My colleague Mark David Jones is founder of Small World Alliance and a former Disney exec. He recently sent me a signed copy of his new book, Lead With Your Customer (which I recommend). The autograph was in some of the most amazing handwriting I’ve seen–really impressive! I asked him about how he developed such incredible penmanship and his response is both interesting and instructive. Here’s what he said:
“I had horrible handwriting my whole life (to the pint people used to joke that I would be a physician.) In 1979, I was at Disney as a manager in the Entertainment department. One of my duties was to be in charge of scheduling the shows & parades – back before computers, etc. so I was using a grease pencil on a series of giant whiteboards.
We were running a big special show in front of the castle that showed once a night for a few weeks during a holiday season. Because my handwriting was so poor, the two people who did a key role in the show (the principal and the understudy) BOTH thought they had the day off. By the time anyone realized neither one of them were there, it was too late for either of them to make it in to work and we had to cancel the show that day…at the cost of $60,000. (More than three times my annual salary in 1979!) Needless to say, disappointing about 12,000 guests and over 100 cast members didn’t go over too well. I was given a second chance (what were they thinking??), but told in no uncertain terms that I would be fired with extreme prejudice if it happened again.
Traumatized, I grabbed the two people I knew with the best handwriting and convinced them to help me “re-learn” how to write well. Over the weeks and months that followed, I gradually got better and better. No pixie dust or weird magic process – just hard work, intense feedback, and more (painful) hard work. Ironically, now people comment on how GOOD my handwriting is.
Anyway, it taught me that we can improve ANYthing that is behavioral (play a guitar, lay mosaic tile, fly a plane) if we practice enough and pay attention to the details while we’re doing so. I believe anything else is a lame excuse for not applying myself fully.
Here endeth the lesson.”
I’m going to call Mark’s lesson–and you’ll not be surprised given my love of alliteration–“the penmanship principle” which is: you can improve ANYTHING with the right instruction, effort and practice.