“Where’s the Ping-Pong ball?”

As a kindergartner, Steve Martin asked his teacher, “Where’s the Ping-Pong ball?” in his first gig playing Rudolph, the Red Nose Reindeer.

The teacher promised Martin a red Ping-Pong ball for the nose. To his disappointment, Martin did not receive the red Ping-Pong ball. Instead, he had to live with the substitute. Which was red lipstick pasted on his nose.

Steve Martin recounts, “What had been delivered as a casual aside, I had taken as a solemn promise: there had never been, I now realized, a serious intent to get a Ping-Pong ball, even though this was my main reason for taking the gig.” 

There is a valuable lesson to learn from this artist. The professional shows up and does her best work despite their circumstances. Despite the fact that promises were not kept. You go out and play the game. You might get beat up for being in the arena. But that’s the price you pay to play.

“I went on, did my best Rudolph, and because lipstick doesn’t wash off that easily, walked back home hiding my still-crimson nose under my mother’s knee-length top coat. One coat, four legs extending beneath.”

So when you are sitting across the table looking at the person who didn’t deliver what they promised: the products didn’t meet specs, quotas weren’t meant, or shipping will be delayed. Remember, “Where’s the Ping-Pong ball?” And despite what is on the board – make your next move the best move you can make.