Simple Rules For Success: Show Up. Be Like Delaware.
I write this post on a flight to Philadelphia, the city that hosted a special session of the Continental Congress, charged with the monumental task of drafting the Constitution of the United States. It got me thinking about the historical significance of this effort, at least as we reflect on it today. But during the summer of 1787, when this precious document was drafted, there was not the focus or import placed on the task that we might imagine there had been. In fact several states failed to send representatives to assist in the creation of this document, a document that would be the foundation for the creation of the greatest nation on the planet. Let me repeat that, several states failed to send delegates to help craft the document.
The approach to writing the Constitution was not orderly, nor was representation of responsibility divided among states based on their size or population. It was based on one single fact: those who showed up were allowed/requested to assist in penning the effort. Those who showed up were able to vote on inclusions and omissions. Those who showed up ultimately made a greater impact than any other opportunity in history.
During that stifling hot summer of 1787 when the Continental Congress held their special session in Philadelphia, the very small state of Delaware showed up. They didn’t send 1 delegate or 2, they sent 5. That might not sound like much, but the average number of delegates on the floor of the Continental Congress that summer numbered at just 30. The delegates from Delaware showed up. Day after day these delegates showed up. After the session concluded for the day they continued the conversation and work outside of the Congress walls. Delaware. In contrast, New York attempted to send delegates but never had enough together at one time to achieve a quorum and were subsequently left out of every single vote. Delaware’s impact on the final version of our Constitution was “stratospheric”. [The Little Big Things. Tom Peters. 2010]
For the next two days I will be delivering a class on the topic of Agile Project Management. And being in the city where our Constitution was penned, I will be including this notion that showing up can often amount to half the battle. I rarely write to the least common denominator (read my other posts if you doubt), in fact I write about those qualities and traits required for consistent excellence, but in this case let me clear…Excellence is not possible if we fail to show up in the first place. Our ability to influence change and produce excellence in our personal and professional lives requires that we show up. Consistently. As the adage goes, we may not be able to perfectly predict when opportunity will avail itself to us, but showing up on a consistent basis greatly increases the likelihood that we will be present when that bells rings.
Delaware showed up. Not because they were told that the Constitution would hold more importance than any other single document in the history of the country, they showed up because it was their duty and they were seeking any possible opportunity. Why didn’t other states show up? Why didn’t other states organize and participate at the intense level of Delaware? Well it was a stifling hot summer, remember? There was no air conditioning of course, and the thought of spending long days arguing fine details of a document that may not amount of much just did not rise to the level of importance for several of the states to make the journey. I’m talking about you New York.
Be a Delaware. Rather than trying to time your efforts, simply apply your excellent efforts on a consistent basis and you will be blessed when reviewing your work with the benefit of hindsight. Show up and be ready. Without this first step nothing else much matters. As my dad used to tell me, all the potential in the world doesn’t amount to much.
Well, my in-flight internet is about to be turned off. Until next time, think about the simple things that make all the difference.