The Story Economy Blog

What I Learned From the Guy Who Kept Showing Up

A year ago this month, my uncle passed away suddenly. I wrote about it over on my old sewing blog, offering the best tribute I could in that week following.But what has stuck with me more than anything in these last 12 months is something the priest said during the funeral. “He was the same to everyone who knew him. You always knew who was going to show up.”

This is probably the best thing you could ever say about anyone. But beyond a eulogy, where it’s sometimes less about truth and more about honor, it’s the best thing to actually be true. And for my uncle, it was true: He was a man who understood situation and appropriateness—yet showed up exactly the same at his core, all of the time and to everyone.

In our modern, multi-layered lives, where our identities have as many nuances as shades of pink at sunset, where we constantly have to flip the on/off switch for roles we assume on one floor of the house and not another, where we create personas to be able to reach people and sell, sameness of character is wonderfully remarkable. It’s not that it’s hard. It’s just that we lose sight of it because it’s both so big (our entire way of being) and so small (the littlest detail of the littlest thing).

 Anything is Everything

In the past year, I’ve taken on a new belief, and it’s this: How you do anything is how you do everything. (I don’t know where this phrase originated, but I do know that I learned it from the lovely Darla LeDoux.)

Settle with that for a minute. How you do anything is how you do everything. What you bring to the most random task on your to-do list is the same as what you bring to the most important presentation of your life. The stuff that goes on when no one is looking is 100 percent related to the stuff you do to make everyone look.

You can take it to a neurotic place if you want. (“I didn’t use real lemon zest in the cookies! I’m lazy, phony, and cheap and I shouldn’t even leave my house!”)

But don’t do that. It’s not that kind of thing.

It’s just about noticing how you’re showing up in different places, and whether or not it all matches up. For us—the marketers who own businesses or take strong ownership of the brands we work for—it means this: we’re kidding ourselves if we’re creating marketing materials that don’t have anything to do with the thoughts we have when we first close our eyes before going to sleep. We’re kidding ourselves if all of our marketing is based on templates that serve to manipulate pain. We’re kidding ourselves if we’re trying to sustain a movement based on a persona that has nothing to do with how we talk to our kids, how we give a toast at a wedding, how we treat the person who works for us who makes $10/hour, how we talk to the TSA agent who needs to search our bag, or how we pay our bills.

Of course we all have bad days and bad moments and bad decisions. This isn’t about perfection. It’s about being aware that someone always needs to show up in what you’re doing, and it’s best if it’s the same person all of the time.

I think my uncle just instinctively knew this, and he held on to this idea, even as he went from humble beginnings to tremendous success. How he did anything was how he did everything.

Thanks for the lesson, Uncle Red. We still miss you something terrible.

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