On Wednesday morning last week, I got to see my friend Rohit Bhargava speak at a conference in Phoenix.
His talk was super riveting and actionable. My head was spinning with a hundred ideas for implementation, that I was jotting down in my phone.
There was not an extraneous detail. There was no artificial hype. The examples were super interesting. His delivery was engaging and without any distractions like yelling “Yes or Yes?!?” every five minutes (don’t get me started).
And, at the table next to me, a participant sat, oblivious to what was going on in front of him, shopping online at IKEA.
Now, I love IKEA as much as the next person. I was just there this weekend and had to convince myself I didn’t need to completely redo my house in shades of Scandinavian gray.
But as I watched him actively ignore the helpful person in front of him onstage (you may think me incredibly nosy at this point to be looking over his shoulder — I literally could not avoid his full open screen in front of me as I looked forward), I had an important thought:
How do we choose when and where we fully show up?
As someone who has done a fair bit of both showing up and not showing up, I will say this:
When we fully show up
When I have showed up fully present at events and given my complete attention, good things have happened.
I was once listening to former Success Magazine editor Darron Hardy on stage at an event in Chicago. He is a really interesting speaker, and was sharing some surprising stories about his upbringing. I was super engaged.
After his talk, once the crowd of people around him dispersed, he walked over to me in the middle of the audience and said something to the effect of “Thank you so much for being so present in my talk. You were a positive anchor when I was on stage and I appreciate it!”
I was super shocked that he even noticed. Who knew paying attention to the stage and smiling was so helpful?
It was a great icebreaker and a wonderful way to make a connection.
Another time, in 2005 when I was just starting my online coaching business and building my brand Escape from Cubicle Nation in Suzanne Falter’s great class, Get Known Now, I was a super enthusiastic student. I did all my homework, participated in the forum, and with Suzanne’s help, created a fantastic brand.
After the class, Suzanne asked me if I would like to teach with her the next session.
That experience was extremely helpful in my early days of coaching, and allowed me to work with amazing emerging entrepreneurs like the powerhouse that is now Shama Hyder, founder of Zen Media. I gained connections that have lasted for over a decade.
All because I was an enthusiastic student.
When we don’t fully show up
Like many of you, I have a bunch of unwatched training courses I have paid for sitting on the Internet, with the promise of making me smarter, more productive and richer.
By making impulse buys and not following through with the training, I not only wasted money, but I feel angst for not taking advantage of the information.
I have been that distracted online shopper in events where, if I had paid more attention to what was happening on stage, I could have learned things or built relationships that would have made a big difference for me and my business.
If I had done some more planning before live events, I could have made better connections, and moved my business forward quicker and easier.
What is the price we pay for not showing up fully?
Coasting through every business situation as an uninterested tourist will increase your malaise. You will start to care about things less. You will show up as apathetic, if not cynical. You will get pessimistic about business opportunities.
And you will lose critical moments of insight, inspiration, connection and magic.
All this leads to having to work harder, with fewer things to show for it.
What can you do about it?
There are too many things going on to be fully present for everything. This requires us to discern opportunities and focus in these important ways:
- Be Selective
Take your time before you invest in things to make sure it is a good strategic fit for you and your business (if you need some training criteria, I wrote about that here). You might want to halve your obligations, to ensure those that remain are truly essential.
- Get your mind right
Before you step into an event, get really clear how you want to show up. Do you want to be aimless and distracted, or the kind of audience member who makes the speaker want to say thank you afterward?
- Remove distractions
See if you can put down your phone or computer during talks, webinars and training classes. Close your 42 open tabs (I see you!) and give your full attention to the learning at hand.
- Get enough sleep
A big part of distraction is trying to keep yourself awake. If you are well-rested, hydrated and fed, you are more likely to feel good and show up with enthusiasm.
- Go ahead, be a dork
I pride myself on being an enthusiastic fan of everything John Legend. I realize this may make me look silly sometimes. Who talks about one musician in every single keynote, podcast interview or webinar? I do, and I am super proud of it. I am a super fan. And sooner or later, with my unabashed enthusiasm and embarrassing social media gushing, John will take note and I will get a chance to sit down and interview him. I don’t care if my kids think I am strange (they do), my best friend thinks I am annoying (I am), or if my more serious business colleagues think I am immature (happily so). I will show up with enthusiasm for John, whether or not he is watching. (And you did see he won The Voice, right? after Emmys, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony?)
What has been your pattern of showing up or not showing up?Go ahead, show up as full-color, full-contact you.
Or as Bruce Lee said, punch all the way through the bag.
Your opportunities await your enthusiasm.