I can be a ready…FIRE…aim type of person if I am not careful. In an instant, I can form powerful and plausible narratives for people and situations about which I know very little. As a salesman, I do this consistently in many business settings. This intuitive discipline or sixth sense is important to me and it has contributed to my workplace success. However, I can and do get it wrong in business and in my personal life too. I find that I am much better off when I take my time and temper my assumptions that are born of my paradigms…the unique lens through which I view the world.
A close friend loved to tell the following story to illustrate the power of a bad paradigm:
A business woman, who was on the last leg of her return home after a long week of travel, decided to treat herself to a small bag of Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies from an airport kiosk. She eventually found a seat at her gate and got settled while waiting to board her plane. After having done so, she noticed a hand reach into her bag of cookies that she had placed on the small table adjacent to where she was seated. As hard as it was to believe, the man seated beside her took a cookie and smiled. She was astonished and immediately took a cookie for herself before turning away with the hope of communicating her disgust with the man’s rudeness. A few minutes passed before the man again reached back into the bag. This time, he smiled as he removed the last cookie. He broke it in half and offered an equal portion to the woman.
The woman, too speechless to protest, gathered her things impatiently, smirked disapprovingly at the man and stormed off to board her plane.
Minutes later, having settled comfortably into her first class seat and while still fuming over the man’s behavior at the gate, she unpacked her carry-on and readied her space to get some work finished during the flight.
Reaching into her bag for her reading glasses, to her horror she found her own unopened bag of Mrs. Field’s chocolate chip cookies.
One can only imagine her embarrassment when she realized the innocence and generosity of the man at the gate as compared to her own misconception and rash judgments.
I have felt like this before… I have experienced that sinking feeling when, from atop my lofty position of knowing that I was right on a particular topic, I was brought low by my delayed realization that I was VERY wrong.
I’m learning to slow down and I am resolved to stop getting my exercise by jumping to conclusions. I’m spending more time tempering my assumptions about others and giving them the benefit of the doubt too. Additionally, I am trying to be the type of man who cheerfully shares his cookies, both literally and figuratively. In preparation, I am working to accumulate sufficient internal reserves of compassion and sound judgement so that I will be able to give of myself, without inhibition to those in need of grace during difficult times.
It is nice to be important; but is it not far more important to be nice? I aspire to have unconditional warm regards for others and I look forward to the day when it comes more naturally to me. I like myself more when my first instincts about others are positive. So many people are struggling in their work, their marriage, their faith, their role as parent or friend. It may just be that one day, the simple grace and kindness that I extend to others may provide some hungry soul fuel for their journey. Even more, it might spawn a chain of events that gives a powerful witness to the good that is still abounding in this weary world.
I strive to be more balanced and focused; in so doing, I want to inspire others to want a similar state of being for themselves. It’s not easy to do this, but it is not terribly complicated either. I remind myself of this at the beginning and at the end of each day and a thousand times in between.
Thomas “TD” Dierker
Live like you’re dying….cause you are!