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Show, Don’t Tell

Ben Whiting, February 12, 2018


Show, Don’t Tell.

Imagine… it’s the first real day of spring in Chicago, a Saturday. You sit on the 151 bus, energizing yourself by listening to Hootie and the Blowfish, Gin Blossoms, and Boyz II Men on your “I’m okay being uncool” playlist. You’re almost to your office – the sidewalk.
 
You’re a street performer. Your livelihood depends on your ability to build a crowd and perform well enough so you can pay your rent, insurance, car payment, cell phone bill, and buy food with the tips you receive.
 
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, this was how I made my living, as a street magician. It was the equivalent of having my ego surgically removed, but for better or worse some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in life were learned while performing sidewalk magic shows on Michigan Avenue for strangers.
 
In many ways, these lessons allowed me to get off the sidewalk and work my way up to where I am today at Lead Star. However, that’s another story for another time. Right now, I’d like to share with you one of the most important lessons I learned from street performing that applies to leadership development:

Show, don’t tell.

 
Before you can build a crowd, you have to grab people’s attention and stop them. One way to do this is to walk up to someone and say, “Hello madam! Would you and your small child like to come over to this shady spot on the sidewalk and watch a magic show? It’s a really good show, I’ve seen it before!” I tried this method many, many, many, many times … it does not work.
 
What did work, however, was holding a solid object in my hands, sleeves rolled up, and as soon as someone looked at it, it would instantly and inexplicably vanish. This would usually make people stop just long enough for me to make the object reappear in an impossible manner. After that, I had the beginnings of my next crowd, excited to see what I was going to do next.
 
While we are not all magicians, we are often trying to get people’s attention, share a great idea, or prove our worth. Whether we’re a sales rep, a real estate professional, a project manager, or a consultant, we’re all seeking to influence.  And there’s always a better way to do our work.
 
Instead of telling people about the amazing idea you have, find a way to show them. Instead of emailing your boss to explain how you could be a bigger asset to the company, take initiative and SHOW them how much value you bring to the table. People with potential are a dime a dozen. People who remove their ego, take action without being asked, and improve the status quo for everyone are the people we look up to and want running things. They’re leaders, despite what their title is or where their desk or cubicle is located.

Where in your life are you telling where you could be showing? Take action to really show people the person you are when you’re living up to the potential you know you have (in and out of the office), and before long you’ll have a crowd around you excited to see what you’re going to do next…

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