Character & Soul, Deborah Tan, Opinions, Self-Improvement

The Character Trait That’s Preventing You From Being Successful – Deborah Tan

Last Saturday, Vanessa and I arranged to meet at the track at 7am to run. As the boyfriend had a 100-mile race event that morning, I had to drop him off at MacRitchie first before making my way to Evans Road. I think Vanessa must have been too eager to run because, for once in her life, she was there BEFORE the agreed time.

She must have wondered why I wasn’t there EARLY because at 6.59am, she messaged me, “Debs, are you even awake?”

Anyway, her message got me thinking about something I have been intending to bring up for a long time.

latefeatpicWhen it comes to keeping an appointment, can you be counted on to show up, come what may?

I asked Vanessa, “Do I give you the impression that I’d bail on you?” She said no (thank god!) and asked why. I later explained to her that a couple of years ago, I was really into wakeboarding and would have continued if it weren’t for the fact that it was too tiresome getting people to show up when they say they would.

Wakeboarding is an expensive sport and since the instructor has only one boat, you need to book your slot early. Every hour is about $95 and if you book it for 4 hours, the total cost is $380. Now, if there are 5 of you, each person would then pay $76. The stress comes when someone changes their mind the night before, or that very morning. First off, it is not possible to find a replacement easily and at such late notice. Secondly, if your group cancels on the instructor, he can’t find another group to take up your spot that easily too.

It was through wakeboarding that I found out for myself which of my friends are responsible and can be counted on and, which of them are just people I’d never call if I got into an accident or got kidnapped.

And I’ve also found that those in the latter group tend to find it hard to excel in anything they do.

Whenever I’m due to meet someone from that group, I’d find myself doing what I have come to call the Paranoid Routine:

1. The day before, I’d message him/her, “So we are set for tomorrow?”

2. A couple of hours before we are to meet, I’d message again, “See you later?”

3. Before I leave to meet him/her, “I’m on the way. You’d better not be late.”

It is extremely exhausting when you have a friend who doesn’t feel the need to show up on time and as promised. I didn’t become friends with you to be your nanny or your secretary. And, if you can’t be rat-arsed to show up on time, does it mean, deep down, you really don’t respect my time at all?

On the other hand, I have friends that I can count on to show up … even if they are on their deathbeds. If we make a promise to meet at a certain time and place, I know eventually they will show up. They may be a couple of minutes late, their phones may be down … but I know I will see them.

Yep ... that's sooo true!

Yep … that’s sooo true!

And I think that is the difference between a good friend and a not-so-good one. It’s not just about showing up. It is the message behind the act of not fulfilling your promise that is the key here. Why do you think it is okay for you to let me down?

If I go out of my way to make sure I do everything possible to keep to our appointment, surely you should return that courtesy? If we have promised each other to do something together, the only excusable reason for not showing up is … sorry to sound morbid … Death.

This particular trait – the act of making darn sure you show up as promised – is something I feel a lot of stuck-in-the-rut people are missing. It’s more than just being punctual, it’s about being aware that there are others counting on you to be present, and you have to be there no matter what.

It is something that makes you not just a good friend but also a good co-worker, a good sister, a good daughter, and a good entrepreneur. If people know you can be counted on, they are more likely to want to include you in their projects. If people know you are never going to go MIA on them, they are more likely to entrust you with greater responsibilities. The saying “Showing up is 80% of the success” is 100% true.

Before I end, here’s a general rule of thumb I usually follow if I’m not going to be able to keep my appointment:

1. If a replacement is needed, I try to find it before I tell the other person I’m not going to show up. The onus to send someone in my place is MINE, not anyone else’s. 

2. If no replacement is needed, I try to give at least 24 hours’ notice.

3. If it’s a sudden emergency and I have no choice, I try to let the other person know before he/she makes his/her way to the meeting point. 

4. In future, I make sure I damn well not disappoint this person again.

The fear of letting people down … that’s the trait many of us are missing in this self-centered age and time.

About The Author: Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer/editor who works on this website full-time. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and hates it when she has to wait more than 15 minutes for anyone. Follow her on Twitter @DebTanTweets.


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