You’ll find it on every tombstone and grave marker. A name? Certainly. The dates that marked the dearly beloved’s birth and demise? Absolutely. A funny epitaph? (Here Lies An Atheist…All Dressed Up And No Where To Go ) Maybe.
What I’m talking about, however, is the “dash” between the numbers. You know: 1937–2005. The “dash” that’s in between the time you arrive and the time you leave. The great boxing promoter and entertainment producer Butch Lewis is fond of saying that he’s always “working on his dash.” Because he knows that what happens during that in between will be the legacy of his journey here on the planet. The “dash” is everything you accomplish (or don’t accomplish) from the day you draw breath until the day you pass on.
So when it comes to our businesses–and our lives–it’s important that we remember that it’s about building the next generation of entrepreneurs and life’s leaders. And that we must pass on the fundamentals of righteous living and business dealings. Which is why I invoke The Personal Touch (the title of my best-selling business book) in my work and in my life. It’s how I’m working on my dash. Because I know that once you reach a certain level of success, you must pass it on and find a way to give something back. Success and achievement mean nothing if you get there and don’t bring someone along.
The fact of the matter is, a lot of people won’t care how successful you are, unless you stand up for more than your own personal career and ambitions. If you live only for yourself, it will only matter to you when you are gone. Make sure that your life–your dash–means something.
And when you get to the top, know also that nobody is on top forever. Remember that how you will be treated and regarded when the lights go down will be based on how you treated folks when you were on top. Success can be fleeting. It all could be gone tomorrow.
I have on my office wall an old adage that I heard about the four stages of an actor. I had it personalized and I often take a look at it to remind myself that I have to work constantly at my craft. Nothing is forever. It goes like this:
Who is Terrie Williams?
Think about it. That first stage is when you’re just starting out in business. Nobody knows you–yet. After you’ve established yourself everyone wants you because you’re hot. Then you become too busy so everyone wants a copy of you. And then, as the cycle comes full circle…well, unless you’re very careful to your brand, your reputation and your longevity it’s back to where you started. Nobody.
That doesn’t have to happen to you. There are many “personal touch” ways to do business, and I’ll share with you the one I think is the most important. It has to do with relationships.
Say there are 100 people who do exactly what you do, have the same credentials and background. How will you stand out? The answer is simple and clear cut. People do business with, and share their knowledge, and respect more, the people they like and feel good about. The ability to relate favorably to people may hit you as something intangible, but the results are absolutely and totally tangible. You gotta understand that your relationship with people has as much to do with your success as all your professional knowledge. It is that characteristic (a human/personal touch) about your personality that wins respect and will help you in business.
Whether it’s an executive/supporter/mentor you’re trying to connect with, or your colleagues, or your clients-find the way to connect on a human level. And once you do, I’ve seen that there isn’t a rule out there that can’t be bent, broken or even cease to exist if the right relationship exists.
So don’t be remembered as just a name, a couple of dates or by a funny epitaph. Work on your dash and remember that what you do in business–and in life–affects the lives of others. It’s not how long you are here, but what you do–that in between–while you are here. Stay Strong and continue to share your light.