in control. Plus he added that an easy way to judge someone is to observe if they are not only on time to things that are important to them, but if they are on time to the things that are important to others.
“I have come to believe that one of the most important things, is to see people. The person who opens the door for you. The person that pours your coffee. Acknowledge them. Show them respect. The traditional greeting of the Zulu people of South Africa is Sawu Bona. It means, `I See You´. I try and do that”. – Bill Clinton (excerpt from Richard Reed´s book “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing”).
A common trait of someone with a “presence” is their ability to make you feel like the only person in the room. My friend has this skill (and yes, it is a skill, I have known him for 25 years and he was not always this way). Everywhere he goes, he stops and talks to the people around him. He asks about their families, by name. He inquires about a previous challenge they were facing. He thinks about the other people he knows that may be a good connection for them. And he does all of this with a huge smile on his face no matter what challenges he is personally facing. This is what “being present” is all about: being so self-aware that you are only aware of the needs of others.
Last fall my business partner and I were visiting DC from Spain, and we had dinner with him to discuss a company we are looking to start in the US. I later learned that he was under a tremendous amount of stress at work at the time, and his future was hanging in limbo. My partner and I would have never guessed that anything negative was happening in his life.
Months later, I asked him about the circumstances he was under, and how he was able to give us 100%. Without thinking twice, he responded that he uses his time with friends and family as his way to “snap out of it” and re-charge, going onto add that, “life is comprised of many pillars, when one is trembling, you have to use the support of the others to get back in balance”.
Interestingly enough, when I asked him which one was the most important, he said, the first one: be on time: “When you arrive late, where is your head? And what is usually the first thing to come out of your mouth? Something positive, or something negative? Uphill battle from the start. Why make things harder than they have to be?”.
Life is funny. One minute you can be sitting around the house. The next minute the phone can ring and the conversation that follows could potentially shape your world.
This conversation with my friend proved to me that there is no better advice than asking someone, “what´s your best piece of advice?”.