I used to work for a company that sold day planners. Well, actually the company taught people how to get the most out of their life by realizing what was most important to them, setting goals, and writing them in a day planner. Then we sold them the day planner. We had a much higher purpose than just selling the paper…
And really, that’s what we were teaching all those people – we were really hoping they could tie their daily lives into a higher purpose–so each day they were getting closer to their goals. Their lives would have more purpose. They would be happier.
It permeated the company. Many times I would finish a project and take it in for review by my boss (who I also consider a mentor) and he would start shaking his head and motion for me to sit in the soft, overstuffed leather wingback chair across from his desk, and he’d give me five minutes of how amazing I was, and what a great job I was doing for the company, and how my hygiene was beyond reproach…
Then he’d get to the things that he wanted me to change in the project. (read: The stuff I’d done wrong.)
Those changes were generally tied to “The Reason”. Every project I created for him had to have a “THEREFORE”. He’d wave in large sweeping motions as he would work into the energy of his delivery “Sure we’ve shown them amazing video, they’ve seen your amazing graphics, we’ve awed them with our message, but (giant hand motions to punctuate each word) Where. Is. The. THERE. FORE?
What was the reason? Why had we shown our audience all of this awesomeness. What did we want them to do now? There had to be a REASON. The Reason had to be clear.
Under the best of circumstances I’m not a morning person. At 9:00 am, Monday July 4th 2011, I was pulling into a McDonalds in Twin Falls, Idaho. I had gone to bed way too late, spent the night in a bed that wasn’t mine, and 9:00 am was feeling way too early. I might have just skipped breakfast, but I had my wife and youngest son with me. He was hungry… as teenagers are wont to be…
We placed our order, and were asked to pay at the first window. I swear, my hand on a really thick phone book, as I pulled around that building there was a ray of cheerfulness blasting out of the first window.
I could see it!
You know, like in the movies, when the aliens land and they open the door and as it swings down the light just comes flooding out and around everything and into the camera lens in blinding rays of glory?
It was like that. But not light. Cheerfulness.
I pulled into that cheerfulness with my drivers window down, which in retrospect was a foolish thing to do. I should have rolled the window up, and slowly lowered it so the cheerfulness didn’t just BLAST me in the face. But I wasn’t quite myself yet, and I drove right into the awesome cheerful power that was radiating from Sanday.
I told her that her cheerfulness was hurting me, and asked if she could please turn it down. It had the opposite effect as she laughed and actually become more cheerful. The cheerfulness was blasting past me, bouncing off of my wife and back at me. The kid in the back was getting cheerful too! I was getting it from all sides. A little cheerful Chernobyl right there in my car.
I smiled at Sanday, and asked how long she’d been at work – she’d already been that cheerful for three hours she said…
I acted surprised that there is actually another six o’clock, one in the morning, and she said, “that’s nothing, I gave birth to my baby at 4:00 am!” And the beams of cheerful suddenly became augmented with beams of pride, and love, and purpose…
Our transaction was done, but I lingered for a beat, looking at the change in this woman at the mention of her baby, and the thought occurred to me that we’d stumbled upon her REASON.
I thought, as I pulled away, that perhaps the REASON for Sanday to be so cheerful at 6:00 am was still at home sleeping in a crib.
My actual face-to-face interaction with Sanday was under a minute, including driving back around and cutting into line so I could take her picture.
I’m continually amazed at how often people share stories of their life, how quickly we can learn about them if we are listening. I was lucky. I had gone to Idaho with one purpose, and that was to listen to people’s stories. I was in that mode. Maybe I would have missed it otherwise.
I hope you enjoy reading my blog, but mostly I hope you’ll have a desire to gather a story or two of your own. I hope you’re inspired by these people like I am.
Therefore: I want you to go listen. Go listen to another person’s story.
I guarantee the people all around you are amazing. Give them five minutes. Ask a question. Listen. You’ll see.