The first time I brought Christy home to meet my parents she was nineteen years old. She was more nervous than an NBA player in a paternity suit.
Those of you that know Christy now might find that statement surprising, after all, she is beautiful, personable, and a successful professional. (I readily admit my bias here.) Back in 1987, however, Christy was still searching for her self-confidence.
It did not help matters that Christy was very different from my mother.
After dating several months at college, I was keenly aware of Christy’s totally opposite position on the very topics that my mother found exhilarating, such as:
- The cleanliness of one’s living space.
- Preparing a home-cooked meal.
- Completing tasks before having fun.
- Math and Science.
- Madonna (Let me clarify … Christy found Madonna exhilarating, my mother found her sacrilegious.)
I prepped her for these differences before we arrived. That did not help her nervousness.
To calm her, I injected a little humor as we pulled in the driveway. I predicted that since it was Friday night, my mother would be ironing clothes in the den while watching a movie—taking a break only to provide my father with an after dinner dessert.
When my mother opened the door, Christy’s jaw dropped. The iron steamed upon the ironing board. My dad sat on the couch with a half-eaten piece of German chocolate cake (his favorite). A Hallmark movie played softly in the background.
My mom’s jaw also dropped. I forgot to tell her I was bringing my girlfriend.
The spontaneity of the visit now made my mom nervous. She exchanged pleasantries with Christy and a not so pleasant look at me. She immediately apologized for “the wretched state of the house.” I think one magazine was out of place on the coffee table.
“Have you eaten?” my mother asked.
“Do you have any Kraft spaghetti?” Christy offered, trying to make a joke. My mother wrinkled her nose at such a faux food suggestion. Within ten minutes, mom “whipped up” a meat and three vegetables out of nowhere, along with piping hot yeast rolls.
Christy dared not bring up the fact that she was only half-joking about the Kraft spaghetti. It had been a staple of her diet since 1977.
I sensed that mom wanted to freshen up the house a bit. Translation: she wanted to change linens, vacuum the room, dust the furniture, and clean the bathroom that Christy would be using.
So to keep us out of her way, I asked my dad who had just sauntered into the kitchen, “Hey, you want to play some cards? Christy’s pretty good.”
My dad was unrivaled as a card shark in our family. A Navy veteran who served in the Pacific, he brought back a repertoire of off-color stories and a love for Gin rummy when he returned to the States.
I didn’t wait for his answer, but disappeared to get a deck of cards. When I returned, Dad sat at the head of the table with Christy to his right. They were engaged in a conversation. “So, you don’t like to cook or clean?” my dad quizzed my embarrassed girlfriend. After 30 years of marriage to June Cleaver, my dad found this fact astonishing.
“Not really. But I do like playing cards.” And with that, she snatched the cards from my hands. I had played rummy a couple of times at college with Christy. She really was good. Her father was a compulsive gambler and while she had managed to suppress the addictive behavior of her dad, Christy still expressed the gene from time to time.
My dad had no idea what hit him.
Christy crushed us like a Vegas veteran. The first game was over in 90 seconds. My dad seemed amused at first. Beginner’s luck. When it happened on the next three hands, he became perturbed. He suggested I put away the notepad I was keeping score on. After the fourth hand, he threw his cards down and muttered, “She’s not playing right,” and went back to his Hallmark movie.
My dad is an accountant. He doesn’t do anything without a plan. He plays rummy the same way. He strategizes, plots, and hordes cards until he lays them all down with a flourish—ending the game and leaving the other players marveling at his prowess. Christy wasn’t buying what my dad was selling. She beat him to the punch time after time.
She even shamelessly played an ace, two, and three—blaspheme to the rummy purist—just so she could go out and end the game. Nobody plays an ace without the king and queen! That was the final straw for my dad.
On subsequent visits, Christy coaxed my dad back to the card table. (She also called my mom ahead of time to make sure that she knew she was coming.)
In the thirty years since that first rummy game, I have noticed an interesting pattern. Christy plays her hand as she gets it. In other words she does not excessively plan her next move, she plays the hand she is dealt. My dad, on the other hand, calculates the possibilities of every move based on incoming data—he is constantly strategizing. He attempts to create the perfect scenario to end the game, but his annoying daughter-in-law keeps using the cards he wants and piling up points.
I rarely win because I am jotting down notes for future blogs…
Here’s the point. Entrepreneurs and successful leaders do significantly more doing than planning. Psychologist Saras Sarasvathy studied successful business owners and leaders and found that they did NOT possess some mysterious insight or vision that led to a break-through product or invention. Instead, they shared these common traits:
- Start with what you have … don’t wait for the perfect opportunity.
- Take action based on what is readily available.
- Don’t guide your actions on possible future rewards.
- Rather, ask yourself how big the loss will be if you failed!
Do stuff rather than think about it. Execute more than you plan. It works for entrepreneurs. It works for Christy playing rummy with my dad. For his sake, I’m just glad we are not playing strip poker.