January 14, 2017

What if you actually waltzed in late?

Most of us, if we are late for a professional appointment, will show a great deal of remorse and quickly broadcast both apologies and excuses as we walk into the room. There is a certain hangdog, stressed out, frazzled air that accompanies our tardy entrance and we will usually heap some extra shame on ourselves for our crime. The “waltzing in late” expression means to enter briskly, without hesitation, and with self-confidence: “He waltzes in every morning at 9:30 and doesn’t care what his boss thinks.”

The Viennese Waltz, so called to distinguish it from the Waltz and the French Waltz, is the oldest of the current ballroom dances. It emerged in the second half of the 18th century from the German dance and the Ländler in Austria and was both popular and subject to criticism.

The person waltzing in late doesn’t care and doesn’t apologize that he made the other people wait for him. In fact, he is positively buoyant! Who does this cavalier fellow think he is? What if we took it to another extreme and actually waltzed into the room? Would you do this with an imaginary dance partner twirling in with a graceful step characterized by a slight anticipation of the second beat of the bar and having a romantic quality? Would you do it with a small stereo system attached to your person? Or maybe you could hire a partner for this little “sorry I’m late” show. What if you hired a small chamber orchestra of string players that dressed in period costume and powdered wigs that set up 10 minutes before your arrival? “Excuse me what are you doing?”, someone would ask the powdered wig guys with violin and cello cases. “Oh Ross hired us to play a Viennese waltz by Strauss while he enters. He will be here in a few minutes probably.” What if the chamber orchestra guys are late? What if one of them is late and the others are frustrated waiting for him?

After a lifetime of tardiness problems, I have made some internal adjustments and am now having some success waltzing in early. There have been some situations that have forced me to be on time. One of them is airports. Entire planeloads of people will not wait for you if you’re running late so somehow I get myself together and I make it on time. The other situation was the printing plant in Nashville where I worked for 7 years. This place had a time clock and you would punch in like Fred Flintstone with a card. If you were a minute late it was counted as 15 minutes so there was something about that punch in process that got me to the plant a bit early. I was talking to my boss one day and was saying I didn’t know why it was such a struggle to get to my day job in time when, in my music career it’s been less of an issue. I wouldn’t dare think of missing the downbeat i.e. coming in for a gig late and the band has already started. So, this became a phrase if I ever punched in late at the plant my co-workers would say “hey you missed the downbeat”. The downbeat concept was a powerful tool for me to begin to overcome my tardiness problem for non-musical appointments.

Leaving the house late was not the problem. The problem was leaving the house on time but realizing I hadn’t gathered my things and wasn’t prepared. Suddenly there are 10 minutes of delay tacked on to what would have been a timely departure.

About a year ago I wrote 3 phrases out in big capital letters on a piece of paper and taped it to the wall:




It’s been said that writing your goals down increases the likelihood that you will accomplish them. It’s also been said that there is some value in looking at your goals daily. Thus, the to-do list that some of us write down and look at every day is tremendously valuable in getting short-term goals accomplished. Anyway, this note on the wall has really had an impact on me. This sounds like some basic grownup stuff here but I finally figured out that planning and being prepared are both tied in to successfully being on time. Recently I have been pausing a bit when I show up early and I just kind of wallow and lay back and relish the peaceful feeling of not being rushed and not beating myself up and not having to make excuses or apologies. This being early thing is great!

Listen, the degree of planning, preparation, and expense that is required to hire a small chamber orchestra dressed in wigs and period costumes to arrive before your entrance demonstrates that you have more than enough capacity to plan ahead, gather your things, arrive early and waltz in confidently without stress, excuse, or fanfare. You can do it!

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