Give yourself an ‘A’ today

Change your outlook

SOMETHING a seemingly ordinary event can hold valuable life lessons for us all. Like it happened at a lunch I had with a friend some years ago. As I recall it, the food was good, and the conversation delightful. But what made the lunch unforgettable was something else altogether.
As we entered the restaurant and sat down at our table, my host reached for his wallet. He pulled out a hundred rupee note and handed it to the waiter – who accepted it with a big smile. Now it wasn’t the size of the tip that surprised me.
It was the timing. For the first time, I saw someone tipping for service even before we had ordered our meal. Needless to say, we got treated like royalty that afternoon. The service was quick, the waiter seemed to be hovering around us, and the huge smile never left his face. And as we walked out after an enjoyable meal, I was left wondering: Why don’t we all tip before a meal?
If you think about it, maybe there’s a lesson in that for all of us that goes beyond tipping. Rewarding other people – and yourself - in advance can indeed make a difference. A big difference.
So what really happened at the restaurant that day? By paying the tip upfront, my friend was telling the waiter, “I know you’ll do a terrific job of looking after us!” And the waiter was probably telling himself “Wow! He trusts me to look after him well. I must do all I can to live up to his expectations.” And throughout the afternoon, we expected great service – and got it!
Unfortunately, most of us are brought up on a diet of conditional love and recognition. ‘If you come first in class then you’ll get a wrist watch.’ Since only one kid can come first, that leaves the rest of us feeling inferior, unsure about ourselves. And yes, having no idea what time it is! Now imagine what might have happened if your father gave you a watch at the start of the term – and said he knew you were a bright kid – and expected you to do well.
You would walk around knowing that someone really smart (your father!) thinks you are bright. And you’d do all you could to live up to his expectations. Would that ensure you come first in class? No, not quite. But would it make you do your best and perform to your potential? You bet! And that’s really what life is all about.
There’s a prestigious college of music in the UK that attracts the brightest talents from all over the world. The teachers faced a problem: although the students were all extremely gifted, several of them were becoming nervous after entering college. The students were anxious: Will I finish at the bottom of my class? Am I good enough? And the creative spark required for their musical talent to flower often went missing.
So here’s what the college did. Every student was told upfront that he or she would get an ‘A’ at the end of the year. What the students had to do was write a letter – dated the following year – explaining why they had ‘earned’ the A grade. What they had learnt, what they had achieved, and how they had become better people. And bingo! Soon after, the students were going through college with less stress – and becoming far better musicians. They were living up to their A grades!
Here’s a good exercise to try: Award yourself ‘employee of the year’ or ‘student of the year’ today. Write down what the company CEO or college Principal would be saying about you at the end of the year. All the great things he’d be saying about you. Do that. And you’ll soon find yourself doing the things you’ve written down! Rest assured, you’ll have a terrific year!
Musicians and waiters – and you and I - we are all just the same. Tip upfront. Give yourself an 'A' today. And let the magic begin!