Read an Excerpt
THE POWER OF
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
--William Shakespeare, As You Like It, act II, scene 7
In Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It, Jaques seems to think we move through life controlled by a preordained script, with little or no control, making our "exits" and "entrances" by divine cue. I couldn't disagree with him more. While I wholly subscribe to the idea of the divine in our lives, I recognize that my life is a performance that I'm in charge of.
We all have roles to play. Our performance at work, and in every other aspect of our life, is a public display of our very best self. And if we're true to ourselves, we never have to remember what part we played with whom. We don't have to check our notes to see what the people are expecting from our callback performance.
To make your performance better, according to the legendary founder of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, you "change your practices, not your principles." In other words, you don't have to change who you are. Different people can be successful in very different ways.
"My best lesson in leadership came during my early days as a trial lawyer," says Kelleher. "Wanting to learn from the best, I went to see two of the most renowned litigators in San Antonio try cases. One sat there and never objected to anything, was very gentle with witnesses, and established a rapport with the jury. The other was an aggressive, thundering hell-raiser. And both seemed to win every case. That's when I realized there are many different paths, not one right path. That's true of leadership as well. People with different personalities, different approaches, or different values succeed not because one set of values or practices is superior, but because their values and practices are genuine. And when you and your organization are true to yourselves--when you deliver results and a singular experience--customers can spot it from thirty thousand feet."
We all perform various roles in our lives on the stage of life. But those roles should be different expressions of our best self.
Our performances matter. They can have a powerful impact on those around us. As parents, our performance shapes and influences our children. As employees and managers, our performance can make our company better, move a project forward, spark ideas among colleagues, and influence customers.
When I was sixteen, I learned that Og Mandino was scheduled to speak in Akron, Ohio, about a ninety-minute drive from my home. Og is one of the best-selling self-help authors of all time, and I had already devoured several of his books, including The Greatest Salesman in the World and The Greatest Miracle in the World. Rookie driver or not, I was determined to go hear him speak.
In the course of the speech, Og talked about his troubled past; at one point he seriously considered ending his life. He spoke about the influences that had lifted him out of despair and set him on the road to remarkable achievement.
His delivery was low-key, but his message was powerful and sincere, and it inspired me. I came away determined to work harder and better in my own life. Others seemed to feel the same way--at the end of his talk the audience gave Og a standing ovation. I was witnessing the Encore Effect in action.
The ideas and passion with which Og Mandino spoke planted the seeds of change in me. The performance made me act.
And that is the potential impact of a remarkable performance. It can change the lives of those around you. That is the kind of experience we all want to have. And that's why creating a remarkable performance is so key to personal success.
Since that day spent listening to Og Mandino, I have observed performances of every kind throughout the United States and abroad. From Broadway to corporate boardrooms, I've learned that every remarkable performance affects us. They:
Move us to act.
Make us feel good.
Cause us to laugh.
Stimulate us to think.
Only the most incredible performances accomplish all four, but over time I've learned that every remarkable performance achieves at least one of these four impacts.
I've seen plenty of performances that have disappointed me, and I'm sure you have too--in corporate offices, restaurants, department stores, and churches, at car rental agencies, at ticket counters and security lines at airports, and in every other conceivable venue or location.
And, yes, I've been guilty of disappointing performance. In college I ran for a major office in an organization to which I belonged. I was defeated. In the aftermath I was asked to chair an important committee. I had no passion for the work of the committee, but I didn't want to look like a sore loser so I accepted the role. I am ashamed to say that I did a terrible job. I did, however, learn an important lesson: it is difficult if not impossible to be remarkable at doing something you don't have your heart in.
But coming face-to-face with my own disappointing performances has spurred me on to act differently and better the next time.
A remarkable performance, on the other hand, moves us and makes us want more.
My vocation as a professional speaker puts me on stages several times every week. The issue of performance is a front-burner reality for me.
But in fact, all of us, like Broadway performers, are called to be "on" all the time--to give our best performance as individuals, spouses, parents, employees, or bosses. Whatever stage we find ourselves on, most of us are called to perform every day. We need to be remarkable, regardless of how we feel.
If I asked three people in your life--for example, your boss, a customer, and a family member--to use one word to describe your performance in life, what word would they choose?
Would they describe you as_._._.
These responses run the gamut, from the negative to the positive. But there is one response that I don't hear very often: "His (her) performance is so amazing that I would do whatever it took to keep him (or her) on my team."
What kinds of words might describe such a performance?
One of a kind
Those are the kinds of words we might use to describe the performance of an artist who is called back for an encore. And they are the kinds of words we should want others to use to describe our own performance in life.
There is one word that embodies all of these adjectives, with no need for an exclamation point: remarkable.
I believe all of us would like to have our performance described as remarkable. All of us would like to excel at the things that matter most to us. And it is by giving such performances that we achieve the Encore Effect.
Larger Than Life
My friend Charlie "Tremendous" Jones is larger than life. He is loud and loving, boisterous and caring, someone who "lives large." When people first meet Charlie, many of them probably wonder, "Is this guy for real?" Trust me--Charlie is for real. He is totally authentic.
Charlie is a big man in size and in spirit. He loves people. As his nickname of many years suggests, he believes that life is tremendous.
I mention Charlie because larger-than-life people often have something important to teach us. They demonstrate that there can be more to life than we typically experience. Their personalities and behaviors jar us out of ordinary thinking and show us that, if we choose, we can be bigger, better, and bolder than we've been. They can snap us out of our plain-vanilla existence and invite us to live on a higher plane.
How can each of us make our own performance bigger, better, and bolder? How can we make it remarkable?
Read on, because that is exactly what this book is about.
FROM ROUTINE TO REMARKABLE--
MAKE THEM WANT MORE!
A long line forms early on Saturday mornings every week from April to November in Matthews, North Carolina--rain or shine, hot or cold.
The crowd is not lining up for concert tickets, a department store sale, or the latest digital device.
They're lining up for Sammy Koenigsberg's fresh-picked, organically grown vegetables.
Matthews is a small, historic community that has been engulfed by the city of Charlotte's metropolitan sprawl. Part of its charm is the farmers' market that runs from late April to November in a small, empty lot in the heart of the town. No buying or selling is allowed until the bell rings at 7:15 a.m.
Get to the Matthews market before 7:00, however, and you'll see a line of twenty to thirty people in front of Sammy's waiting to hand over their money. Almost as soon as Sammy gets his produce unloaded and onto his tables, folks fill their bags and get in line to wait for the 7:15 bell.
Why do people get out of their warm, comfortable beds at daybreak on Saturday morning to stand in line to give Sammy their money? Because he gives them an encore performance every week with fresh produce that is out of this world.
Understand: it isn't just about the quality of Sammy's produce; it's about the quality of Sammy's performance. Yes, the produce is less than twenty-four hours old, from growing in the field to available at the stand. Compare that against the seven- to twelve-day-old produce you'll find at most grocery stores.
His customers count on Sammy to be there every Saturday. They know not only what they'll find, but who will be there. It helps to know the producer. Such knowledge of how Sammy grows his organic food is reassuring, and he's available for any questions customers might have.
Often, Sammy's wife and some of his eight children help out. By getting to know Sammy's family, many customers feel like they become part of the extended family. And Sammy's regular customers are invited to visit his farm, where he takes great pride in the beauty of his gardens.
It would be silly to say that any produce has "personality." In a blind comparison test, I doubt if even regulars would know the difference between Sammy's and store-bought vegetables. But people buy from people, and what's remarkable is that Sammy's personality and way of doing business become the difference-- the kind of eyes-wide-open difference that makes people consistently come back for more of what he provides.
Says one customer I know, "Sammy has a winsome, gentle personality; he's more than happy to talk to customers about his produce--or anything else. Never in a hurry, always takes time for the people who pay his bills."
You might ask, how much does Sammy spend on marketing and advertising? When you have people lining up for the privilege of buying your products, how much advertising do you have to do? Sammy sells everything he produces on the basis of satisfied customer referrals and repeat business. He's a living example of the Encore Effect: deliver a remarkable product in a remarkable way and you'll have people coming back for more.
Think about Sammy and his enthusiastic customers the next time you sit through a mind-numbing stream of product commercials on TV. Sure, advertising has its place. It helps us learn about new products and their features and benefits. But how many products out there are "encore" products--products you would line up at 6:45 a.m. to buy before the store runs out of them? Not many.
You may never meet Sammy Koenigsberg, but you can't have missed an example of the Encore Effect at the national level last year. On June 29, 2007, Apple, Inc., and AT&T retail stores opened their doors to let in the long lines of customers who had been waiting for hours to hand over up to $599 for an iPhone. Yes, many of these early customers were the Apple faithful who will buy anything with the bite-missing Apple logo on it. But the Microsoft faithful did the same thing on September 25, 2007, the release date for Halo 3; this latest version of the shoot-'em-up game that plays on the Xbox 360 machine racked up $170 million in sales the first day, and $300 million the first week. Games like Halo might not be your personal choice--they aren't mine--but there is always a hungry audience for an encore product or performance.
Why do people line up for the privilege of giving their hard-earned money to others? Because they're getting something remarkable in return! What they are getting has more perceived value to them than the money itself. And in life, value is in the eye of the beholder.
Routine or Remarkable?
In the previous chapter, the key word was "performance." A performance, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, is the way someone or something functions. A common way to think of a performance is in terms of what someone does on a stage for purposes of entertainment. But that's a subcategory. At the core, a performance is simply the way someone or something performs--they way they do what they do.
What kinds of performances produce the "once is enough" effect versus the Encore Effect?
Forget the Bell
Anyone who's been through high school algebra knows what a bell-shaped curve looks like and what it represents. If you were absent that day, you at least remember the expression "grading on the curve." Teachers graded "on the curve" when everybody's performance on a test was so bad that the grades had to be spread out in a normal distribution:
Top 5 percent of students get an A
Next highest 10 percent get a B
Next highest 70 percent get a C
Next highest 10 percent get a D
Lowest 5 percent get an F
The assumption on a bell-curve distribution is that the greatest number of people in any setting--a class, a university, a nation--are "average" people. They are hardworking, upright, valued, and needed. Indeed, they form the backbone of any social setting because there are more of them. But they're average, or routine--not remarkable.
Another way to define routine, or average, performance is "the best of the worst and the worst of the best." These performers are the best of the mediocre middle, neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.
The problem is that average performance doesn't get you noticed. In the work world it doesn't lead to promotions or raises, and it doesn't create strong relationships and bonds. Average performance also doesn't transform people's lives. To do that, you want to achieve superlative, remarkable performance. You want to be among the best of the best.
The definition of "best," of course, is debatable, but most people agree when they see or experience something remarkable. As Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart once said about pornography, "I know it when I see it." The same is true for "best" and "remarkable." Definitions may vary, but there's no mistaking it when we see it.
But there is a simple way to tell whether your performance is routine or remarkable: look for the Encore Effect--or the lack of it.