Updated: May 29
It’s 2:30 pm, Last Minute Louie checks his calendar and sees that The Big Presentation is due at 7:30pm. He’s made some notes. A month ago, when The Big Presentation landed on his desk, he got inspired, made a quick sketch, and dropped the notes in his “To Do Now — Mean It” file.
Steady Freddy checks today’s to-do list that he made last night. He’s feeling fresh from his morning workout. He checks in with his colleague, On-It Oscar, who is giving Steady Freddy’s Big Presentation a final once over to check for stray commas. They have a second tech-check this morning. All systems go.
Last Minute Louie grabs a coffee, a water, and a pack of gum (stress chewing), cranks up his radio, opens his powerpoint file, and types at warp speed. He’s moving files around, looking up definitions online. Focus. Fun. Just Enough Fear.
Steady Freddy has a long lunch with a colleague, Expansion Eileen, about how he can parlay The Big Presentation into a training series for a wing of their company opening a new market.
At 7:05pm, Last Minute Louie jumps up, claps his hands, and growls with pleasure. He’s almost nailed it.
At 7:05pm, Steady Freddy opens his finished files and smiles.
At 7:15pm, Last Minute Louie howls with happiness, grabs his phone to text his honey, and knocks his now cold coffee all over his desk. All over his computer. All over his pants.
At 7:15pm, Steady Freddy unzips his compartmentalized computer bag. He reaches to unplug his device charger for placement in its color-coded pocket. The cord catches the edge of his desk. His warm coffee spills all over his desk. All over his computer. All over his pants.
How could this go for them both? Steady Freddy could lose his composure. This wasn’t part of his plan. Last Minute Louie could come up with a shining solution on the spot. As he didn’t have a plan to begin with, each moment is his plan.
At 7:16, a few expletives later, Last Minute Louie is pacing, thinking. He has to laugh just to relieve the tension. Maybe the content saved from his computer to his phone? Yes! Well, partly. Enough to make it work if he ad libs over the rest of it. The pants? He’ll walk into the room sideways and stay seated until everyone leaves. He’s got this. He texts his honey, “You’re not going to believe this. Well… you will, actually. Love ya.”
At 7:16, Steady Freddy stares blankly at his desk. Now what? Now what? Now. What? He carefully dabs at the computer, making sure it’s not plugged in. It’s shocking enough without getting electrocuted. He pulls his dry-cleaned spare pants out of the closet. His chin quivers. His hands shake. His eyes dart. On-It Oscar calls to wish Steady Freddy well. He lets the call go to voicemail.
Or, Steady Freddy could answer the phone, ask for help, get it and be realigned, regaining his comportment. Last Minute Louie could ad lib the entire presentation, forget half of it, and be reassigned to a different department.
It’s more likely in this situation that Steady Freddy will prevail and that Last Minute Louie will suffer a setback of some kind.
Flip the scene. Now its a webinar with 200 guests gathered. The main presenter’s wifi cuts out and the Luminary Everyone Gathered To Hear disappears from the screen for 15 minutes. It’s more likely in this situation that Last Minute Louie’s quick thinking on his dancing feet will shine. He might spin the group into break out rooms for guests to share take aways, or nominate another luminary in the room to share wisdom on the spot. Steady Freddy might buckle under the sudden silence or over-apologize to guests, deflating the room. Rename Last Minute Louie to Save The Day Steve. Rename Steady Freddy to Deer In Headlights David.
In reality, we all have both skill sets, even if we lead with one of them. I have been a Last Minute Louie, driven by deadlines. My inner Save the Day Steve has known victory after sweet victory, tested by my strategic, nigh magic use of procrastination. He’s bested me time after time. Thanks Steve, yet I’m not really saving the day if I invented the problem.
I recently heard “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as if for the first time. I was in the middle of an upset about having waited until the last minute to invite people to a significant event that could have had far reaching business bloom for me. A friend quipped, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” a phrase I have heard all my life, especially coming from an Italian-American family, half of which originated near Rome.
So, what you’re saying is… Rome (a big thing with lots of moving parts, and to which all roads lead, so they say) wasn’t built in a day (the amount of time I had a habit of giving things big and small). Well, could I build a neighborhood of Rome in a day? How about a bathhouse? Nope. None of that can be built in a day.
So, what can be built in a day? The next step along the path that leads to Rome.
At first I bucked this wisdom. I am a long time student of improvisational comedy and clown theater. Being present, clever, and spontaneous is one of my most joyful states of being, espcecially when shared with others. Yet, I was designing stress for myself and others. Heroes relieve stress, they don’t create stresses to then relieve — unless they are conmen, and that’s different. Save the Day Steve needs to rest between herioc acts. Otherwise, he’ll be distracted or even exhausted when the real crisis comes along.
Cities, buildings, careers, dreams, love stories, buff bodies all need foundations. Last Minute Luigi kept rebuilding the foundation of the Roman Museoleum. Never heard of that world famous tourist attraction? It’s next to the Roman Colosseum, yet was never finished.
It’s 7:29pm, Last Minute Louie strategically blazes sideways into the board room. He quickly takes a seat, sitting close to the table so no one sees his coffee pants. He’s got his phone ready to hook up to the main screen, yet he left the cable in his office. Steady Freddy takes his seat, exhales, and opens On-It Oscar’s loaner computer, pre-loaded with The Big Presentation they co-checked this morning.
Day by Day people, the Steady Freddys, team together. Last Minute Louies who heroically put out personally invented fires go solo. Dreams need teams.
There’s a time and a place to Save the Day. Emergenices make themselves obvious. If you’re a Last Minute Louie looking to build your Steady Freddy muscles, think of it as Saving the Days, plural. Look for small victories. The next bold step, the next brave call, the next writing session. There are little victories to celebrate all day long… you Everyday Hero, you.
And since Rome wasn’t built in a day, for a first step, try Saving the Day Before...
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