Many moons ago, I interviewed for an account executive position at a local PR agency. As I was waiting for my first interview, I focused on a phrase painted on the conference room wall: You must be present to win.

During my interview with the owner, Kerry Tate, I asked her about the meaning behind the words. Kerry is an amazing storyteller and motivating leader. She had my full attention. (My former TateAustin colleagues will have to forgive my memory in the telling of this story. Kerry is a tough act to follow, and I’ve had a few years to make it my own.) Here is my version of their story:

Years before, an account team was attending an awards ceremony on behalf of their client. Not thinking the client would win, they left a little early. In the end, the client was named the winner, but lost the recognition because no one was there to collect the award. It was such a big deal, they painted the lesson on the wall:  You must be present to win.

The story made a huge impact on me and still informs how I live and work. Authenticity and connection are my measures of real presence. WHO you are and HOW you show up in the world, matters. A lot.

When I think about what I am being present to in my life right now, it is connection. When I choose to move towards connection — with kids, with my partner, with friends — I feel more connected to the present moment. When I let the cascade of tasks and to-dos dictate my attention, I’m not connected to myself or my people. And I probably don’t have to tell you that a string of days (or weeks or months) where you are disconnected from your people sucks. A lot.

To be very clear: I am not walking around in a state of present moment bliss — can you imagine that?! — but I am actively choosing connection when I realize I have a choice. Like many of you, I’m the product of our busy world. I may “get credit” for showing up, but in reality, I can be somewhere else, not present to life as it is unfolding in front of me. Just showing up isn’t enough if I really want to excel, learn or connect.

When I realize I have a choice, that choice keeps me more grounded in the present. Knowing what brings me back to the present moment is a big game changer for my day. Stringing those kinds of days, weeks and months together is the goal. This is a journey, after all.

In a family with competitive little boys, the words to win also catch my attention. What if winning wasn’t about competition with others, but rather in achieving your own intention, goals or experiences? What if you first started with a clear evaluation of what you want, and the process of getting there was to be present to the opportunities in front of you?

How could you be transformed by being fully present to the person, project or opportunity that is in front of you? What is worthy of your precious attention and presence? And, what do you win?

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”
Brene Brown, Daring Greatly