I have never won a cake walk! I would go to the fall festival at my elementary school every year and never did I ever win a cake walk. Cake walks are like the lottery, there is not strategy. Of course, the more you play, the higher your chances of winning, but you cannot position yourself in any way to win a cake walk. I hate cake walks!
I am a fan of cake, but I hate cake walks.
I have also never been a fan of baseball. Baseball is a sport that is fun for all skill levels, but terribly tough to master. Hand eye coordination and build are natural abilities that only a few possess. Without certain genes you will never be an MLB star!
Even though we were told we could, most of us must confess that we really cannot “be anything we want to be”!
We also cannot bear the fact that everything is left to chance. We know again that even the greatest talents can lay dormant and untapped. We all know someone who had all the potential, but never lived up to the expectations.
If we see that there is some natural abilities that make us successful, some outside circumstances and some effort and planning of our own, how do we put it all together? Do we need a formula? Like 60% effort, and 20% society, and 20% ability? Or some may flip the numbers, but still hope to find that special formula.
I am sure that is what I thought when I left the cake walk for baseball. That is not a representative statement about how I left the chance paradigm for the ability paradigm, I mean I literally left the cake walk to go and watch baseball. I remember the fall of 1991 distinctly, which speaks to the impact of these memories, because I sometimes forget last week. I was really into super Nintendo and Ken Griffey Jr. baseball was my favorite game.
One October evening, I was at our annual fall festival we did not miss. My family did not have a lot of extra cash, so we could get some serious fun out of a night at the fall festival because tickets were a quarter and you could have a night’s worth of fun for five bucks. I had almost spent all my money at the cake walk and had still yet to attain a delicious dessert when my dad’s friend Stevie poked his head around the corner and reminded me I got to ride home with him to catch the playoff game. The Atlanta Braves were in the middle of making history by going from the worst team in the National League in 1990 to first place in 1991. I left the cake walk in a second to go and see the Braves pull off the magic!
How do we make such a massive turnaround? It seems like we are back to the question that we started with; is it luck of the draw or is there a formula we can follow go from worst to first? Really, some of us would admit that is the question we have been asking our entire lives. How do I go from the most invisible to the most admired? How do I go from the most penniless to the most prosperous? How do I go from the most lifeless to the most priceless?
“How do I go from worst to first?”
And others do not see themselves as worst, but still there is a nagging sense that there is better. I may not be worst, but I am sure not first. How do I go from worst to first?
There is another question that nags at us. The question really goes all the way back to the Enlightenment Period when we decided that we were no longer participants in a grand narrative, but creators with the world as our canvas.
“What do you do?”
That is our leading question now. Try to separate the question from the next event you attend where you meet strangers. You will feel like there is literally nothing to talk about because we have married what we do for a living to everything about who we are. Do not get me wrong, this is not an opinion about how helpful or harmful that may be. No matter what our opinion on the moral fiber of the marriage of work and identity, we all probably agree the question defines us. “You are what you eat”, we say, but a better descriptor may be, “You are where you work”. People ask my daughters, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” and they mean, “what kind of work do you want to do”. They think the question is synonymous.
We want to go from worst to first and we see the way to do that is by choosing a job that will take us there. We want to be driven to significance and we see our career as the vehicle. I can almost see someone reading that sentence with a smile and thinking, “Exactly, so tell me how to get there?”.
I hate to disappoint, but I am not sure. I was without a doubt asking that same question and I never found an answer so I cannot help you there, but I hope you keep reading. What I did find is that there are better questions. I know the story you want to here. It goes like this:
“I gre up without much, but I realized my brain and work ethic could take me places. I was told that “smart” kids went to college and the “smartest” went to med school. The combination of a sharp mind, lack of patience and lack of resources helped me decide to try to quickly finish PA school so I tested in to a Master’s Program even though I was only partially finished with a Bachelor’s. So, even though we didn’t have the money, I took out loans and my parents sacrificed to get me in. I finished all the class work and only had a few clinical rotations to be finished. Then, after a series of disappointing events, I resigned PA school and found myself confused and penniless. I started a sales career just so I could pay the bills. After a rough start I figured out the formula and I can teach it to you! I not only became the #1 producer in GA, I also started a side hustle that has taken off! I can help you go from worst to first. If you buy my book, I will teach you to do as I did: go from disappointment to being in the coveted top 1% of income earners.”
This is the part where you lean in and say, “How did you do it?” Then I tell about all the tactics and attitudes that propelled me to success.
The problem is, I left worst to first behind long before any of the success came. “How did you do IT?” is the questions and I want to address “IT”. What part of the results would you be looking for? Money, recognition, respect. And that is why my book is a hard sale. It would sell better if I flashed around money and things you could buy, but that is not what I am selling.
Chip thought the same at first, “How do you do it?”. He is the reason this book or system exists. I can have personal success, but if it is not transferable, nobody takes note. Chip was the first person I taught my new system of self-management. He had been with our company for 15 years, but he went from 3rd from the bottom of agents in GA, to third from the top in my first year managing him. That is when the questions came. How did you take him from worst to first? I even called Chip, Sid Bream for a short time. Sid Bream was the Braves first baseman when they went from worst to first and Chip was making the turn around that most dream about. It is easy to fall back into the same old thinking, but I came to myself and realized we had never set out for worst to first. We actually never looked at a ranking report the entire time he was climbing it. We were the Agency of the Year in GA in a county with only 18,000 people, competing against agencies in every other county in the entire state, but we never checked that report once.
What if there is a better way than going for those results? I know what you want to hear. You want to hear that if you make the changes that I made, and that Chip made, then you will be on your way from worst to first and that your career is the way to get there. I only tell you about those results because I feel like I have to, to get you to listen. Those results actually happened, but I cannot promise them for you. I don’t even want to. I want you to ask a different question.
When I came to my senses after calling Chip Sid Bream for a month, I apologized to him. “You are not going from worst to first at all”, I said.
You are going Last to Least!
From dreaming about what it takes to get me out of last place, to making “me” the least important part of my work. I work for the good of those my work is intended to serve. From “my benefit” having the last word in every transaction to “my benefit” becoming the least important variable. Radically Neighbors-Guided work. I am not saying this is only nice. Don’t you see? A met need NECESSARILY comes before and profit or incentive that comes back to me. This is not nice, it’s wise!
When reading Dan Pink’s, “To Sell is Human”, I was surprised to hear the same approach to success. He quoted Gwen Martin saying, “Humility is the most common thread in people who are really good at moving others”. Since Dan Pink is arguing that we are all in sales in today’s economy(and therefore all trying to move others), he is saying that we all need humility. Moving others is what sales and leadership is about. John Maxwell says “leadership is influence”. There is one key person that Last to Least is focused on moving: myself. We are told constantly that you can never learn to lead others until you learn to lead yourself, yet we are rarely taught HOW to lead ourselves.
Last to Least is my attempt to teach you how to lead you, through the frustrations and disappointments associated with every new business, every title, every level of work.
Humility in work is going last to least, but not like you think. C.S. Lewis said that humility is almost missed today. He said a humble person would not be thinking about how humble they are, rather he would “not be thinking about himself at all.”
How would your individual life change if there was a shift from trying to get significance from work to trying to give significance with your work? How would the market place respond if there were people who filled it looking to making a community valuable instead making a living? I would love to see an economy that was driven by an overwhelming desire to improve the position of the neighborhood rather than improve our position in the neighborhood.
So what is Last to Least and what can you expect from content going forward?
Last to Least is a Neighbors-Guided approach to self management.
Peter Drucker, a management expert, said that more and more we would have to learn to manage ourselves. He wrote that in the 90’s. The “more and more” is today. Neighbors-Guided is my word for the comprehensive approach that I take to managing me. Neighbors are those who live near us. Since we “live” far from where we sleep, neighbors include anyone who interacts with my products or services. Since we live in online communities it includes those who buy and those who are affected by my work. It is different than client-centered because it includes the neighborhood as well.
Doing Neighbors-Guided work over self centered work is going from Last to Least.
I hope you enjoy research, interviews, and stories to unfold how to manage me by forgetting me.