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Using Your Best Gifts at Their Highest Value.
We had just finished pitching the new client in Buenos Aires and were getting back in the car to return to my hotel.
After we closed the doors, I let out a whoop. “Congratulations Buddy…” I said to the president of our Argentine affiliate office. “…we just won our first account together. I'm sure it's the first of many more to come. Let's go celebrate.”
He glared at me.
“No, I mean it. That pitch was great. The client loved us. We won!! Let's go share a great bottle of Malbec or something and toast our success.”
He stared a little longer and then asked slowly, “You know what you are?”
“Uh… no,” I said even slower, “Do I want to know?”
“You are a focking yak in the box.”
“A focking yak in the box.”
(I apologize for spelling out his accent but it's part of the story – his English was perfect, but his accent was strong)
“A yak in the box. They put you in a box and wind you up and send you down to Argentina. Then we put you in front of the client and press the button and you pop out and bounce around and make a lot of noise. Then we push you back in the box, slam down the lid, and ship you back home. And after you leave, we have to stay here and do all the work.”
Needless to say, we didn't celebrate with a glass of wine – or anything else – that evening.
I was still aggravated when I got on the flight home the next day. I thought about what he said for most of the flight. But somewhere up in the air, somewhere above Brazil, it dawned on me that our Argentine affiliate was absolutely right. I had done exactly what he said I did – I got wound up, showed up, jumped up, won the business, and then went about my business.
And as I mulled it over, I realized that that was exactly what I wanted to do, too.
Wind up. Show up. Jump up. Giddyup.
What I didn't want to do was hang around and work out the fine points of the contract and the relationship. I didn't want to plan the ongoing business activities. And I certainly didn't want to stay behind to do the day-to-day follow up management of the account.
What I did want to do – and what I did – was to use my superpowers to their best effect and perform at my best.
Years later that concept was explained to me by what my dear friend Chris Crowley (Chris is the best-selling author of Younger Next Year) wrote in his charming foreword to my new book, Is That All There Is?
“It makes a lot of sense to take an inventory of your gifts. Are you a words or numbers person? Are you a people-person or more comfortable one-on-one? Are you a speaker or does that notion terrify you? Can you write? Can you fight? Can you lead? Some people are natural motivators, natural leaders, others simply are not. Those talents are gifts, and they are parceled out unequally at birth.”
“Using your best gifts is, in a way, like being your true self.”
“It just plain feels good and makes you more effective and happier.”
Based on what I learned that day in Buenos Aires, and what Chris revealed to me, I've taken the time to think very carefully about my best gifts. Once I did, I put together exercises to help others figure out their highest and best uses too. Then I scheduled Strategic Roundtables to help others figure it out for themselves.
Why? Because as Chris says, “The great key to happiness in life is using your best gifts at the highest end you can.”
I'm a Jack in the Box and I like it that way.