Are you a thermostat or a thermometer

“Be a thermostat, not a thermometer.”
Is what my friend Curtis likes to say when we’re on the basketball court trying to recapture some youthful essence of our athletic glory days. We play most Saturdays with a motley crew of guys from around our community (we call it “Building Bridges Through Basketball,” which is pretty cool). Curt is the type of guy that, regardless of whether I’m playing with or against him, I always end up playing better.

 

When he’s on the basketball court he takes the game up a notch and brings others up with him.

 

In this regard, he is a thermostat, not a thermometer. See a thermostat actively sets the temperature. A thermometer passively reflects the temperature and does nothing to effect the climate of the room.

 

The Thermostat chooses to set the tone — elevating the conversation, the climate, the culture, and (even) the competition. And in doing so sets a new standard, a new tone.
The Thermometer simply conforms to and reflects the culture around it. 
(*NOTE: this isn't always a bad thing, depending on the context and culture) 

 

The Thermostat leads. The Thermometer passively follows.
Each of us gets to choose which we’ll be...
...when coworkers are gossiping.
...when clients are being difficult.
...when haters are hatin’. 
...when your boss is busting your chops.
...when your board is doing more hurt than help.
...when competition is eroding your industry’s reputation.

 

We get to choose to either be a Nest Thermostat — constantly learning the rhythms and landscape and setting the tone and pace accordingly. Or a thermostat that simply exists to conform to whatever the current environment is doing. 

 

Making this choice to be a thermostat over a thermometer is rarely easy. Yet we live in this beautiful point in history where most of us get a role in forging a culture of active ownership, responsibility-taking, and producing matterful stuff. But it's still a choice.

 

Some Saturdays my buddy Curtis doesn’t show — he’s got a new beautiful baby girl at home and he works hard to keep first things first. And we all feel the void left by his absence (not to mention the absence of his 6'3" 235lb. frame under the hoop).

 

We seem to hustle a bit less, charge the board with "meh"-intensity, play a little softer and sloppier, and call it quits a few minutes earlier.