Are you a BoyScout?

Image

Are you a Boy Scout?

 

“Are you a boy scout?” The decrepit man looked at me with heavy but bright eyes that had seen their share of years.

“Why yes, I actually am,” I replied with uncertainty.

“Would you mind doing a good deed?”

 

That is how I found myself placing a bandage around the yellowish, infected toe nail of a 90 year-old man in my gym’s small locker room this morning. I had to hold the toe nail, which was was about to fall off, while I tightly wrapped it up with Johnson and Johnson’s most popular product. Does that make you cringe? Probably. Yet for me it had a different effect. Only minutes before I had been in the shower feeling tired, hungry and a little discouraged. I was all wrapped up in my own poor circumstances when this man’s voice had broken through the fog with that unusual question, “Are you a boyscout?” As the situation progressed and I realized what he was asking, I began to laugh out loud. You have GOT to be joking. I told him to trim his nails and see a doctor but he said, “If that’s all that is wrong with me at 90, I’m probably pretty well off.” What a perspective!

Charles (his name) brought new life to my day. He gave me a story. The image of his gross toenail will be stuck in my head days from now and it will bring a smile that I would otherwise have missed out on. Sometimes we all need a little break from the monotony of our daily routine to open our eyes to the people in the world around us. It could be taking a different route to work or getting coffee from a new coffee shop. Try a food you’ve never tried or go do Yoga for the first time. These events have more of an effect than the activity itself. They do more than you probably think.

I once heard that it is a good exercise for our brains to listen to a new CD all the way through. The reason has to do with the human brain and the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain, among other functions, has the ability to play out scenarios that have not yet occurred. For example, major life change’s like marriage, a Caribbean vacation, a new car, or winning the lottery. We can imagine how each of these would make us feel even before they happen. Our brain plays and replays the outcome of these hypotheticals until it becomes rooted. It becomes so rooted that when the result is different than expected, we are let down. Instead of joy at a vacation, we think, “I wish it would have been longer. The hotel staff was rude. We should have chosen a different location. The weather would have been better in July”…and so on and so forth. In terms of the CD scenario, when we listen to something we are familiar with, we mentally prepare for the next song to come on as we expect it to. So it’s actually exercising the brain to listen to a) something we are unfamiliar with and b) use our imagination, not previous experience, to think about what’s coming on next. Your brain is thinking of a hundred possibilities of what music will play next. It is being exercised. The problem with our pre-frontal cortex? Most of the time it’s wrong. Reality deals life from a different deck of cards. You want to be happy on vacation? Be thankful and happy for today. You want marriage to mean something?Be thankful for every moment you spend with that person and show love when it’s NOT expected. Why do you think flowers are more meaningful when it’s not Valentines Day? DUH!

Somehow it always comes back to a child’s imagination. Children don’t put limits on their world. One way to look at it is this: When did wrapping paper stop being a sword? When did a towel stop being a cape? As a lego maniac myself, I can assure you that when I saw a box of lego parts, I saw much more than the average kid. I saw huge lasers that could be assembled onto massive starship cruisers to battle underwater monsters. If you gave me legos today I would probably still see that. I love creativity and Disney World is one of my favorite places to be. That’s another topic though. 

The main point is that we get stuck in the monotony of day-in, day-out routine. Our brain becomes trained to expect coffee in the morning, a nine hour work shift of boredom, a job we dislike, and acquaintances we don’t even consider true friends. When something does come along that’s extraordinary, we barely lift our heads to see it. We don’t even recognize it. What if you went into every day like a kid. What if everyday you thought that ANYTHING could happen. It might allow you to begin to appreciate the little things. It would allow you to recognize the extraordinary. I mean tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed right? So ANYTHING truly can happen tomorrow. That’s how I want to think and I thank Charles for opening my eyes and widening my smile just for today. 🙂

Advertisements

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