Respect the Yellow Line

The following is an excerpt from Be the Master: 2019 Edition. This is an in-progress edition, and you’ve invited to read along as it’s developed. It’s available now.

Disney recognizes something important about the human beings who work in its theme parks (I know, I use a lot of Disney analogies in this book). What they recognize is that _familiarity breeds contempt_.

What Disney sells, in its theme parks, is _escape_ and _entertainment_. It’s not just about rides; it’s also about an environment. In their lingo, it’s a _show_, and shows, like all forms of fiction, require the willing suspension of disbelief. You _know_ that princess is really just some college kid, but you _choose_ to participate in the show and treat her like Cinderella or whatever. A maxim of fiction is that, in order for the audience to maintain their willing suspension of disbelief, you have to avoid chucking anything out-of-story at them, like a pissed-off janitor who just got dumped by her boyfriend the night before and who doesn’t really want to be at work scraping gum of the asphalt this afternoon.

_All_ of us have worked in an environment where one or more people just got too comfortable. Lord knows the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles is well-equipped with people who forget why they’re there. But you know what I mean, here: that person who just brings all their baggage to work. They march in, plunk down, and make it clear that they’re not happy to be there.

Every single day you set foot out of your home, you’re engaging in a public performance. Everything you do affects everyone around you. That always-grumpy person isn’t going to be first in line for a promotion, because honestly, everyone wishes they’d just quit and go do something else. A surly middle school teacher isn’t going to be as effective as one that’s in a better mood, and who remembers why they’re in that classroom in the first place. _Every day_ is a performance, where you’re presenting your best self, even if that’s not how you really feel right then. Every time you drop the performance, and let people see through the facade, you’re breaking the story. You’re hurting everyone’s else’s ability to continue suspending disbelief. You’re damaging _your product_.

That’s why, at Disney theme parks, there are yellow lines. At any possible place where an employee can come from “backstage” and in sight of paying customers, there’s a line on the ground in yellow traffic paint. It’s a hard, visual reminder to _leave your shit behind_. It’s fine if you had a bad night last night. It’s fine if you got dumped. It’s fine it your cat died. It’s fine if you can’t pay your rent. Leave it all at the line, and it’ll be there waiting for you when your shift is done. Because once you cross the line, the performance _is on_. You smile, you briefly remember _what you are being paid to do_, you buck up, and you go do it. “Past this line,” they’re taught, “you put on the performance and you don’t break character. When you come back to the line, you can go back to being whomever you really are.”

What most of us lack, in life, is that yellow line. After going to the same office, the same job, the same coworkers day after day after day after day, we get complacent. We lose our respect for what we’re there for. We forget _who we are supposed to be_ at work, and we break character and drop out performance. _That’s_ when you damage Brand You. That’s when your paying customer — your employer — gets to see behind the curtain. That’s the precise moment when you take whatever seeds of success you’ve managed to plant there, and you crush those tender little shoots under your foot. That’s when your career declines into a mere job, and where you stop investing in your future. It’s where you damage your chances of ever truly becoming a Master.

So paint, in your mind, a yellow line. Perhaps it’s just indie the front door of your home. Perhaps it’s just outside the front door of your office. Wherever you paint it, mark it well. I’m serious: physically stand _at that location_ and visualize a line, painted in thick, yellow, reflective traffic paint. Notice the scuff marks on it, where others have walked over it time and time again. Notice the little nicks along one edge where the UPS guy wheels his hand truck across it every day. Make it so real, in your mind, that you can’t _not_ see it every time you walk past that spot. Ask yourself how much longer it’ll last before you need to touch it up. Make it _real_. And then respect it.

Every time you approach that line, _think about what it means_. Think about why you’re at this location, and what you hope to achieve from it. How is this job helping your career? How is this helping you achieve your own success, and your own Mastery? How is this job enabling you to help others, either now or someday in the future? _What is the point of it all?_ You don’t need to be happy to be there — but you need to remember _why_ you are. Examine every bit of baggage that you’ve got with you right then. Enumerate them: cat died. Got dumped. Kid needs braces. Car door got dinged. _See_ the baggage, pause at the yellow line, and _set down the baggage_. Nobody will touch it. It’ll all be waiting for you when you come back out, but it has no place on the other side of the line. Your performance is about to begin: review your lines. Put a smile on your face. Raise the curtain, step onto stage, and _deliver_.

If you’d like to read more from this in-development edition of Be the Master, you can grab your copy now. You’ll receive an email (if you permit it) each time there’s a new draft available, and you’ll receive the complete edition in early 2019. It’s a great way to get an early look, offer feedback, and help the book be the best it can be for helping you.

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