Connecting with people

I was at the Laundromat by 7am this morning because I still needed to get to the gym and then work a double shift at one of my two jobs. The only other person there was a heavier woman organizing dry cleaning for the day. I threw my wash in and politely asked her if she could watch my bag while I ran to grab some coffee. Her face lit up at the word coffee. I can relate. She jotted down her mocha latte order and gave me money and I walked the couple blocks to Dunkin Donuts, happy to help another person. I remembered times as a manager at Hollister that I would send my employees off to DD to bring back coffee and donuts for everyone. When I got back, Jill (her name) and I had a 20-minute conversation about coffee, busses, and minimum wage jobs. We talked about things we connected on and could relate to. We established a connection when only an hour before we had been complete strangers to each other.

 

A little later I was safely seated on Bus 30 on my way to the gym. I like to fill my travel time with more than music so I turned on one of my podcasts. Coincidentally or serendipitously, depending on your optimism, it was about connecting with people. Specifically, the talk concerned the instant connections in daily interaction that are more impactful in the long-term than we think. The podcast brought up three factors associated with connecting with other people.

 

The first of these was vulnerability. If you want to break down the façade of a ‘keeping up the with the Jones’ attitude, bring up a weakness of yours. Friendship is made in the moment that one person says, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” According to this talk, bosses and leaders are trusted much more when they show some vulnerability to their employees. Examples? Yesterday I got coffee at Starbucks from a nice young girl. While giving me my change, she knocked over a small display and blushed with embarrassment. I immediately said, “Don’t worry, I’m probably more clumsy than you on a daily basis.” She smiled and told me she had already poured coffee on a customer that morning- she wins. INSTANT CONNECTION. My mother related a story of a waiter she had two nights ago. After he dropped off the food he said to raise a hand if she needed anything else because he “wasn’t very attentive and it was busy; but he wanted to make sure she was taken care of.” That vulnerability gained the waiter a good tip and trust from my mother. It also had nothing to do with his service or the restaurant’s reputation.

 

The second factor discussed was touch. Touch has been long displaced in our digital world and culture. It has not been replaced though. The speaker brought six volunteers from the audience to sit in a circle as if they were having a meeting. They instinctively sat about arms length apart and began by personal introductions. He then told them to move closer to each other until their very knees were touching. “Now what did you have for breakfast?” The group went around again, knees touching, and he asked them how they felt immediately after. You guessed it. Each felt much stronger connection to the person next to them. The NBA conducted a study on all teams’ group interaction throughout a season. They specifically monitored how many times individuals touched each other through high fives, celebrations, or huddles. They found a direct correlation on the season between winning percentage and amount of touching involved on the team. Crazy right? My guess, and it is only a guess, is that maybe there is some subconscious trust involved. Touch may trigger a sense of trust. A teammate passes you a ball because he’s more confident you will catch it and you trust that he is a more able passer and that it will be catchable. It’s only a guess at our subconscious but you’ve probably heard the phrase, “90% of the game is mental.”

 

The third and final factor concerns people who are born with this as a natural trait. These people are referred to as high self-monitors. These people naturally meet us where we are instead of bringing us to where they are. We are inclined to naturally like these people because they mirror us. When I was just a kid my dad asked me what type of person I am: a nerd, a jock, a hipster, or my own category. As a confident 11 year-old, I responded with, “Depends on who I’m around.” He and my brother got a big laugh out of that but I felt embarrassed. I had responded truthfully. I have not thought about that again until I heard this speaker bring it up. It’s not that high self-monitors are schmoozers or fake. They simply have the ability to mirror their environment in a fluid fashion. These people make these instant connections much faster than others under similar circumstances. How interesting! Not only with a genuine interest in others help create relationships but it can be helped by these other tools. Vulnerability and weakness inspires almost instant trust. Touch and proximity can be a major factor in collaboration. It’s the reason why face-to-face interaction is so much more powerful than any Skype or conference call will ever be. Finally, certain people are born as high-self monitors. These people create instant connections because of their ability to mirror people and situations. Some food for thought. Hopefully it was interesting if you chose to read it. This is the stuff I LOVE J

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Momentum

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Each day is a new life to the wise man

I’m not a good decision maker in more ways than one. First, I hate being the one in the group deciding where to eat or what movie to see. This is because I’m a people-pleaser (to my own detriment) and am often afraid of upsetting..well…anyone. Second, because I’m a people pleaser, I am likely to go with the popular vote. As you probably know, this doesn’t always put in you in the best place. In fact, the title to a chapter in Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour WorkWeek is title “Everything Popular is Wrong.” It’s time to get with the minority.

Today I have a few thoughts about momentum. Is it ever hard for you to get moving? Do you ever feel stuck? Again, welcome to my life. In my first post, A new year, a new you, I mentioned my goal to create a mastermind group of like-minded individuals. We had our second meeting last night. We have named it The Progressive Group. The week before we set some initial goals and this was the opportunity to follow up. Guess what? Most of us didn’t accomplish even one, myself included.

Was the group a failure? Not at all. The group was created for just this purpose- to bring tangibility to our goals and accountability for our time. We reworked our goals more specifically. We realistically looked at our schedules and decided exactly when we could accomplish things within the upcoming week. We set new goals. We challenged each other to do more. We generated momentum.

Momentum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” You need to get the ball rolling and you need to define what your motion or event will be to do that. Let me tell you what it will not be-RESEARCH or IDLE TALK. If you want to set a goal to travel to Europe it’s great to research ticket prices, tours, and places you want to see. Nothing wrong with that, but tell me: How much momentum does that create? You can complain about your job or where you live but until you do something about it, you’re the only one who’s really in the way. Find out what you want and take step one TODAY. Be specific in terms of a daily or weekly goal.

A turning point in my life was when I decided to study abroad in college. I wanted to go somewhere warm. I told my family and my friends and got responses like, “Good for you,” without much conviction or belief that I would actually do it. I needed momentum. I decided to go to the office at school. There, I was directed to the upcoming Study Abroad Fair at the union. I initially thought of a three-month interim trip but everyone I met told me to stay the semester so I could really see the country. I chose Australia because they spoke English and it was opposite seasons so it would be warm for the entire spring semester. That’s how long it took just to pinpoint WHAT I WANTED.

My momentum hit a brick wall when I found out how much it was going to cost between flights, traveling, tuition, and living expenses. After two months of trying, I felt defeated. I remember going back to my counselor desperately asking questions about funding options. She stopped me short and said, “Drew relax! We want you to go to Australia and will do anything we can to help you get there.” She gave me a list of scholarships to apply for and explained how to change my “need” requirements for Financial Aid. She gave me step one to get my momentum back. A week or two later, my Dad ran into someone whose daughter who had just gotten back from studying Australia. I called her to ask for any advice or tips and we arranged to grab coffee. She took me through almost a thousand pictures on her laptop over the course of two hours. Guess what happened? I MADE IT to Australia. That experience has given me the confidence to do anything.

Keep in mind; no one thought I was serious. I didn’t allow anyone to stop my momentum though. I gained more motion through conversations with people and my actions than any talk or research would have achieved. If you want to go to Europe, find and talk to someone who has been there. Call a travel agent. If you want to live somewhere else then find out who lives there or who has been there. Make a phone call. Take a trip. Gain some momentum. A few closing insights: 1. Life does not stop for you to make a decision but it will pass you by. 2. Change scares EVERYBODY. Real learning and real growth comes from getting out of your comfort zone. It’s being not afraid to fail. I heard one description of success as becoming “incrementally better at failing.” You’re going to fail anyways because you’re human. Why not stumble or fall while taking steps in the direction you WANT for your life? Start doing this today but be specific. Be realistic. Don’t set a goal you can’t accomplish. You will feel defeated before you even start. Now take a look around. Welcome to the minority. 🙂

A Person of interest

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming genuinely interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

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 These famous words should be set in stone. They should be placed on every nightstand, desk, and front door in America. Dale Carnegie said these profound words in a book published almost eight decades ago- How to Win Friends & Influence People. They are even truer today.

Every act since the day you were born was performed because you wanted something. Did you ever think about that? Even those that give to charities or volunteer at shelters are getting a feeling of importance or goodwill. When I wake up in the morning I am full of selfish ambition: What do I want to do? What do I want to accomplish? What can I do to help someone else I meet today? Wait a minute. That last one doesn’t sound as familiar as the first two. It’s not. It stands out because it goes directly against all we are programmed to be as human beings. Certainly, it separates us from animals.

You may be thinking, “Enough of the “Golden Rule” talk Drew. We all know it and few of us do it. How does it help me?” I would agree. This is about you. See I have stumbled through this life just as selfish as the next guy. At the end of a long day of work I want to do something for me. I think, “I can’t wait to go out with friends. It will be so much fun, I will feel better, and I won’t be thinking about work.” Do you ever find that the event itself falls short of expectations? In other words, you’re not as satisfied or happy as you thought you would be if you did so-and-so. Here is my point. I find it’s hard to make myself happy. As two sides of the same coin- I find it’s EASY to make someone else happy. Let me illustrate.

One of my jobs is serving at a restaurant in Fort Lauderdale. I had a young couple come in for lunch the other day. As they were ordering, the husband casually asked the wife what was for dinner. She said they were having salmon; he ordered pizza and on the meal went. A week or so later, the same couple came in and sat in my section again by chance. When I walked up to them, I welcomed them back saying, “Great to see you again! I remember you had me hungry last week. How was the salmon dinner?” They were confused for a second until the wife realized what I was talking about. Her face lit up as she told me the marinade she had used, how she had cooked it, and even the side dishes prepared for her “specialty.” They both could not believe I remembered and left me a very generous tip. The two have requested to be served by me ever since.

That story is simple but there are hundreds of similar ones I could share from my own life experience, let alone others. The point of it is not the reward of a tip or a loyal customer. The point is happiness. I find it much easier to make other people happy with a kind word or gesture. I also believe this happiness is just as real as anything I could do for myself. Sometimes the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. Sometimes, for you to have a better day, try to brighten another persons. Be genuine. Be interested. Try to see the world from their point of view as well as your own. Again, this does NOT come naturally. I have to work daily to develop it similarly to a muscle. It has incredible rewards though.

I will end this train of thought with another Carnegie quote, “The world is full of people who are grabbing and self-seeking. So the rare individual who unselfishly tries to serve others has an enormous advantage. He has little competition.” Would you like an advantage in your life? I would. Practice this perspective shift on the people you meet tomorrow. Think of relationships in your life where you might not of thought about where the other person is coming from. Perform a random act of kindness for a stranger. It will all come back to help YOU one way or another. I promise. This is education of a different kind. “Most people go through college and learn to read Virgil and master the mysteries of calculus without ever discovering how their own minds function.” What we can learn from others will teach us a lot about ourselves.

You have an Unfair Advantage

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Mr. Ed has got swag

If you’re like me, your ADD applies to more than daily focus. It expands beyond the scope of shiny objects, strange sounds, and pennies on the ground. For example, you may be reading this because you’re wondering why this horse is wearing sunglasses. The answer is because I wanted him to…and he told me. Back to the point- a different type of ADD. If you’re like me, you see something you’re not good at and make it a priority to improve upon. You are a plethora of useless facts and figures. In other words, you are a, “Jack of all trades but master of none.” Nothing will hold back an ambitious individual more than this type of passion without real direction…in my opinion (Ben Franklin disclaimer)

Don’t fix your weaknesses. Discover your strengths and leverage them for success in your life. It makes a lot of sense right? I’m not talking about when you are a child and you’re better at playing football than reading. Not at all. I’m talking about that crossroads of education and career where you are told to choose a path. That path determines your focus. That focus determines your career and you live happily ever after. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be. Why?

If you’re like me, your mind creates every hypothetical outcome once you take a path. Your decision-making ability becomes a foggy cloud of ‘what if’ scenarios and hope begins to fade. Suddenly, a thought comes to you like a sliver of sunlight in the haze. You think, “I can do anything! Really, I have many options.” Here’s the problem- you move forward feeling confident but without direction. You are convinced in your mind that you are accomplishing something by simply realizing you can do anything. How ridiculous is that logic? The only reason I can even speak on this subject is because I’M GUILTY OF IT.

I saw my brother stay focused on his tennis and his school while I did what I felt like on a daily basis. Outcome? He played tennis all of college while maintaining a pre-med undergrad and is now at the top D.O. program in the country. On the other hand, I have two random degrees, have worked in five different industries, and can do the Rubiks cube in under 2 minutes. Focus matters. Direction matters. Measuring progress matters. Results matter.

You have an unfair advantage. You have something that nobody else does. You are unique. Don’t you dare say you don’t! The only person you are fooling is yourself. Every goal you set starts with the only thing you have control over- today. My challenge to you this week is to discover your “unfair advantage.” This post isn’t even about you. It’s about ME

A new year, A new you

ImageThere’s something about turning the calendar that inspires change. If you’re like me you want change in your life NOW and have felt that way for a while. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee just over a year ago and decided my first change was going to be a move. As the 23rd winter of my life approached, I abruptly packed up and moved to South Florida. The last year has been a search for the right outlet to plug my talents and resources into. Through it I’ve learned a couple things about myself.

The first thing I’ve learned is that wherever I work, I have the ability and drive to become the best employee at the business. The second thing is that I’m not a very good employee. These are not as different as they may seem. On the one side, there is the Drew that wants to learn all the ins and outs of the business to become as effective as possible. On the other side, once learned, the same Drew seeks to reveal inefficiencies in the business and explore betters ways to do things. Independent and entrepreneurial Drew has the same problems from a different perspective. I constantly look to better myself and improve both my knowledge base and habits in my personal life. I have a hunger to apply myself in all areas. This becomes a problem when I look for a direction or project to put those talents into action. I am simply a different breed of most people. I will never settle for mediocrity. I will always want to set a new standard once the old one is accomplished.

This leads me to today. I’m looking to develop a “Mastermind” group of friends who are also driven and passionate go-getters. Without any real direction to take real steps, I’ve begun to document where I’m at TODAY. It’s simply a tool of measurement and of expression and, with repetition, my hope is that it will convert to realities.

To master my new year, my goal is to become Master of my day. Does anyone out there feel me?