You Never Know who’s watching.

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Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.  – Proverbs 22:29 

The Fast Company March/April 2024 edition listed the 100 Most Innovative Companies of 2024, and the American fast food restaurant chain was listed number one. At the helm of Taco Bell’s ascendance is 53-year-old Sean Tresvant, who joined the company in 2021 as its chief brand officer after 16 years at Nike, most recently as CMO of the Jordan Brand.  He was formerly Taco Bell’s Global Chief Brand and Strategy Officer until he was promoted to Taco Bell Division CEO in June 2023. In his fast company interview, he shared a great insight on the power of having a great work ethic and always showing up because you never know who is watching.

Growing up in Seattle, the son of NBA journeyman John Tresvant, Sean, who played basketball for Washington State University, briefly had pro ambitions of his own. But by his sophomore year, the 5-foot-11 guard realized it wasn’t a likely outcome. Luckily, this was 1990, and there were other ways to engage with sports in a highprofile way. ESPN and SportsCenter were hot, and Tresvant, a communications major, thought he could be the next Stuart Scott. After graduating, he sent résumés to ESPN and local Seattle news stations and confidently waited for the offers to roll in. “My mom said pretty quickly, ‘You better get over yourself and get a job,’ ” he recalls. “So I started selling wine at Gallo Winery. I was a merchandiser who would drive to the convenience store, cut open the box, set up the shelf.”

One night during the holiday season, Tresvant was in a store setting up a wine display when he noticed a guy watching him. He figured it was some district manager checking in to make sure the job was done right. The man walked up to him and said, “Excuse me, do you like your job?”

Tresvant lied. “Yeah, I like it.”

“Well, if you ever don’t like your job, I work for Campbell’s Soup, and I was just watching you and you have an amazing work ethic,” he said. “I’d like to talk to you about working in sales.” He offered his card, then left. This was Tresvant’s first major career lesson: You never know who’s watching.

He made that call, scored a sales job for Campbell’s, and worked toward his MBA at Seattle University at night. During this time, sports, media, branding, and culture were colliding in all sorts of unprecedented ways. Spike Lee’s Air Jordan ads elevated sports apparel to high art. Wayne’s World winked at product placement. Tresvant, excited about the possibilities, moved to New York and worked for a variety of companies, including Reckitt Benckiser, PepsiCo, and Sports Illustrated, before landing back in the Northwest at Nike in 2007. He describes it as his dream job.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michaelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

We get rewarded in public for what we diligently practice in private. As the above story by Sean shows, it pays to work hard, put your best foot forward and aim to add value in every situation you find yourself in. We live in a world where taking shortcuts is the order of the day, get-rich schemes are always trending, and taking the path of least resistance is our go-to strategy. Nothing great comes easy; Sean had to start from the bottom, and he gave it his best shot. In a similar vein, Canadian author Robin Sharman shares a similar story about the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs in his recent book The Wealth Money Can’t Buy: The 8 Hidden Habits to Live Your Richest Life. He advised “Avoid The “No One Will Notice It” Lie.”

Steve Jobs’s real hero was his adoptive father, a remarkably great craftsman who sweated every detail to make perfectly formed furniture in his free time. As a boy, Jobs would watch him measure the wood with fierce precision, line up the corners with near obsession, and be monomaniacally focused on getting the job done at a world-class level.

“One day, his father instructed him to go paint the fence outside their home and he did as told. A few hours later, his father appeared. “Steve, did you paint the fence?”

“I did, Dad, look,” the young Jobs replied, pointing to the structure. His father carefully inspected the work then observed, “Steve you’ve done a nice job painting the outside of the fence, but you didn’t paint the inside of the fence.”
Steve responded, “But, Dad, no one will see the inside of the fence.”

His father smiled, paused and then said, “But, Son, we will.”

Many years later, Jobs was working with his design team on the first Apple Macintosh. His instruction to his group? Make the computer beautiful on the outside. Make it look special, wonderful, and sensational. But the real mission, he pronounced, was to make the inside of the machine a work of art.”

“Someone on the team mused, “But, Steve, no one will see the inside of the computer.” And, of course, Jobs paused and then replied: “But we will.”

“You see, whatever you do at work, the bravest and sagest part of you sees everything—and I do mean everything—you do. And each time you betray your greatness by doing something that you know disrespects your genius, a small part of you dies. Part of you loses self-respect. Part of your enthusiasm, optimism, and hopefulness leaves you. Each act of average causes your promise to become defeated. And potential unexpressed turns to pain. So when you feel like playing small with your gifts or going minuscule with your personal magic, just remember that someone is always watching you. And that someone is always your highest you.”


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All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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