Tonight I asked Jan, my business partner and friend, "what did you learn about greatness today?" Okay, so I'm not good with small talk and tend to go right for deep conversations. But Jan had an answer for me. She told me that she had watched someone facilitate a session about stress management. This facilitator has a good reputation and it was a small group. What Jan told me was "he could have phoned it in. He is really good at facilitation and could have coasted through the session and all of the evaluations would have been fine, but he didn't. He was focused, engaging, energetic and gave it his all." She said that "watching him I became so aware that we have a choice in everything we do either to lay back and just show up, or to really do our best. Great individuals bring their best every time."
Let me offer another contrasting example. About a month ago I had the opportunity to hear a singing legend and was really excited about the opportunity. However, though acknowledged as one of "the greats", she sauntered in 90 minutes late, no apologies, sang mostly to the band and didn't engage the audience at all. I was almost glad when the concert ended. I enjoyed a dramatic contrast last week when I saw Hall and Oates in Asbury Park. Though already in the songwriters' hall of fame, they gave it there all, connected with the audience, were alive and energetic and responded to our enthusiasm with three encores. They were great. I was buzzing about their concert for days afterward. They really impacted me and that is what great people do.
Jan reinforced a key characteristic of great individuals. They don't "phone it in." They aren't partially present to those things they care about. They are fully present, engaged and enlivened by what they are doing at that moment. Well, what about the rest of us? Are we really fully present to what we do, who we love, and what we care about? Or are we just phoning it in?