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We’ve all heard the saying before – The early bird catches the worm. And while it might seem like arriving a few minutes early doesn’t do much, it is the best chance you have for success. 

Being early makes you an instant professional. It shows you value others as much as yourself. You are trustworthy, responsible, and reliable.

When you’re an early bird, there are more hours in the day. You have the time to be one step ahead and always go beyond the agenda.

In this episode, you’ll discover why showing up early gives you the best chance of success in all that you do.

Show Highlights Include:

  • Why becoming the ‘Early Bird’ makes you more productive, respected, and leadership material. (1:07)
  • How to find more hours in your day and make a real impact through the Carol Dweck mindset. (4:26)
  • Why setting the clocks a few minutes ahead turns you into a person of good character and excellence. (7:15)
  • How to become a person of excellence and forward progress through John Wooden’s sock tip. (13:50)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thanks so much for listening today. I want to discuss the concept of being early and all the advantages associated with showing up early, whether it's to work or to school, or for social engagements and events.

When you arrive early, you're perceived as a leader. You're perceived as someone of high character. You're not only punctual, but you're perceived as more professional, more trustworthy, more reliable, and one who values others just as much, if not more, than themselves. [01:03.3]

The website Indeed recently offered an editorial listing this particular variable as the number-one reason why punctuality is important. Indeed said showcasing professionalism is why being early is critical. Arriving early clearly communicates that the person will be guided by, according to the editorial, high standards and values.

Being early also reduces stress. You don't feel rushed. You're not prone to making mistakes. It frees your mind to think about things. You have an opportunity to demonstrate respect for other people, for other team members. You display leadership potential.

Actually, being early makes you more productive. You have more time in the course of a day. You have time to do things before the formality of meetings actually begins. You have time to catch up on tasks to reclaim small chunks of time lost on previous days. [02:12.2]

There are so many unforeseen benefits to being early. The old saying I really believe is true. The early bird really does catch the worm. I remember being a television news reporter in the ’70s and in the ’80s, and I remember learning this the hard way. I would come into work and one of the reporters that was always early always seemed to get a bead on the rest of us, always had a story in tow, always working on details before we were sipping our first cup of coffee.

It changed my thinking. It changed my actions. I started arriving earlier to work and it wasn't before long that I noticed that I started also cashing in on some of those benefits. There are a lot of benefits to being early. That early bird really does catch the worm. You might get a tip. You might get an account, even a free sample of the brownies before everyone else shows up to eat them. [03:15.3]

I want you to think about the words that are associated with being early. Trust, values, responsible, dependable, reliable, professional. Basically, your influence grows simply by making a choice to show up early. I like what John Maxwell said on one occasion. He said, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” I would like to add this to what Maxwell said. Your ability to influence people within the sphere of your periphery will really determine the impact that you make.

We live in a shallow, superficial culture, we all know that, and we live in a society that would rather look good than be good. There's nothing wrong with looking good, but looks don't carry the day. We have to grow our influence and there are few things that will grow your influence like showing up early. [04:13.2]

This constructs a certain mindset, this notion of showing up early, something that Carol Dweck, the author of the book, Mindset, would refer to as a growth mindset. People have a greater agenda. It's an agenda that goes beyond them. They're eager to learn, eager to stretch, eager to develop. They're constantly reimagining. They're on a mission. They are others-oriented. They are servant-leaders. They're disciplined. They're trustworthy. They're dependable. They make excellence dominant, prominent, preeminent, zenith, number one, top shelf, top drawers in their lives. An early mindset speaks of the stuff that will expand our capacity as a leader that will offer an amazing skill set to the organizations that we're part of. [05:07.8]

In my book, Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout, a book about the wisdom of my father, that third-grade dropout, the wisest man I ever met, and even though he only had a third-grade education, he had such keen insight on how we ought to live. He was early. My entire life of knowing him, my dad did not show up on time; he was always early.

I discussed in this book a growing trend among companies to hire nontraditional employees, retirees who are looking to redefine retirement by work and integrating some hours into their day. This is what I wrote years ago.

“What companies who employ older workers discover is both predictable and profound. The workers are dependable. They are honest. They possess a strong work ethic and they are on time, often early. [06:08.8]

“While the report noted a few challenges associated with hiring older Americans, the advantages they bring to the job far exceed any concerns employees may have voiced. These workers represent a population of people who lived off the land. They survived the Great Depression, defended our country during times of war and rebuilt our infrastructure in post-war America. This population of citizens planted the seeds that produced the greatest technological revolution in history and the greatest superpower in the world, and they did it with promptness, with honesty, integrity, diligence, and hard work.

“You may know people like this. What are your impressions of them? Do you find them loyal? Do you find them dependable and hardworking? How have they impacted your life? How have they influenced your work environment? What difference have they made in your family life?” [07:11.6]

I have a great example of a man that has really tremendously impacted me. He happens to be my father-in-law, affectionately known as Grandpa. His name is William Workman. Just recently, we celebrated Grandpa's 92nd year on this earth. It was a huge celebration. We had so much fun and we had to attend an event.

Now, I want you to listen carefully. I believe we had to leave Grandma and Grandpa's home at 9:30 in the morning. Grandpa was dressed and sitting at the kitchen table at 8:30, 92 years old, can outwork all of us, dressed and sitting at the kitchen table an hour before it was time to go. [08:05.4]

You see, friends, just as important as the task to Grandpa is the arrival time. Showing up early is non-negotiable. It communicates some things. It communicates that I’m trustworthy, that I’m thinking of other people, that I’m dependable, that I’m a person of my word. All of these things grow our influence. Don't ever forget the words from John Maxwell. “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

My example for my entire life was my father, Roger Rigsby. Even though he left school in the third grade, his wisdom was seismic. “Son,” he would say, “you'd rather be an hour early than a minute late.” Aristotle said on one occasion, you are what you repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. [09:03.3]

In my home, growing up, we never really knew what time it was. We knew the clocks were always set ahead, 10 minutes ahead, 15 minutes ahead, 20 minutes ahead, and to this day, to this day, I set my clocks ahead. My father's words, “you would rather be an hour early than a minute late,” are words that I think about every single day. They pulsate through my brain. I cannot, I will not be late and I don't want ever to just be on time, right?

This is a critical value to me and the way that my father really taught this value wasn't so much through his words. He would say that statement from time to time, especially when we boys were teenagers and working part time, but more important than speaking, my father modeled the behavior that he really wanted to see. It is really important that you emulate that which you want replicated. [10:08.5]

So, watch this, my father, according to my mother, for 30 years, he would get up and go to work at 3:45 in the morning. There's nothing unusual about that, except that work was only 15 minutes away and he didn't have to be there until five o'clock.

One day my mother said, “Why don't you go to work so early?” and this was his response. “One of these days, one of my boys will be up and they will catch me in the act of excellence,” and while we didn't wake up that early to catch him with that particular act, there were many acts that we did catch all through the day, all through the evening, all during the 40-plus years I observed my father. He was never on time. He was always early. [10:58.5]

I began to realize, with my dad, it was a value. He modeled the behavior that he thought would give us the best opportunity to grow our discipline, to communicate to others that it wasn't about us, but that it was about them. This is what my father was really saying.

Now, keep in mind, the first time I heard him say, “Son, you'd rather be an hour early than a minute late,” I was probably 16 years old, so 50 years ago, my father first said that to me. I’ve had a long time to think about what he was really saying, and as a leader, I can tell you loud and clear. This is what my father means. Son, as a leader, inconvenience yourself daily for the sake of those who follow you.

I want you to listen carefully to the two statements.


“Yes, Daddy?”

“You'd rather be an hour early than a minute late. Son.”

“Yes, sir?”

“What that means is this. If you're a leader, inconvenience yourself daily for the sake of those who follow you.” [12:08.5]

You see, my dad's message I now realize had much less to do with time and much more to do with mindset. We live in a culture where discipline has eroded. Yesterday, though, the old folks would speak of possessing common sense, right? I go all over the world and I tell people that the two casualties of a shallow superficial culture, the lack of common sense and the lack of executing basics.

I had a third-grade dropout daddy who was a master teacher who taught me that if I executed the basics better than anyone else, I would grow my capacity for that which I want. One of his basics was showing up early. You see, my father was not merely teaching time, but he was teaching the basic art of science and discipline. [13:08.5]

My father scientifically taught me the value, the pragmatic value of showing up early. In our high-tech, post-modern era, style points are valued and character points are vilified. But the essence of my father was character and discipline. I recall the little things in his life that reflected his self-control that reflected his order. There was a certain way he would tie his shoes.

Reminds me of another man who taught fundamentals, a man by the name of John Wooden. The first two lessons John Wooden taught his basketball players, the proper way to put on your socks will prevent blisters and making sure you tie your shoes so that your shoe laces don't become untied and you stop forward progress. [14:05.6]

There was a certain way men and women of that generation would do things, a certain way they would care for their belongings, a certain way that they would care for their cars in their homes.

I can hear my dad's voice ringing in my mind with a piercing familiarity right now in an era where I don't check my tires on my car, in an era where so many of the car’s features are automated. I can still hear my father saying, “Son, make sure that oil is changed every 3,000 miles. Rotate those tires every 6,000 miles. Check your tires before every entry into your car. Never drive a car beyond a quarter of a tank of gas, not for the engine. Always keep your tools clean and always keep these things in your trunks, son, a flashlight, some rope and a blanket.” [15:00.0]

Isn't it strange how yesterday's boring and redundant and routine lectures from parents produce tears in our eyes today. Yep, my dad was teaching more than just being early. His generation was passing the torch to a new generation and the lessons are inescapable. To this very day, much to my family's amusement, I still kick the tires before each trip. I still check the backseat before getting into a vehicle and I take pride, the pride of my father, by being early everywhere I go.


“Yes, dad. If you're a leader, inconvenience yourself daily for the sake of those who follow.”

It's not a lesson being taught in today's business schools. You’ve got to hang around a certain generation of folks to get those nuggets. The next time you have an opportunity, spend some time with a member of the greatest generation. Just make sure you arrive early. [16:03.2]

That's going to do it for this episode. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how ya livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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