Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a stickler for being on time. I really believe that either you’re an “on-time” person or you’re not. It’s not one of those “sometimes you are, sometimes you aren’t” kind of things. You are. Or you’re not.
And quite honestly, I’m amazed at how many people who are professionals in other areas of their lives fail so drastically in this area. Being late, to any degree, is a really bad habit. You see, what I learned early on in my own life, is that it truly is a matter of respect.
I got to the point quite a long time ago where I’ll not hire someone because they’re a couple minutes late for a job interview. They might interview perfectly, and they might have all the credentials, but I believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. For someone who teaches not to keep score… well, this is a hard one for me to not keep score on. It’s just such a pet peeve of mine, and, what can I say, first impressions are first impressions for a reason.
When I was running my cleaning company, I believe that one of the reasons I built as successful a business as I did was based on as small a margin as 15 minutes. When I was going to bid on a job, being “on time” to me meant being 15 minutes early. I know for a matter of fact that there were many times that I was hired for a job, not because I was the cheapest bid (because I wasn’t), but because I got there 16 minutes earlier than any of the other contractors… In other words, they were a minute late.
It drives me crazy when someone says they’re going to call me at 6pm, and they call me at 6:04pm. Either you’re on time, or you’re not…. And how you do anything IS how you do everything.
I have never met anyone who has achieved any significant level of success and impact, and who is highly respected by others, who does not hold to this value and this principle of being on time.
So, what’s the story behind this? This was so deeply drilled into me, and I think it might help you make some shifts in your own life to respect your own time and the time of others.
Back when I was about 15 years old, I had joined the Guardian Angels. A lot of you have heard a bit of this piece of my story. The Guardian Angels was founded by an incredible man by the name of Curtis Sliwa, and the mission of the Guardian Angels was to provide protection and prevention against crime in some of the worst neighborhoods of this country. New York City was the hub for the Guardian Angels.
And for anyone who wanted to rise up in the ranks of the GA’s, it was a requirement that you do a portion of your training in NYC.
So, I was in NYC, undergoing my next level of training. Our headquarters was at 126thand Lexington, in Harlem, above the old Amsterdam News building. There were a couple hundred of us who would work every night – all colors, all races, all backgrounds, coming together for the greater good of protecting innocent civilians in places where even the police forces were hesitant to enter. And we would gather at the headquarters from all over the 5 boroughs of NYC to then disperse throughout the city, and to provide some security for those living there, and scared for their lives.
We would meet just before midnight, and at 12am sharp, we would head out on patrol. This one particular night, there was a group coming up from the south Bronx to join us. These were some of our best guys, our most street-smart “fighters” and “protectors.” And they radioed in at about 11:57pm to say they had missed their train and they were going to be about 15 minutes late.
Everyone else was there. We had been getting prepped and ready to go. Curtis was just locking up the front door and we would all be on our way for the patrol that night. Two hundred of us, spilling out onto the street (too many to fit into our headquarters, but all ready to serve). When we got this message that 25 of our best and most respected guys were going to be late, I remember looking to Curtis to see what he would do next.
Curtis doesn’t say a word. He looks out onto the group of us standing there, waiting for his direction. He steps up to the front door and takes his key out. As he unlocks the front entrance, I think to myself, ‘okay, he’s going to have some of us wait behind for our south Bronx team to get here… that makes sense.’
Curtis walks into the office, and a few of us follow behind him to get his next directive. He goes straight to the big desk, opens the top drawer and pulls out a black sharpie marker. If you’ve ever used a sharpie marker, you have to know that certain sound it makes when you pull the cap off? That *squeak* as you twist it off? I will forever have that sound tattooed on my brain as I think back to this particular night. With one hand, he takes that sharpie, puts the end in his mouth, twists and pulls the pen out, cap still between his teeth.
He then pulls down one of the flyers that’s pinned to the bulletin board right next to the desk, he flips it over, slams it down on the desk, and on it he writes, “When you’re slow, you blow.”
He grabs the tack from the bulletin board, and with a certain definiteness of purpose, he marches back to the front entrance, pins the flyer to the outside of the door, locks up, and says, “let’s go!”
I remember thinking, ‘wait a second here, we’re not going to wait for our best guys? We’re going out 25 guys short?’ But I trusted Curtis and I trusted his judgement and his leadership.
The next day, I was preparing to head back to Pittsburgh, my hometown, as my training in NYC had come to a close. And Curtis sat me down to debrief my time in NYC before I left.
I remember asking him why he didn’t wait for those 25 guys. It seemed like a jerk move to me. They were trying to make it there. They were giving it their best effort. We could’ve just waited the extra 15 minutes.
And what he said to me I will never forget. He said, “I never want to send the message to the 200 guys standing in front of me that their effort to be on time doesn’t matter. I don’t ever want to send the message that those other 25 guys are somehow more important or more valuable. I know those 25 guys are respected by everyone… they have the street smarts, sure… BUT you have to honor the people in front of you.
“There will always be a reason to miss the train. If we had waited, the message that the rest of you would have heard was that you weren’t as important, as valuable, and as integral to our mission and our work. And that just isn’t true. You see, Paul, being on time, is ALWAYS a matter of respect. And there’s always going to be a reason to miss the train.”
…there’s always going to be a reason to miss the train…
That hit home for me, and I’ll never forget this lesson. So, what do you do? If it’s truly a priority, then you make it a priority. If it truly matters to you, then you plan ahead to NOT miss the train. If it’s as significant as you claim it to be, then you make the extra effort, and you take the extra measures, and you ensure that you DON’T miss the train.
Being on time is always a matter or respect.
I believe in you and I believe in your dream!!
Hold Your Image!!