Are You All In?©

According to Woody Allen, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Certainly, I’ve heard a familiar lesson for much of my life: show up and you’ll be ahead of the game. Yet I have come to question – in fact to doubt – the truth of this assertion. At the very least I wonder, does simply showing up give us what we really want? We certainly know that it doesn’t if you don’t know what you want, including what success means to you; however, self-defining success and determining what you really want is a topic for another article.

It’s true that many people are not showing up, and thus by merely showing up we outpace some others. Whether it’s in sales (by making the calls, acquiring and refining the necessary skills, or developing a strong value proposition), in our job (by showing up & fully being present at work), in our education (by going to class), or in our personal lives, showing up definitely separates us from the pack. But as I’ve interacted with thousands of people and hundreds of businesses, I’ve learned that the truly successful are doing much more than just showing up.  The common thread with these high achievers is that they are All In!

Texas Hold’em poker has made us all very familiar with the concept of being “all in” – you’re betting everything that you have on winning, at the risk of losing it all and being out of the game.  But what does being “all in” mean in your life and in your business?

First, it means taking risks that can be scary. If you’re not a little scared, then you’re not all in. For me, if my goals don’t scare me then they’re not big enough. These risks we take to achieve our goals or desired impact may not literally require you to risk it all, but you’re risking a setback (big or small), whether it’s financial, emotional or otherwise. These risks need to be the kinds of risks that enable you to go for great, rather than settling for mediocre, which is an all too common mindset in our culture.

Second, being all in means being fully engaged across all aspects of your life – in business, with your friends and family, in your relationships, and even with yourself (giving yourself permission to thrive in terms of  your personal happiness). Assessing whether you’re really all in can only be answered by honestly looking at your own thoughts and actions. Look in the mirror (actually or figuratively) and ask yourself these basic questions: Are you the person you want to be?  Are you living the life you want to live?  Are you building the business you want or working the job that you want to have? Unlike the mirror in Snow White that magically answers anything, you’ll have to uncover the answers to these questions and tell yourself the truth.

Throughout the ages, we’ve been blessed with much wisdom around the theme of choosing our path from among various options. Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) reminded us that if you don’t know where you’re going, “it doesn’t matter” which road you take. The sage Yogi Berra told us, “If you come to a fork in the road, take it!” Robert Frost invited us to take the road less traveled:  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.” And in the movie On Golden Pond, Dabney Coleman gave us a lesson in what happens when you have one foot on the dock and one foot on the boat – you can straddle for a brief time, but ultimately you fall into the water.  Is straddling between merely showing up and being all in serving you well?

More recently, author Bronnie Ware undertook to research and examine the regrets of the dying in her book The Five Regrets of the Dying (2012). What was the number one regret of the dying? “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Sadly, this finding does not surprise me or anyone else that I have shared it with, and yet people constantly continue to live lives that will lead to this very same regret. Why aren’t we changing if we know this regret and are already living with it? And the second most common regret of the dying: “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” Translated a different way—I wish I had not been so busy. The most troubling aspect of this research is that I see no evidence that the answers will be any different in 10, 20 or 50 years, unless you’re prepared to make different choices and establish new priorities in your life.

Each of us faces a choice every day: will we simply show up, or will we leap and go all in? Each choice has risks and each choice has possible outcomes, but both the risks and the outcomes are unknown. In this uncertainty we find the fundamental choice between walking our path or boldly daring to soar. I have leapt in the past in an effort to soar and crashed. But the fall did not kill me (because I didn’t allow it to break my spirit). I was battered, bruised and broken, yet after healing I chose again to leap, to dare, to believe.

Teddy Roosevelt told us that “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” I learned long ago that we often forget that not making a decision is still a decision … and that it’s usually the wrong one. As you move your life and your business forward, I invite you to make a conscious choice – choose to just show up or choose to go all in!  The choice will determine your path and your outcomes, but I hope that you’ll join me in daring to soar.

Remember that often the only difference between falling and soaring is attitude.  It’s time to tell the truth: Are you all in?

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