To start, this essay is not a rant, nor a tirade on the lack of punctuality broadly in professional environments across America. In fact, inspired by a coffee “meeting” this morning, it is a reminder of the power and impact of timliness and punctuality in our everyday personal and professional lives.
Earlier today, I had scheduled to meet a friend of my son Bryson’s ( a fellow Bruin and Ultimate player, Michale P.) at a great coffee place in Westwood near the UCLA campus. While originally the plan was to meet at 7:30am, I needed to move it back to 8 am due to some early conference calls on my end and Michael was super flexible to make the change. Having “advanced my position,” ( see https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2013/03/advance-your-position.html for more on that topic) I actually did the calls from outside the coffee shop and was finished with twenty minutes to spare and who walks up to say good morning twenty minutes early but Michael ! With no reference or context I blurted out a phrase that my family and most everyone who has ever worked with/for me have heard me say hundreds of times that “its really hard to be late when you are 8 minutes early!” While it sounds a bit wacky, I deeply believe that being on-time is MOST of the time a choice, an outgrowth of our choices, and MOST of the time deeply in our control.
This approach work on being a bit early to things stems form my early childhood. My dad was a Navy veteran and the ships he served on worked on a timetable and a set of “watches” that were rigorously upheld with little variance. As kids the idea that we might be late for Church, or god forbid a flight, was beyond comprehension! When I was 10 or 11 I took over my brothers paper route (The Pittsburgh Press, evenings through the week and Sunday mornings) and if those papers weren’t delivered by 5 pm Mon-Sat and by 8 am on Sundays, there was hell to pay from my paper route customers! Later in high school I worked in a 24 hr. diner in my hometown and while it never closed ( in those days it only closed on Christmas day), every shift had its duties and after school each day I needed to bring up ( from the store rooms in the basement) the flour , sugar, yeast, pie fillings, etc. every day so the night bakers could bake the pies and rolls EVERY night…. always like clockwork!
This deeply ingrained approach was really put to the test in college when I was getting set to take the GMAT’s ( the entrance exam for MBA programs) and needed to drive over to a university that was fielding the exam close by to my undergraduate college ( Kent State University was 47 miles from The College of Wooster where I earned my BA.) Now this was back in 1982, well before any google maps/ I-Phones/Internet/etc. and while I knew how to get to Kent State University ( where I saw the Clash during their “London Calling tour”, maybe more on that in an upcoming essay,) I had no idea how to find the building where the GMAT was being given….. long story short, I was on campus in plenty of time but ultimately 25 minutes late to the actual exam room and ultimately bombed the exam! The good news is that I had time to take it again that winter, and did a lot better the second time around ( arriving 30 min early!!) and ultimately was accepted into Vanderbilt’s MBA program and the rest is history, but at that moment the consequences of not being “8 minutes early” seems immense and life changing!
I share all of this background as a reminder that I learned early in my life that being on time ( or maybe even a few minutes early) really matters and that the consequences of being late can be dramatic. Triggered by Michael’s early arrival today, I was reminded on how taking action to arrive early all the time, whether for an early morning coffee or to a major presentation is always a good idea! It is our choices and actions that will guide whether we are “25 minutes late” to a key event that lies ahead or if we can count on being “8 minutes early” to insure that we are there with plenty of time to make the impact that we desire and intend!