You have been waiting for this moment for months. It’s the two person play everyone’s been talking about.
You take your seat in the theater.
The lights go down, the curtain goes up.
The magic is about to begin.
The two cast members enter the stage from opposite sides.
They walk towards each other.
You can feel the excited anticipation springing from the audience.
Then the unexpected begins.
They arrive at center stage and seem uncertain what to do next.
One of the actors begins to speak and then stumbles over his words as if unsure of what to say.
There is a pause, as if the other actor is trying to remember what to say.
She seems confused.
He seems uncertain.
The conversation is flat, lifeless.
They seem to have only a faint grasp of the script. As if they knew the story-line but weren’t sure how to tell it.
Their performance is uninspiring. It lacks passion and conviction.
The audience becomes restless.
Faint boos become loud ones.
The couple seated in front of you stand and leave.
You shake your head in disbelief.
You walk out.
Is this likely to happen?
It won’t happen because professionals don’t go on stage ill-prepared.
When we are seated in the audience watching professional actors at work, we suspend our natural disbelief and become engaged in the story because the people on stage have spent hours, days and weeks rehearsing.
What we are seeing for the first time, and what appears remarkably credible to us, is the result of a relentless focus on perfection.
They are not reading the script, they are living the script.
These actors have rehearsed and practiced over and over again. Every word, every expression, every nuance, every gesture has been carefully choreographed so as to have the highest impact on us the audience, and to make every scene appear as authentic as possible.
And it is solely because of this dedication to practice that everything appears so natural and real to us.
What we are witnessing is far different – and our engagement level far greater – than what we would have seen had we attended the very first rehearsal.
No actor worth his or her stripes would ever set foot on stage in front of a live audience being anything other than well-rehearsed and well-prepared.
So why is it that we don’t adopt the same obsession with perfection in preparing for important, even life-changing events in our own lives?
I know a number of realtors and it amazes me how little time some of them spend in preparation for showing houses to their clients.
I know people who go to job interviews without having spent any time learning about their prospective employer.
I recently watched a sales clerk in a department store fumble through the instruction manual while trying to explain the workings of a microwave to a customer.
None of this makes any sense to me.
The time to learn all there is to know about a property is not when you having qualified customers looking to buy it.
The time to reveal your ignorance about a company that is contemplating hiring you is not during the interview.
The time to learn how to demonstrate a product is not while a paying customer is standing by.
Two weeks ago a young saleslady came to see me regarding a software product that she was selling. She was noticeably unfamiliar with the product and told me that her company had recently introduced it and she had not yet had time to become truly familiar with how best to use it.
I was clearly not important enough for her to invest the necessary time in learning her own product.
And while I don’t think I am important, I don’t like to feel unimportant.
So, naturally I did not buy her software.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Why do we go and ask for a raise without preparing and rehearsing exactly what we want to say?
Why do we not anticipate the questions our boss may ask and be fully rehearsed and prepared to deal with them?
Why do we expect going ahead, unprepared, is good enough?
I would like to recommend we all adopt a new habit starting right now. Let’s call this the Habit of Constantly Getting Better.
We have discussed how we don’t get rid of bad habits – we replace them.
Our lives will be well served by insisting The Habit of Constantly Getting Better immediately replace a damaging habit known as The Habit of Winging It.
Promise yourself that never again will you allow yourself to be anything other than at your best.
After all, would you rather be reading the script or living it?
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.