Every year, I meet incredibly interesting people. You may think I’m thinking of famous people. Yes, famous people can certainly be interesting. Equally interesting, at least to me, are people I meet in everyday life.
- The barista at the coffee shop who remembers exactly what I want.
- The guy who waves me into the car wash with the slightest flick of his hand indicating where my tires should point.
- The newly-minted, hilarious college graduate who told me his future: two wives (he says his first marriage won’t work out), three kids, a dog, and a dead-end job.
- The lady at the bookstore who smiles when she sees me rearranging the shelves, putting my favorite authors’ books face-out.
Each one of the people crossing my path offers an opportunity to learn. I study people shuffling by at a busy store. There we go, I think, as I imagine where they are heading. People are incredibly fascinating.
Sure, some disappoint. You wonder why you work so hard at some friendships when it’s clearly a one-way path to nowhere. Then there’s family, some family members are truly biological—with blood coursing through their bodies to prove it. Others we adopt, friends who are so true we wouldn’t dream of letting them go.
People teach us remarkable lessons if we are open to learning. Criticism we launch at someone else likely has its roots in our own shortcomings.
Today, as you rush through your day, look at those around you a little closer. Slow down just a bit—you don’t need to view the text message the minute it chimes. You don’t need to check Facebook and Twitter as if you’re looking for signs of life in a patient.
Just watch. Listen. Ask some questions.
If you can see beyond the obvious, you can learn some incredible lessons.
You may discover that the barista prides herself on remembering your drink because she’s really good at it, and her father always told her she was stupid. She’s incredibly bright and works hard to overcome his harsh words. She absorbs your praise faster than your coffee does the cream.
Lessons: Everyone is hurting in some way. Everyone needs praise. Get comfortable with praising good work.
You may discover that the car wash guy is the lead singer in an up-and-coming band and has a real shot at making it. His backstage stories are better than a movie. And his writing is better than most professional writers.
Lessons: Everyone has a hidden talent. Take time to get to know your employees. Often the most needed skills are right in front of you.
You may learn that the college graduate was influenced by his parents’ painful divorce and his insight on relationships beats anything you’d read in a book.
Lessons: Age doesn’t equal wisdom. Learning from mistakes and the failures of others can benefit you more than you realize.
You may find that the bookstore lady is a book herself, full of knowledge you can tap into. She’s actually a retired business executive, filling time. She knows how to incorporate businesses, develop marketing plans, and lead strategic planning.
Lessons: Often what we see is just the surface. Take time to realize the full abilities of the people around you.
See these people are anything but ordinary. Everyone has something extraordinary that can change you. A different perspective, a unique experience, a gift. We’re all ordinary people, but we are all extraordinary in our own way.