Getting the easy stuff right

I’ve been following Scott Galloway’s work for the last couple of days; reading his excellent blog posts about the collective madness of WeWork and how we should be kinder than our parents, as well as watching his videos on how Amazon’s HQ2 was nothing short of a fiasco or why startups have bonkers mission statements that make little to no sense whatsoever.

The majority of his work centers on startups and business, two subjects that don’t interest me in the slightest, but Scott makes the subject energetic and punk rock. Currently his books are eagerly waiting me to finish Shoe Dog by Phil Knight so that they can sink their teeth into me, grab me by the collar, and shake me senseless.

But the reason why I mention all this is because I haven’t been able to stop thinking about getting the easy stuff right:

I’ve struggled my whole career with getting the easy stuff right. Rallying a team to pull together an insightful, hard-hitting presentation and then showing up to that presentation 15 minutes late and pissing everyone off. After the meeting, getting an email from the client about additional work or other opportunity, only to not respond in a timely fashion and lose momentum. Not following up with people when I should. In general, a lack of professionalism and bad manners have reduced the slope of my trajectory. Strange, as I know when I'm doing it, and know how to fix it … and I still don't.

I’ve struggled with this an awful lot, too. Emails that go unanswered because of anxiety, or messages that I respond to far too late— I miss coffee with a friend or a job opportunity or a potential partner. In short, I find the easy things extraordinarily tough.

Scott looks at one example where he tried to help someone else on this front in a peculiar way. He was giving a lecture at NYU Stern and, an hour into it, a student walks in and sits down. But Scott dismisses him, tells him that he can’t just show up to a session late and expect to get the same treatment as the other students that really wanted to be there. An email exchange between the student and Scott takes place and the esteemed lecturer writes:

xxxx, get your shit together.

Getting a good job, working long hours, keeping your skills relevant, navigating the politics of an organization, finding a work/life balance … these are all really hard, xxxx. In contrast, respecting institutions, having manners, demonstrating a level of humility … these are all (relatively) easy. Get the easy stuff right, xxxx. In and of themselves they will not make you successful. However, not possessing them will hold you back, and you will not achieve your potential, which, by virtue of you being admitted to Stern, you must have in spades. It's not too late, xxxx ...

I mention all this because there was a moment in college where I almost dropped out. And I feel that if a lecturer had said something like this to me I would’ve immediately snapped out of my ennui and confronted just how damn lucky I was to be there.

I must take more care of the easy things.