Back last fall I was waiting for a friend to arrive for lunch. A senior manager with a large financial services firm, she was running late. When Amy arrived, about twenty minutes past our scheduled time, I compared her entrance to that of the Tasmanian Devil. The door to the restaurant opened and this whirl of frenetic activity surged toward me.
“I’m so sorry I’m late,” she exclaimed, “but this has been the morning from hell. I’ve been in a meeting all day up until I was able to extract myself away to join you for lunch. This meeting, four hours, mind you, was a horrible experience. I got nothing, absolutely nothing, from it. It just went on and on, hour after hour, seemingly without an end or an agenda.”
She continued her diatribe for several more minutes repeating much of the same nonsensical verse. Her eyes finally connected with mine, and when she saw my slight facial smirk she held her head askew to ask, “What? What’s that look for?” I allowed a pregnant pause to build for a moment, somewhat for effect but also to invite a bit of calm to the conversation.
“Did you ever stop and think for a moment that you weren’t meant to get, but to give? If you fully consider the meeting, I’m willing to wager that someone in it was thankful you were there, that you solved a problem they were facing or a dilemma they were in the middle of.”
That brief observation, the challenge I put to her, set her aback and made her think. She quickly melted. Her blood pressure returned to normal. She visibly transformed to a calmer, more normal, self. You could see her mind returning to the meeting, replaying the tapes of dialog. “Well, yes, I suppose you’re right,” she said. “I did help Freddie solve a perplexing project dilemma that had him extremely worried. And Annie had gone down a path that was sure to lead to disastrous consequences until I brought out an alternative she hadn’t considered.”
The remainder of our lunch was quite pleasant and we moved on to friendlier subjects. After she left to return to work I thought a lot about our earlier exchange. I wondered how many people fall into a similar trap of measuring success by what they received, not by what they gave. And in a weird sense, if Amy had spent any amount of time appreciating the assistance and advice she had provided to Freddie and Annie (and others, I’m sure), she would have come to realize just how much she did receive, the gratification that comes from helping others.
Two sides of the same coin.
Whenever you find yourself in a similar situation, be sure to ask yourself, “is it really about what I got, or is it about what I gave?” A fuller, more complete, life comes from helping others and realizing the value we have to give. As a matter of course at the end of each day, don’t ask yourself, “what did I get today?” Ask yourself, “what did I give today?” And when you awaken every morning challenge yourself with what you can “give away” that day.
Author: Mike Jones
Date: November 13, 2015