a rapping flight attendant and a clapping plane

For those of us that live somewhere between average and ordinary, we're brought to our feet in praise and appreciation when we see the simple things done really, really well.

When everyday jobs are done so excellently and creatively, we can't help but clap.

Can you recall an example of this in your life?

Let me share a recent story from mine.

I settled into seat 10C - my preferred seat of choice on my last 100 Southwest Airlines flights - and popped in my headphones. I wanted to tune out the lady smacking her gum on my right, and the “bro” recounting his epic weekend to his other “bro” on the phone to my left.

At this point in my air-travel-career, I can recite the crew’s pre-flight speech line by line, including the appropriately timed pauses to perform the oxygen mask and life preserver demonstrations. Knowing when that speech starts and at what point it will end tells me how much project time I have left before shutting down my computer.

So with my music turned down just enough to hear the flight attendant begin his pre-flight speech, my ears picked up something they weren’t expecting.

“Ladies and gentle... just right turn attention here! I mean, to the front of the cabin for a seatcard back pocket and 'monstration.”

He was awkward and this, as a frequent-flyer I know, was not how it’s supposed to go.

I cringed and looked down at my feet. I felt bad for the guy. He was clearly new, and probably nervous that he was given the okay to do the big speech during his first few weeks on the job.

It’s embarrassing to screw up a pre-scripted speech in front of 186 passengers who aren't really interested in what you have to say in the first place. I stole a glance at the rows next to me. Everyone else was looking down out of respect. We were giving the poor guy some privacy.

But that’s when I heard something I really didn’t recognize - beatboxing.

The flight attendant busted out his best hip-hop beat and launched right into it. He flew through the safety briefing with a voice as crisp as Chance the Rapper and as sultry as John Legend.

I was duly impressed. Rhymes and puns were woven throughout the standard FAA-mandated safety information and he didn’t stop there. He cruised on past his script to finish with, "Mike's on the beat, so you betta buckle yo seat, we 'bout to get it in the air, and don't get it twisted, this flight's rare."

He dropped his mic, threw his hands up in the air, leaned his head back, and sighed with a victorious, "ahh."

The plane went nuts. Clapping, whistling, hooting and hollering, everyone gave it up for our flight attendant Mike as he captured our attention and admiration.

Even the "bro" to my left flipped open his Snapchat app to record the moment. 

To a fault, I'm always looking for the next big thing. I become restless too easily and discontent too quickly.

There was one day in my life that I decided to quit a fancy consulting job and run off to the grand adventure of co-founding a small company. After that moment, I thought big breakthroughs and cosmic conquests would just continue to happen to me.

When those moments didn't continue to happen, and I learned that something that seems as glamorous as building a company is actually full of mindless emails, to-do's, and phone calls, I realized that our lives are actually constructed by the sum of much smaller things.

Quiet consistency and doing the small things really well - not big ideas or single adventures - have created my life's most meaningful memories and influential experiences. 

Just like a Southwest attendant that repeats the same speech over, and over, and over, our lives' good things are sketched out by the slow drudgery of everyday moments.

An easy example of this in my life is the sport of triathlon.

When I was in 7th grade, my best friend Daniel and I joined our middle school track team. I was 4' 8" tall and weighed about 100 pounds. I was slow, asthmatic, but I thought that if I showed up and just tried really hard, I could excel in track. 

We had about two weeks of practice before our track meet, and I was excited about that. I mean, who wants to spend weeks running endless laps around the same circle? Isn't it more fun to just show up and compete in the meet?

When we arrived at the meet and looked at our assignments, I saw that our track coach assigned me to the high jump. Yes, that's right. All 4' 8" of me. To nobody's surprise, I couldn't make it over the bar even one time during that meet, and subsequently, I quit the track team. 

Years later, I decided to sign up for an Ironman triathlon with the same friend, Daniel. An Ironman is 140.6 miles of swimming, biking, and running - not something that you can fake.

For ten months, our alarms went off at 5 a.m., we drank coffee, ate toast smothered in peanut butter, rode our bikes to the gym, swamp laps, lifted weights, ate endless amounts of Thai food, skipped alcohol, rode our bikes some more, and so on.

As I crossed the finish line of that Ironman, I don't remember feeling overwhelmed with excitement. I remember feeling justified.

I remember feeling justified because I spent so many dull, boring afternoons on a bike trainer and bitter mornings running through cold wind. I was ready, and my race went as I planned. 

As I crossed the finish line, I realized that the feeling of climbing a mountain is much more satisfying and fulfilling than the fleeting thrill of bungee-jumping.

In 7th grade, I was looking for a quick thrill. Through triathlon, I found greater meaning in showing up and doing the little things really well, every day, through months of training.

It may seem backward, but small, slow, intentional steps develop into the greatest parts to our stories over time.