Getting there first is not what it’s all about. What matters always is execution. Always.
- Chris Cox, head of product for Facebook
My daughter and I had an interesting conversation the other night. It seems she knows a girl who gets extremely upset if she's not "first". Fastest in a race, best at whatever activity is going on, first in line. "Why is that so important?" my daughter wanted to know. She didn't understand, because in her opinion, first, last, somewhere in the middle...everyone eventually gets their chance, it's just a matter of whether you wait after you've gone, or before you go. What really matters is what you do with your turn whenever it comes.
I had no explanation for her, just lots of support for her beliefs. That and a spark of happiness thinking "Hey, here's a subject for my next blog post! Thanks, kid!" It made me wonder about how often in life our kids have to line up...going to the lunchroom, heading to specials, waiting while Mom or Dad goes about their business at the bank or grocery store or pretty much anywhere (at least, according to them!). Out of curiosity I Googled some information about how much of our lives are spent waiting in line. Came across an interesting NY Times story published on 8/18/12 referencing a study done by a Houston airport in response to numerous complaints of long waits at baggage claim. In the study, the airport made some minor changes and the number of complaints subsequently dropped to nearly zero. The striking part was that the changes weren't about getting the baggage out to passengers faster...instead, they moved the arrival gates farther away from baggage claim and used the outermost available carousel, in effect increasing the time elapsed between deplaning and reaching baggage claim. The wait time for the bags themselves remained the same. The important factor wasn't the amount of time spent waiting in line; it was how that wait was perceived compared to the rest of the experience.
I guess I found an answer to my daughters question. Being at the front of the line isn't what's important. What matters is your perspective on the line itself. So being at the back of the line and using your wait to observe what's going on around you, take things in and learn from your environment, can be just as powerful if not more so than being first. I wish more people understood that. I'm amazed that my 10 year old does. I watch her do it in her Tae Kwon Do classes. She never rushes to line up when the class is practicing a skill. She's usually toward the back. But she spends that wait watching the students in front of her. She listens to the instructor when he gives advice or makes corrections. When she finally gets to the front of the line, she puts all of that to use in improving her own technique.