If you only worked five days a year, how well would you do your job? I had never thought about this question until this summer when I witnessed something amazing. Ever since Mother’s Day, I pose this question to people everywhere, and I have gotten a bunch of different answers. More on that in a bit, but in the mean time, Let me explain what happened on Mother’s Day.
My family and I just moved to Arlington Heights, IL. One of the big attractions here is Arlington Park, a renowned horse racing track. I was there with my Mom to celebrate her special day (her idea, not mine!) and we decided to get in on the action and place a few harmless bets. This process can be a bit overwhelming for the uninitiated as there are multiple races with multiple horses and the odds and favorites are always changing. Fortunately, to aid the infrequent gambler like myself there is a bank of live tellers where you can place bets and collect your winnings. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a LOT of infrequent gamblers at the track that day. As you can imagine, the lines to the tellers were pretty long, and one in particular.
As luck would have it, I ended up in this line and as we got closer to the counter, I quickly realized why it was so long. The girl (we’ll call her “Carrie”) in charge of this line was incredible! She asked people what they wanted to do. She helped them clarify and then place confident bets (even if it was on the longshot), and above all, she did it with an infectious smile. No question was too silly, no request to absurd. At first, I thought the delay was because Carrie was taking too long to talk to everyone. And then it hit me; people were lined up to work with her instead of anyone else.
Over the course of the afternoon, I got into a bunch of different lines and placed bets with a bunch of different tellers. But I kept an eye on Carrie’s line(s) all day. They never got shorter. And people never got out of line to go anywhere else. I purposely got into her line at the end of the afternoon to talk to her about her job and how she got so good at it. When I asked her how she keeps that energy and positivity going day after day, her answer shocked me. She stopped typing, looked up from her screen, stared at me and said, “Are you kidding? They only let me work five days a year so I have to make the most out of it I can!”
My jaw dropped.
It got me thinking about peoples’ perception of their own opportunities. So like I said, I started asking around. The answers I get vary, but they typically fall under one of two themes. And It’s amazing, they are two opposing answers to the same question. The first is something along the lines of: “Good enough to get through the day!” I can understand this. You really only HAVE to work a couple of days a year, why push it? What’s interesting is that the people who give me this answer typically follow it up with some kind of negative story about how they are being held back anyways by someone or something that they claim to have no control over.
The other answer I receive is more like Carrie’s. Something along the lines of “As hard as I can!” And then they follow it up with some inspirational story of overcoming some challenge or hardship that got them to where they are at today.
The correlation between the answer and the justification does not surprise me. It has everything to do with focus. Are you focused on getting through the day, or are you focused on how great you can be today? Is your line of people an inconvenience or are you striving to get as many people you can into your line? I’ll flat out ask you, how would you approach your five days a year?