Pointless Space Saving

I’m kicking myself for not taking the picture. On July 4th, I ventured with my mother to our local town for the annual parade. Arriving an hour in advance, we were dismayed as we drove up and down the parade route—every spot, both in shade and out was reserved. The irritating part? A good 50% of the chairs were EMPTY. We gave up and went home.

Every year, we’ve had to arrive earlier and earlier to get a spot, but we drew the line at an hour. I suspect we won’t even try next year. Beyond my disappointment, I was reminded how much space savers drive me crazy. I draw a clear line between people waiting in line or holding a spot with their physical presence and those people (you know who you are) that use objects to save them a spot.

All those empty chairs represented people who believed the parade was worth their time, but waiting to watch the parade was not. My evil side wants to show up at 6 a.m. next year, set up hundreds of chairs, then spend the next four hours politely informing people, “I’m sorry. This seat’s taken.” Ridiculous, right? (but oh, so tempting)

The absent space-saving behavior reminds me of companies who “save” a spot in the market with crappy me-too products. If you want the benefits, pay the price. Regardless of the goal, if you don’t believe it’s worth investing your time before the payoff, why do it?

“Eighty percent of success is showing up,” said Woody Allen. (link) I think that’s why, for example, Apple continues to charge ahead, and companies like Dell and Microsoft are late to the party. Apple always shows up. You saw it two weeks ago with the build up to the iPhone. And already, rumors (mostly believed to be untrue) are flying around that a smaller, Nano-based version is in the works. That’s a benefit of showing up—people talk about you.

A mentor gave me a piece of advice: never assume your time is more valuable than someone else’s. That’s why I believe showing up is one of the most powerful things you’ll ever do. You’re showing your commitment, and you’re respecting the time of those who’s attention you seek. Isn’t it easier to believe in someone, in something, when you see the commitment instead of the empty chair?



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July 2007
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