Lessons from the Ordinary

This is a guest post by Skip Prichard. He is a dear friend of mine, an accomplished CEO, turnaround business leader, and keynote speaker. I highly recommend you subscribe to his blog and follow him on Twitter.

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.

Lessons fron the Ordinary

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/sturti

For example,

  • 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.

Be Alert

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.

Slow Down

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.

See Beyond

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.

Question: What lessons have you learned from “ordinary” people and “everyday” events? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    Skip, this is a fantastic post! It reminds me of my first job as a news reporter. My boss (the news director) told me, “There is something interesting about everybody – it’s the reporter’s job to find out what that interesting thing is.” Great reminder!

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       That explains why you are so good at finding it–lots of practice. Thanks, Tor.

  • Danraymoore

    Thanks for such a good article. Everyone needs to read this. I really liked the part about getting to know your employees. I worked for years at a company where most of the front office people did not know anything about the people that worked in the warehouse in the back of the same building. We also had one boss that would come into the break room and brag about what he had just bought. Most of the people in the warehouse were struggling to make ends meet. We are all indeed ordinary people.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Thank you and yes, everyone has a story and everyone has struggles. They may be different, but we have a shared experience.

  • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

    Skip, great post! This reminds me of the Mexican restaurant my wife and I eat at every Friday night. We’ve taken time to get to know the owners and many of their staff. It’s a family-owned business, and the 2 sides of the family work there: one side from Germany and the other from Mexico. We’ve gotten to know so many of their stories that we feel like one of the family!

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Chris, it sounds like a place I’d like to visit! It’s incredible when you get to know people this way. We always find our favorite servers in restaurants, and really get to know them. Better service, better experience, and a better date! Thanks Chris.

      • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

        Yep, it’s quite amazing how you can get fantastic service just by getting to know the servers. If you’re ever in the VA Beach area, I’ll be glad to take you there. :)

        • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

           as long as it’s winter…because in the summer it’s 100% Chesapeake Bay steamed crabs….

          • http://www.trailreflections.com/ Chris Peek

            Ha ha. I don’t blame you. There are plenty of great seafood restaurants around with interesting people!

  • http://www.spencermcdonald.net/ Spencer McDonald

    When we stop to take in our surroundings we are learning, we are yearning, and we are endearing thoughts for our mind that matter. This article is a good reminder to slow down and see the world. Thank you.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Spencer, memorable: learning, yearning, endearing.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    EXCELLENT post, Skip. Loved this. Just last week, while staying in a hotel in Charlotte, NC, I couldn’t help but notice an employee who served us with absolute delight. She smiled at every turn and seemed to truly love what she was doing. I complimented her, told her what a pleasure she was to be around. She answered, “Oh, I’m just an intern. But I love it here.” From her comments, I doubted she was being paid much—if anything—for her work. So I responded to her by saying, “No, you’re not just an intern. You’ve totally made our night. Well done.” Lesson: You don’t need a title or position to be excellent at what you do—and noticed for it.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

      Thank you, Michele. Wouldn’t you love to peer into the future and see how that intern will achieve her dreams? I love watching people who don’t even realize how GOOD they really are.

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  • Kathy

    This post is truly how I want to live my life, believing everyone has a story and it is my job to learn it. I have been blessed having God direct me to learn the stories of some amazing ordinary people. When I wrote my first book, ONE MORE SERVING, I interviewed over 60 people to select the ordinary individuals whose lives were hijacked by a defining moment and how they responded that made them extraordinary and every one of them removed the “stereotypical” glasses from my eyes. It was a true learning experience and I was amazingly blessed for being given ther opportunity to hear the stories behind people we do life with daily.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Sounds like a wonderful book, Kathy. Thanks for sharing its lessons.

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  • http://www.liveyourwhy.net/ Terry Hadaway

    I’ve learned that ordinary people have stories they want to share and we need to hear. They are stories of survival, achievement, and perseverance. They are stories of creativity, passion, and artistry. Some stories are best shared through words; others through art. As I coach writers, I’ve discovered that everyone has a message, those messages are unique, and those messages need to be shared. You have art to share. Will you share it?

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

      Yes, and they are all extraordinary stories. Terry, thanks for helping others deliver messages to the world. It makes a difference.

  • http://twitter.com/BeckyBrett Becky Brett Caldwell

    Great post! I especially love the part about being observant. In improv, we approach people and situations with a spirit of curiosity. This leads down an untold number of magical paths in just one scene. Imagine if we were to put this in practice every day. What opportunities would present themselves? Wonderful post!

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Thank you, Becky. I don’t do it as often as I should, but am making it an effort. That’s what these wonderful people taught me.

  • Smith_mary1

    Thanks for reminding us of how important these “ordinary” people around us  really are and the lessons we can learn from them. People remind me of books, waiting to be read – evolving and unedited   Theycan  bring a  full spectrum of emotion  to your live . . . joy to anger and a lot of in-betweens . . Libby :-)

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Mary, books….NOW you are talking my language! I agree with you-and you never know what’s on the pages. Thanks for the good thought.

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  • Kalel

    I like this post. 
    definitely worth reading.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Thank you, Kalel. Best of success to you.

  • http://JaredLatigo.com/ Jared Latigo

    Very nice Skip. Love the way you laid it out, clever! 

    It’s definitely important to recognize that everyone has something to offer. The manifesto I wrote mentions that as a key part to how we can all become more than we expect and work in symphony toward God’s plan. Lessons in real life are the best ones…its the ones in school that I have yet to find practical in life. 

    Thanks for sharing your heart!

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

      Thanks, Jared. I’m so glad it resonated with you.

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  • N.Husna

    I’m glad Micheal invited you Skip to write this beautiful thoughtful note. This proved you aren’t a typical leader who often forgets about these simple insights because he/she has more big thing to focus. Thank you for being an extra-ordinary leader, thank you for showing me to be extra-ordinaire and thank you for not letting any comment left unreplied.  

    N.Husna

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

      I appreciate you taking the time to write. All of us have tremendous potential. By noticing others around us, we realize how interconnected we are and the unique gifts each of us has. Thank you again for your kind words.

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  • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

     Thank you! Yes, I share your principle. When you practice it, you end up receiving more than you can imagine.

  • Andrew Giwa

    We live in a fast paced, selfish world such that its easier to gloss over people and to be overly preoccupied with our own cares and needs, i really need to slow it down and enjoy the gift of people, life and relationships, this is what makes life worth living..

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       You said it so well, Andrew. Thank you for the reminder for me today, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/simanjuntaksylvia Sylvia Snow

    I so so love this.. :D

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

      Thanks! Have a good week ahead and remember to celebrate the ordinary!

  • http://candelierious.blogspot.com Lis

    No answer to the question, just loved the reminder of stoping to look and appreciate what is before me.

    • http://www.skipprichard.com/ Skip Prichard

       Thanks for stopping here and sending the message. All the best to you!