What Will Smith & Jimmy’s 94th Birthday Planners Forgot To Do (#259)

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In this episode, I talk about the Power of Asking. A.S.K. Too often we assume that what we think is what other people think, and we just move ahead with something because it’s going to work for us. But not everyone is us, and not everyone thinks like us, and not everyone wants what we want. But there’s an easy way to get around that, and I go into it in this episode.

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Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta  00:07

Hey, everyone, thank you for joining me for another solo Friday episode of The How’d It Happen podcast. And today I’m going to share a story with you about the power of asking — the power of asking. In February, my wife and I did a road trip to Florida; we went to Anna Maria Island on the west coast of Florida. And we drove because we wanted to bring our five-year-old golden retriever, whose name is Riley, with us. And I wasn’t looking forward to it; it was, you know, a 20-hour drive each way. We broke it up about 10 hours each day. So four days of driving, essentially. I hadn’t done that much driving since I think way back in the 90s when I was still driving a truck for Advanced Waste Services, my first startup company. But one of the things that the driving did is it gave me a lot of time to think. And I wrote a whole bunch of stuff about my thinking, which I’ll share with you at some point later. But it also gave my wife and I time to listen. We listen to books on Audible. And one of the books that we listened to was this book called Will, Will Smith’s memoir. And it’s a very thick book. It’s a very long book, 16 hours, I think plus worth of listening, but I had received the book for Christmas, and I was looking forward to reading it. But then this trip gave me an opportunity to listen to it instead, which I think in retrospect turned out to be a better experience because having Will actually narrate his own book was cool, because, you know, he uses different voices and he did some singing and he did some other things that you just wouldn’t have gotten the same experience or I wouldn’t have gotten the same experience from reading the book. So I do recommend the book — I think it’s a little bit too long, I’ll go right out there with it.

Why do I bring up Will Smith’s book? Well, chapter 18 of Will’s book is called “Mutiiny.” A number of things didn’t go the way that he thought they were going to go or the way he wanted them to go. The first was with his daughter, Willow, who was quite young at the time, but you may remember she became a big music star with a with a song that was called “Whip My Hair,” I think it was called, you know, I whip my hair back and forth, whip my hair back and forth. And it was a really, really big hit. And she went on tour and she went all over the place and Will is so excited about her success, but it didn’t last; her success would have lasted but she didn’t want to do it anymore. And he was so surprised that she wouldn’t want to do this anymore with all the success that she was having. And finally, one day she came down for breakfast at some point and she had cut off her hair off. And anyway, he goes into it in a lot more detail, but that’s the first thing so he had this experience with his daughter, Willow.

The second thing was that his son, Jaden, who was becoming a movie star was doing a movie and he felt that his dad had abandoned him and he considered and was exploring what needed to be done to become an emancipated minor, meaning someone that essentially leaves their family, they choose to leave their family to emancipate themselves from their family, so that was number two. 

The third thing was while this was happening, or sometime the same year I guess it was, his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, had just turned 37. And he started planning her 40th birthday party at that time. So he put three years of planning into Jada’s 40th birthday party surprise.  Some of it or most of it was a surprise, so she didn’t know what was going to happen, who was going to be there. Three years, he traveled all over the world, you know, to make this the most incredible experience that he could. And when he unveiled the 40th birthday celebration, I think it was a three-day or four-day event with a smallish group of people and then all these amazing stars that came to the party to entertain. And he was just so over the top, happy with what he had done. And he tells a story about he and his wife going back to the hotel room the day before the last event, and she was crying. And he couldn’t understand what she was crying about. She wasn’t talking to him at all. And the short story is you can read all the details in the book, but the short story was that she hated the birthday party, the 40th birthday party, she hated everything about it. And they separated over it, and it almost led to divorce. 

As I was listening to that chapter going through this Mutiny chapter in his book, and those three things, you know, he’s got a daughter, son, and then his wife, I was reminded of this exercise that I had done in 2021 with my Vistage group. And it was during a presentation that Cujo Teschner, who’s been on the podcast with us. And it was called Jimmy’s 94th Birthday Party. And the instructions that we were given was to deliver Jimmy a 94th birthday experience that he will see as a highlight of his life. And the group broke up into partners, groups of two. And we started to brainstorm about what we could do to deliver Jimmy this incredible 94th Birthday experience. And at the end, we debriefed on it. And all the two-person groups had their ideas, and we shared the ideas with Cujo. And at the end, he said, Okay, well, who thought? Did anyone think to ask Jimmy? What would make his 94th Birthday experience one that he would never forget? And we were kind of all looking at each other? Like, no, none of us thought to do that. And I know he set it up that way. He probably does that with everybody. But it really made me think after after listening to Will go through his things in his book and then me thinking back to this this Jimmy thing with my Vistage group that, you know, there’s a real lesson here. There’s a lesson for all of us from you know, what Will described and what we went through with Jimmy and the lesson is three letters. Ask. A.S.K. Ask. 

It’s like too often we assume that what we think is going to be what other people think that we just move ahead with what we think because If it’s going to work for us, why wouldn’t it work, you know, for everyone else. And so we move ahead, and we forget. Or maybe we just discount that. Not everyone is us. No matter how close we are to them, not everyone is us, not everyone thinks like us. And not everyone wants what we want. But there’s an easy way to get around that. And that, obviously, is to ask people what they want. And when you ask someone what they want, you’re actually giving them a really big gift. Because if you ask them what they want, and they tell you what they want, then you’re like way far ahead of the game, when it comes to actually delivering what they want, and that’s not just in business, that’s in your personal life as well, your family life, you know, I get that there are, you know, some times you want to do surprise people. And maybe it’s a little tricky when you want to surprise someone, but I would say that if you’re going to do a surprise for someone ,do the work around the edges, craft carefully to try to get out of the person what they would want by asking, you know, maybe on the margins or on the edges, as opposed to just you know, diving in with your own thoughts and then not asking and then having something either blow up in your face or not be as impactful as the time, the energy and the effort that you’ve put into it to make it be an impactful thing. 

So find out what people want. Ask them what they want, and then deliver them what they want. And I think that if you can do that, you’re going to make a lot of people happy and you are not going to fall into the into the traps that Will Smith fell into and that I’ve fallen into along with all of my fellow mates at the Vistage meeting. And what most of us probably fall into from time to time because we forget to ask people what they want and give them the biggest gift that we can, which is to ask and then deliver. 

So thank you for investing your time and energy in me and the podcast today. If you’ve got a positive return on your investment, please share the episode. Follow or subscribe to the podcast so that you can get every episode automatically as soon as it comes out. Until next time, maximum cut three to one. Until next time, maximize your greatness.

Mike Malatesta

Mike Malatesta

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I help entrepreneurs get unstuck, take back their power, achieve their life objectives, and create the futures they want.

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