Over a year ago my seven-year-old daughter (who was six then) went with her granny to Walmart to buy towels. The towels were marked on sale, so they picked up four or five. At checkout, the clerk determined those towels were not on sale and refused to give the sale price. Granny is not one to be taken advantage of, so she left there after expressing her unhappiness for how she was treated and went to Target to buy towels instead.
Fast forward to last week. I took my seven-year-old to get something at Walmart. As we were walking through the store, she said, “daddy, Walmart is mean.” I asked her why and she recounted the entire story of the towels. I would bet that years from now she will find that she prefers Target over Walmart and this experience will be a part of that subconscious decision.
Impressions like that are hard to shake and one employee on one bad day can make an impression that can shape someone’s perception of your company for a lifetime. This was a great reminder for me to always be aware of the impression that I’m making and it’s potential long term effects. It also reminded me that when someone does have a bad impression, I have to work extra hard to overcome that and win them over.
The other day someone asked me what I wish I had known at 18. I wish I had known a lot! But, a few things immediate sprang to mind.
- Have a long term plan. When I was younger the sky was the limit and looking back on that time I realize that I really didn’t think very far out. I would make decisions based very much on the short term without really thinking about how that decision would play out in the long term. Having a written out, long term plan would have been immensely helpful.
- Have humility and listen more than you talk. At 18 I knew it all. Knowing it all makes you a terrible listener and pride is a great setup for a fall.
- Relationships are precious, fragile and require more care than you think. I just assumed that relationships were easy because many of mine had been up to that point. In my young adult life I took too many relationships for granted and didn’t show enough effort and appreciation towards people that were important to me.
What do you wish you knew when you were 18?
Have you ever had a door to door salesperson pop up at your door at just the wrong moment? And, worse than that, the person pops up offering something that you may actually need, but haven’t considered recently. Those door to door sales people are tricky, they usually are offering something I know I need, something I haven’t thought about in depth, and then they go for gold with the, “we will have a team on your street tomorrow, would you like us to schedule a free estimate for you?” Brilliant! To which I reply, no thanks, I don’t say yes to door to door sales people.
It’s nothing personal. They probably made a great pitch. And, I may actually need their service. But, I predetermined my decision a long time ago that I will not say yes to a door to door salesperson because if I do, I’m likely to get sold without really thinking through things. Instead, I ask them for their information and assure them that I will reach out if I’m interested. No amount of pressuring me will change anything because the decision was already made, years ago.
The power of making a predetermined decision is that you don’t have to decide in the moment. Deciding in the moment can be dangerous because you don’t have all of the information or may not have considered all of the angles. Deciding ahead of time allows you to do that, and helps you make better decisions.
The same thing applies with getting up in the morning. Your morning self can’t be trusted to decide what time to get up because your morning self values more sleep over all other things. But, if you predetermine your morning routine the night before, you will make a better decision overall.
Do you have any decisions that you have predetermined? If so, please share, I would love to know.
I’m traveling in London. When we got here over the weekend one of the first things we did was to hop into a cab (which are way cooler than in the US) and head to the hotel. The cabbie was a British white guy, with a heavy accent and a seemingly unending supply of opinions that he assumed we shared. It turns out you can find racist people in the UK too, who knew. Of the many things that he said that we found both disturbing and amusing, one of them was a derogatory comment toward Chinese people. Since both Jeff and I have adopted children from China, we were definitely not on his team with that.
I guess the moral of the story is to be careful. Just because you are a white dude driving some white dudes around a big city doesn’t mean that you share something, or really anything at all in common. In fact, I hope I don’t share much in common with that cabbie, other than perhaps an admiration for the insane cost of an Astin Martin.
We all understand scarcity and priorities. Money can be scarce, so we make groceries a priority over going to the movies. Time can be scarce on a trip, so we prioritize one attraction over another. It seems to me that humans do this really well is many areas of life, but not so well in relationships.
I think we grow up with this idea that relationships are always there, largely because that’s how the relationships within families often work. You can beat them up, ignore them, even forget about them and then circle back to them and bam, the relationship is there, practically unchanged. We think this true for all relationships, but I’m not sure it is. I think instead relationships have a component of scarcity that we don’t realize because relationships take a long time to fizzle out and we tend not to notice until they are dead. Relationships need attention and our attention is a scarce resource that requires prioritization.
Let’s do this for a thought experiment. Consider your top 10 or 15 relationships, make a list. You will likely start with your family, then likely your closest friends, then probably people from your work. Of the people on that list, who have you talked to in the last week? How about the last two weeks or month? Scary right?
Or, how about this? Of the people at the very top of your list, can you name something significant that has happened to each of them in the last two weeks that you didn’t read on Facebook? To be honest, I’m sure I cannot.
These questions have helped me realize how precious some relationships are to me, and how I need to give those relationships more attention. I realize that I must change my thinking and my actions and make real plans to keep in touch with the people I care most deeply about. I can’t let the busyness of life, work, or anything interfere with the most important people in my life. I won’t let busyness interfere with the people most important to me.
Photo by Harli Marten on Unsplash
For some people working from home means working 24/7. I work from home but choose to ignore that temptation. I want time with my family, time with friends and community, and time to be a whole person, not just a business person. So, I make sure my day ends at 5pm sharp to leave time for the things that are important.**
I believe that if something can’t be done by 5pm that means either:
- I am trying to do too much or
- I haven’t prioritized my time well
I keep a notebook with notes from each day, and I love to write at the top of the page, “Day ends at 5pm!” Seeing that note at the top of the page all day forces me to prioritize my time and make tough choices to meet my deadline.
** – I’m not perfect at this every week, but this is my goal, and I hit it 90% of the time. I also start my day early to make sure I can be very productive but still clock off at 5pm.