Be Excellent: Know When to Go Off-Script

In Goodnight Opus, the children’s book by Berkeley Breathed, the Bloom County penguin becomes bored with Granny’s nightly recitation of Goodnight Moon. When Granny falls asleep reading to him, Opus departs the text.

Departing the text takes him from the mundane to the magical. We can all learn something about excellence from Opus.

It is impossible to provide first-rate service to everyone if you are unwilling to depart the text. Call center and help desk staffers, read: if you are not brave enough to depart the script from time to time, you will ultimately irritate more people than you help.

A recent call to the DSL support line of a telephone and telegraph company in America went something like this:

CALLER
My modem isn’t working. It had been dropping me offline frequently, and now it won’t connect at all.

TECH SUPPORT
If the power light on your modem is red, it means the modem isn’t working.

CALLER
The power light has been red since I got it, even when it was working.

TECH SUPPORT
If the power light is red, the modem won’t work.

CALLER
The modem worked for a few months, and the power light was always red.

TECH SUPPORT
The modem won’t work if the power light is red.

CALLER
This is the second modem I’ve gotten from you. The power light on the first one was always red, too, even when it worked.

TECH SUPPORT
A red power light means the modem isn’t working.

After a few more rounds about the color of the light, the caller hung up in frustration and tried the “redial” approach to customer service. “Maybe if I get someone else on the phone…”

Similarly, a customer in a department store flagged down an employee to ask if they carried a particular product. After answering all of her questions with a string of I-don’t-knows, the employee pointed to a red phone and said, “You can call customer service.” Her response: “And if I call customer service, are they going to send you?”

Repeating a script that isn’t helping a client is no different than saying, “I don’t know,” ad nauseum. By adding just five simple words, you can open the door for stellar customer service: “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Then, proceed to find out, and keep your client in the loop.

Quality begets quality. When you strive for excellence in all that you do, others will take note, as Granny does at the end of Goodnight Opus. Upon finding her napping with a very satisfied look on her face, Opus believes that she, too, has “departed the text.”

What does going “off-script” mean to you? Are you willing to do it?

It’s All About the Journey

Real fame comes from within. It is about taking pride in how you do what you do, even when what you do isn’t what you’d like to be doing.

T. Harv Eker puts it more succinctly: “How you do anything is how you do everything.”

It is a big mistake to think that anything is beneath you. To move through life with the idea that you will provide first-rate service once you have reached a certain level of success is to miss the whole point; success is the reward for excellence, and excellence requires practice.

Reality show participants notwithstanding, most “overnight successes” are people who have waken up famous day after day, year after year, until a critical mass of enthusiasts puts them in the spotlight. People who wake up famous every day know that time spent looking for shortcuts is time better spent on improving themselves. They have put in the 10,000 hours that Malcolm Gladwell discusses in Outliers: The Story of Success.

Paul Buchheit co-founder of FriendFeed and original lead developer of Gmail says:  “This notion of overnight success is very misleading, and rather harmful. If you’re starting something new, expect a long journey.” 

Recognize that life is a journey and that waking up famous is a choice. Jana Stanfield, whose lyrics appear below, continually celebrates the journey.

Life is a fast train through peaks and valleys
Streets and alleys and countryside
You never know just how far you’re going
The trick is to learn to enjoy the ride.

© Jana Stanfield/Jerry Kimbrough

 

Are you enjoying the ride? What advice would you give to fellow travelers?

How to Wake Up Famous Every Day

You are the writer, director and star of your own life. Every day—every moment, really—is a new opportunity to wake up famous. Begin each day by doing the following:

  1. Add value.
  2. Be excellent.
  3. See that you provide first-rate service in everything you do.

When you contribute something useful to one or more people, you are adding value. It can be a simple as a kind word at precisely the right moment, or as revolutionary as a medical procedure that saves millions of lives.

Only you can truly judge your own excellence. You can be an accomplished musician but fail to give an excellent performance because your mind is elsewhere. On the other hand, you can be a novice photographer who excels with her wholehearted effort. Consider where you are on the learning curve and then check in with your conscience.

Provide first-rate service by treating everyone you meet like they might be famous someday.

At the end of the day, go to sleep knowing that you have earned the air you breathed, the space you occupied, the respect of those you care about, and—most importantly—self-respect. The better you sleep tonight, the easier it will be to wake up famous tomorrow.

Definition of Famous

According to Merriam-Webster Online, “famous” means:

 

1 a: widely known b: honored for achievement

2: EXCELLENT, FIRST-RATE

 

Shouldn’t becoming widely known and/or honored for achievement follow being excellent or first-rate?