This morning, a friend (thanks, Joe) e-mailed me a link to an article on the web. The article that he linked to is called “An Unexpected Ass Kicking“. I thought to myself.. “do I really have time read this article?” Funny thing is that my thought was pretty much a very similar thought that the guy who wrote the article had when he visited a coffee shop to get a little work done.
You see, when he sat down with a cup of coffee, he turned on his laptop to get caught up on his work when suddenly an 80 year old man sat down near him and struck up a conversation. Don’t you hate it when you are busy and somebody tries to start up a conversation – a conversation that you don’t have time to engage in? Well, I won’t tell the whole story, you can go read the article (which I highly recommend), but in short, this 80 year old man turned out to be one of the inventors of the computer, among other things. His name is Russell Kirsch.
I truly believe that by striking up a conversation with the author (Joel Runyon), Mr. Kirsch gave an incredible gift. The gift was given to Mr. Runyon, and he chose to pass along that gift to the rest of us who were able to read about his encounter with Russell Kirsch.
Kirsch passed along a number of very important lessons to Runyon, lessons that were shared with us, and that we can also learn from. I believe that the most important lessons were that we should create stuff, and that we should not stop doing so. Whether you create something like a computer, of if you create content like I do, just keep doing it! By continuing to create, we get better at creating, and that just keeps the cycle going.
Another important thing that Runyon learned by the encounter was that you should not pre-judge people based on their appearance. Runyon was busy, and didn’t really have time to engage with some random 80 year old man. He had better things to do than to listen to stories about “the good old days.” Or did he? If he had just totally blown off the conversational advance of Kirsch, he would have never known what a valuable encounter this would turn out to be for him. In fact, by the time that this conversation had been going on for a bit, Runyon realized that his work was not so important after all, his conversation with Kirsch was the chance of a lifetime.
Please read the article. After reading it, and thinking about it for a bit, the article truly brought tears to my eyes. I guess I am a sentimentalist.
The story in the blog post brought to mind a story that I heard from a friend about 30 years ago. I don’t remember exactly for sure who told me, but I think I do. Also, it was told to me so long ago that I may have some of the details wrong. If you read this, and you told me the story, please let me know and I will credit you in the article, because you deserve that. But, I am not 100% sure who told me this, so I will withhold that mention. Anyway, my friend was a car salesman, at a good sized car dealer. Basically, the salesmen had a rotational system to determine who would help customer and get a sale. Whenever a new customer walked onto the lot, the salesman who’s turn it was would go help the customer. Well, one day, an old hillbilly type guy with a big beard and wearing nothing but a pair of overalls walked on to the lot. No salesman wanted to go help the fellow, because it was obvious that the guy had no money, certainly not enough to buy a decent car. My friend, though, was eager to go help the man. As it turned out, the fellow bought a very expensive car, and my friend earned a very nice commission on the deal.
That story that my friend told me stuck in my mind over the years. Don’t judge a book by it’s cover. Go help a customer, even if they look poor, because you never know. If you are busy, take time to entertain people who want to strike up a conversation, because you never know who they are, or what they can teach you.
I guess that what it all comes down to is that we should be humble, and not take ourselves to seriously. No matter how smart we are, we can always learn from others.