Forgetting the Basics

To enter a WeWork building, you need a card. The card opens the front door outside of business hours, which, in my building, start at 9 AM. It also opens the back door and, really, any door inside the building, many of which you’ll have to pass throughout the day to go to the toilet, the printer, the phone cabins, and so on.

Given how essential the card is to the WeWork experience, you’d think everyone would have theirs on themselves at all times, and yet, one of the most commonly overheard lines is “I forgot my card.” Sometimes, I see someone waving at me from the front door before 9 AM. I open it and hear: “I forgot my card.” I see people crossing the hallway, talking to each other. “Can you open this for me? I forgot my card.”

Now, cards can absolutely be forgotten. It happens. We all misplace things on occasion. But if you can find a different case of someone forgetting the very key to the building they work in on a daily basis, the only logical explanation is that not everyone is just occasionally forgetful. Some are forgetful by default – and when it comes to the basics, that’s not a good thing.

When a student showed up one hour late to his first class of the semester, Professor Scott Galloway from NYU’s Stern School of Business asked them to leave and come back the next class. The student later complained, explaining they were sampling three simultaneously occurring classes. Galloway’s email response went viral not only for its biting humor but also for its profound life advice: Get the easy stuff right.

Being creative, leading others, making a difference; these things are hard. Showing up on time, being respectful, keeping your key card in your wallet; these are easy in comparison. The basics aren’t enough to succeed – that’s why they’re basic – but without them, we don’t have a baseline to start from. You can’t do a triple somersault if you don’t set up the trampoline.

Don’t forget the basics.