In a recent TV game show, the host provided contestants a common phrase to complete to win cash prizes. I love quiz shows! The three contestants were given this phrase to complete:
“There’s no time like the __________________!”
“PRESENT!” I shouted at the TV. “Obviously, the correct answer is ‘present. ‘There’s no time like the PRESENT!’” But the contestants couldn’t hear me or read my lips.
Contestant №1 answered with two words (which was incorrect, anyway, as there was only one blank).
“There’s no time like the RIGHT TIME!” he blurted.
Now, I suppose one could argue that this makes sense, but, regardless, wrong answer.
Contestant №2 studied it for the whole 10 seconds allowed and then yelled:
“There’s no time like the PAST!”
Hmmm, well, again, I would guess for some people, that’s true — sort of a “remember the good old days” concept. But, again, incorrect.
Surely the third candidate would get this simple phrase! Candidate №3 looked at it blankly, and weakly said:
“There’s no time like the SWISS!”
(Huh? I guess he was thinking “runs like a Swiss watch.”) Wow. Simply, wow. I was a little taken aback that no one could come up with a time-worn phrase I’d used over and over. After all, it’s not like I’m, um, old. (Actually, I’m “older than dirt,” but we won’t go there.)
When I got to thinking about it, the fact that these individuals didn’t understand this phrase makes sense. First, all the contestants (now I’m not being prejudicial here, so relax) were under 30 years old. I have to realize that phrases I heard from my great-grandmother and grandmother(s) when I was young are, well, old — and maybe NOT so well known now.
Certainly, many of them have fallen out of use (like “A stitch in time saves nine!” or “That just doesn’t cut the mustard!” or “Start with a clean slate!”) — and many of them should have disappeared with one generation or the other (“groovy, man, groovy” and “What’s your bag?”).
But some have stood the test of time and deserved to be remembered. This particular phrase, which was NOT guessed by our quiz contestants, has deep meaning for me.
There IS no time like the present
My mother (who was the dearest person in the world to me) always advised me:
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift — that’s why it’s called the present. It’s a gift to enjoy today!”
She was attempting to get me to stop “crying over spilled milk.” (Eh, I mean, stop worrying about what has already happened.) She wanted me to know “worrying won’t make it so.” (What she meant was worrying about the future doesn’t change it.) She also advised I “live for the moment.” (Ah, enjoy the present).
Mom just wanted me to understand that tomorrow may indeed never come, and although “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” it’s best to understand where you are right now and make the best of it.
And that’s exactly what you need to do with your clients: Help them see what’s going on today and make the best of it.
Too often entrepreneurs will pass up the opportunities of today while staying busy planning — and fretting — about the future. Startup founders worry about funding, they worry about employees, they worry about markets. They just worry!
Part of your job is to keep them calm and make them look at the immediate situation. What’s going on right now that could be used to advance their company? What is their current situation with money? Are they properly managing their finances RIGHT NOW? How do their employees feel about the company TODAY? Are they satisfied that they’re doing the right things, getting enough attention? Do they understand the mission and goals of the company? What’s happening in their customers’ world in the present? Are prices changing today? Are new products being released?
And on and on. “So many choices, so little time” — but “there’s no time like the present,” you know, to consider them all. That’s where you come in. Bring in your advisory board team, have frequent meetings with your clients, and “drop in” on them informally to chat now and then.
Help them appreciate that solving the problems of today is what makes tomorrow’s progress possible. (Hey, that’s catchy!) Work with them to provide a steady voice of reason and encouragement — and help them to stop anticipating problems that never happen.
Give your clients reasons to trust you, to appreciate your assistance, and give them direction to learn from the past, focus on the present, and plan for the future. Now THAT’S a saying I can live with! And, always remember — “the darkest hour is just before…” — night?
You get the idea. “All’s well that ends well!”