What I learned from Mikki Williams that stuck with me for over 20 years


On December 18th, 1995 Mikki Williams did a presentation for my, then TEC, now Vistage, Group 100 entitled — Pyromania: How to set a fire under yourself. Like most all presentations there was a good amount of wisdom and take home for the moment and, like most presentations, almost of that wisdom was forgotten relatively quickly. However, as I mentioned in a previous story here called Stupid Human Tricks — I have set my bar for success very low and, though I try to actively listen to everything said, I only look for the one thing to take home and really implement. That one thing that stuck with me all of these years from the 90 minutes or so Mikki was in front of us was to — ask, and more importantly, ask first. It was punch line of her “Ferrari Factor” story, which was all about taking a risk and asking for what we want, no matter how outrageous.

In short the story was about a friend of hers — a super tiny beautiful blonde that happens to drive around in a red Ferrari convertible. It was told that at a stop light a bunch of guys who were playing basketball came up to her and only one of them who rushed to the front said, “Lady, you would make my day if would just give me a ride around the block.” She actually took him up on that ask and he got to wave to everyone he knew on that ride with a big smile on his face. When they returned the next person was ready to get in but the answer to the rest was, “No, he asked first.”

Since then, and perhaps because of then, there have been many times in my life that I have gone out of my way to not only ask, but ask first. The flip side for me has been doing my best to respond — and respond quickly. For almost everything that matters, small to large, one can either answer positively now or say no with the affirmation of never looking back. Meaning opportunity is a two way street that more often than not only holds open for a brief period of time. Sometimes the ask comes from you while, at other times, the ask comes from someone else.

Time is the great equalizer that is given to us all in the same proportion. Asking is taking a risk. As Mikki says, “When you live, you risk dying.” If you don’t ask you don’t get. Time can either be spent asking, and getting ahead, or asking, and finding out what doesn’t work. All of the rest of the time waiting on the sidelines is wasted. In a different story called “Advice to a younger self” I briefly mentioned how important taking those risks are.

Mikki went even further using the acronym “PIES” to help you think about the types of risks you can take: Physical — meaning anything involving the physical world, Intellectual — meaning anything that will stretch or otherwise challenge your mind, Emotional — meaning anything that comes from the heart, and Spiritual — meaning anything that helps build your soul.

20 years later and I still remember this. It helped me build a life I am grateful for. Perhaps it will help you too.

(Originally posted on Medium)