About a year ago I was sitting at a stop light. It was a miserable, cold, rainy day and as I sat in my nice warm car, I looked around and saw a man in a bright orange apron walking up and down the rows of cars with his charity collection cup, trying to make eye contact with drivers. The wind was blowing hard and the cold rain had drenched him. He never came near me but I saw him and he changed me forever. I thought, this man could be home, lying on the couch and watching TV, but he chose to stand out here in the cold rain, holding up a cup to strangers who mostly chose to look the other way. Wow, that is something…that is behavior that I want to support. He’s not preaching to us; he is silent. He quietly sets the example of what it means to commit yourself to helping others. That day, I made the decision that from now on, whenever I see someone collecting for charity at a stop light, I will always roll down my window and support them. I have never missed a beat… I don’t think about it, I just see them and immediately grab my purse and hit the window button. Even if he is not near me, I wave my hand and wait for him!
I share this story to make the point that when we think through our experiences and come to conclusions that we can consistently act upon and feel good about, that is powerful! Further, if we embrace the experiences of others who have gone before us, we can save ourselves some hard lessons. In life and in our careers we have so much to benefit from the “lessons learned” by others. To find these valuable lessons is not always easy. It takes reflection, time and thought to dig deep to find the lesson and find a way to translate it into a future benefit. Over time, though, if we are observant and diligent we can accumulate these lessons into a valuable “business tool box” of knowledge to draw upon and share with others.
We all have struggles and challenges and it is no secret that from those hard times our most valuable lessons are learned. Very easily the lessons can be missed if we don’t take the time to mine the value.
Recently I went to a leadership summit and listened to three vibrant speakers who shared their stories. They were inspiring, energizing and gave me much to ponder. Each of them shared their most important lessons learned, some of which hit home with me and I will add to my tool box. I am grateful for these experiences because in our busy lives these types of opportunities allow us to think ‘big picture’ and focus on growth.
Following are two lessons to consider for your business tool box. These come after much thought and have served well over time:
- “You can always go back” – Did you ever have an important discussion where you just didn’t feel you made the points you wanted to make? Or did you think about it later and feel that there was other information that needed to be communicated? YOU CAN ALWAYS GO BACK. This is particularly important when it comes to giving or receiving feedback – these discussions can be difficult. If you don’t get it right the first time, why wouldn’t you take the time to fix it? If the relationship is valuable, this can be critical.
- “There are many ways to get to Detroit – but if you don’t get in the car and step on the gas, it is never going to happen!” This point relates to the fact that sometimes the best way to succeed is to try something, without the fear of failure and adjust from there. Failure is fine – accept it, learn from it and keep going.
If, on your way to Detroit, you are at a stop light and see a person standing there with a charity cup… Remember, she could be sitting at home in front of the TV and sipping a beer, but instead she chose to volunteer her time to stand there to collect money for others! That is behavior worth supporting!