Today is my dad’s birthday. He usually gets an early morning call from me to tell him how much I appreciate and love him. He and my mom have been a major influence in my life. They taught me how to accept others, and myself, for all the imperfections we encounter in our lifetimes. Especially our own. And they also taught me how to love… and not just those that are close and caring toward us, but those ‘stretch’ experiences. You know the kind. Loving the unlovable. We all get challenged by that, no matter what we do in our lifetimes. At least if we’re living authentically.
They also taught me how to pay attention to people that matter. People in our lives we sometimes just take for granted. That they’ll be there. And care. I’ll bet you have a few like that in your life. Have you noticed them lately? And thanked them?
We use a little exercise when training speakers how to communicate effectively and the importance of caring about their audience. This brief exercise helps them undertand the importance of what people really remember. It goes something like this: Name the five weathiest people in the world. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners. Name five people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer Prize. Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
We give them a few minutes (without the help of Google!); most can remember maybe one or two in each category. Sometimes none. The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday and yet they are no second-rate achievers – they are the best in their fields. But facts fade along with our memories.
Then we ask them the following: List a few teachers who aided your journey through school. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special. Think of three people with whom you enjoy spending time.
Easer? Sure. The people who make a difference in our lives are generally not the most credentialed, richest or awarded. They are the ones that care. The ones who made an impression. We use this to help speakers understand the importance of being present and caring about their audience, and to understand that impressions are made by that and not the facts you tell them. I believe it’s also important as we move about our busy lives each day. After all, you never know how long, like an audience, the people that matter in our lives are going to stick around.
So take a moment, pick up the phone or make a special trip to reach out to someone that matters. Tell him how they affected you and why they matter. I promise it’ll enrich your life as well as theirs.
Something I wish each year I could still do on my dad’s birthday. Ever since he passed away years ago much too young in life.