It’s so easy to mentally zone out as we go through the mundane parts of our day. I know I do. When I’m waiting in line, or to be called for an appointment, I can easily slip into a mental rundown of my “to-do” list, think through a challenge I’m sorting out, or maybe just zone out and tune out everything around me. This weekend, I learned what I was missing.
Saturday I visited a new salon with my mother-in-law. As I waited for her to get her new hairdo, I naturally opened up my laptop to get a little work done, or at least to cross some Christmas shopping off my list. I’m glad that I noticed when an elderly lady took the seat next to me to wait for her daughter. Instead of exchanging the normal polite pleasantries and diving back into my laptop, I was engaged by her experience-wizened face and the Caribbean lilt in her speech. For 40 minutes I intentionally stayed engaged and out of the laptop – and in 40 minutes I was re-inspired by the life story of a woman who has lived everywhere from the islands, to New York, to D.C., to Ocala, and who now lives in Tampa. She has moved herself and her husband, who suffers from dementia and Parkinson’s, to live with her adult daughter so they can care for him at home. I learned how she lost a son and birthed a daughter at 42 years of age. I heard about the hospital she worked in and the farm she and her husband ran in Ocala, the family parties they had over curried goat, her grandson struggling to find his path in life and her overall wisdom that “In life, we all have our trials, but God is good.” Whatever God or higher power you believe in, there is learning in that statement. And I was reminded that “In life, you have to keep a sense of humor – it makes the hard times easier.” I also was reminded how it felt when I moved to Detroit and had to learn where EVERYTHING was, from the grocery store to the doctor to the post office. Imagine doing it at 82! In 40 minutes of being present to another human being, instead of tethered to my laptop, I was touched again by how amazing families are and how they take care of each other. After all, when the laptops are closed and the phones are on silent, isn’t that ultimately what it’s all about? (For you hardcore business owners thinking, “what does this have to do with my business,” I’m going somewhere with this, I promise!)
This evening, my husband and I ventured out to get our Christmas tree. Considering it was the second evening and sixth tree lot we’d stopped at to find “the tree,” once we found it, we were more than ready to tie it onto the car and get home! As we waited for the tree to be cut and strapped onto our car, I half-heartedly chatted with the lot owners about their mack-daddy RV parked nearby. I decided to experiment again and see what story they had to share. I got present and learned that the owners travel 11 months out of the year; when it isn’t Christmas time they work the carnival circuit. It would have been easy at this point to totally write them off as “carnies” and zone out into my ever-present to-do list mental review. But I stayed in the conversation and asked them how they school their children while traveling so much. Amazing! I learned that not only did they home-school their children, but they set up a Christian school in an RV they purchased and outfitted with cubicle desks so they could offer certified schooling to all the children in the camp. The children learn as they gain real-life experience traveling to most of the 50 states and the Dominican Republic. The owner laughed and shared that, when someone asked his 6-year-old grandson if he could count to 20, he rolled his eyes and asked, “in what language?” He speaks English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Japanese. What a great reminder to create what we need and not be limited by traditional views and “walls.” And to use life experience as the difference maker. (I also Googled the RV make and model he had when I got home, and that sucker’s retail price starts at $850k, so Christmas trees and carnivals pay well!)
So what’s this got to do with your business? Simple. Your business is made up of PEOPLE – you, your team and your clients. I remember an employee who told me once, “I’ve worked here over four years and my boss doesn’t even know my daughter’s name.” Now, she didn’t expect him to come over for Sunday dinner, but to feel valued and appreciated, she needed him to have an interest and knowledge about the most important thing to her, her child. For her it wasn’t about the money or accolades – she simply wanted what she valued to be acknowledged. So the question is, what matters to your employees? When you unplug and listen, you can find out.
And team members, have you stopped to really learn who you are working for? So many bosses keep inside themselves stories even more amazing than the ones I shared above. Ask them why they do what they do – and what it really means to them.
And your clients? A wealth of experience and wisdom is waiting to just be asked about. What better research and development can you find than what’s inside your clients – what is most important and meaningful to them, and what they would pay to protect, care for and pass on.
It’s all available to you by simply and intentionally being present.
Life “outside my head” is WAY more exciting and inspiring than life inside my head. Come join me – the world is waiting.
Champions of your continued success,
Laney and Molly