A recent interaction my family had with a waiter had me smiling and making mental notes. It also reconfirmed something about human nature that I’ve suggested to groups for years.
This particular casual restaurant opened nearby a few months ago and has been packed with customers from day one. On our first visit, we were seated on the outside patio, and our waiter hurriedly walked up to get our drink order. It was obvious these servers were extremely busy.
Our waiter was a young man in his late 20’s named Mark. He was rushing about but was very polite.
When he stepped up a few minutes later with our drinks, he apologized for the wait. I told him that it really wasn’t much of a wait, and we weren’t in any hurry. He could relax.
He smiled, “I appreciate that, but I feel bad when people have to wait on me.”
I laughed and told him, “You are our new favorite waiter.”
As he took our order, my son commented on the college cap he was wearing. That led to a chat about that being his favorite team.
He had not attended that school. He had, instead, served in the military. My son replied, “Really? That’s awesome.”
In the next minute or so, we learned about his hometown, his tours of duty, his hobbies, his short term goals, and longer term goal of managing his own restaurant. I know he had quite a few other tables to take care of, both indoors and out, but he spent more time at ours than at any other.
One of my favorite sayings entered my mind: “The busiest person in the world will stop everything he’s doing to tell you about himself.” Mark was not ignoring his other tables (he really was good at his job), but he kept returning to ours to tell us more about his plans.
At other tables, he was talking about food. At ours, he was allowed to talk about himself.
I learned more about Mark and his ambitions in bits and pieces over the course of our dinner than I’ve learned about some former co-workers I shared office space with for years. And it was a pleasure.
Yes, existing (and potential) customers are usually busy, preoccupied, in a hurry, not interested in chatting, etc. etc.
But it’s amazing how often time is freed up and interest increases when we find ways to get folks talking about themselves, their plans, and the things that are important to them.
Whose stories will you learn about today?
“CMT Crossroads” is a television show that originated a decade or so ago. It regularly pairs singers and/or bands from different generations and genres to perform live together.
I haven’t watched much in recent years, but I’ll still pause for a few moments whenever I happen upon the show if they’re showing the practice sessions and conversations. As I was scanning the channels recently, I didn’t recognize anyone on stage.
But before I switched channels, they cut to a conversation. It was country singer Dierks Bentley and the pop group OneRepublic on this show.
Bentley began talking about his early years and first experiences in Nashville. He had written 10 songs and had them neatly bound in a plastic folder. This was his life’s work. He was ready to be a star.
He told of lucking into an opportunity of sitting around a table one night with a group of successful songwriters. He pulled out his best song and performed it for them. He shared that up until that point he’d only ever heard praise about his songs.
When he finished, the first comment from a writer was, “It took you forever to get to the chorus.”
And another songwriter chimed in, “Yeah, and was there even a hook? I didn’t catch the hook.”
Bentley laughed, “They weren’t even being mean! They were just so honest.”
One of the more experienced guys then told him, “You need to write 500 songs and put them all in a drawer. When you’ve written 500, find me, and I’ll write with you.”
I liked that story for a couple of reasons. The first was how Bentley responded to honest feedback and coaching. Instead of convincing himself they were wrong, he put his ego aside and realized he had been given wise advice from guys who knew.
I also liked the acknowledgement that talent is a wonderful thing to have, but a solid work ethic, experience, and resiliency are the factors most tied to achieving success.
Many of us have a tendency to look at people who are currently successful and think they were somehow preordained for it.
But we’re seeing the “polished” person. We see talent and self-confidence and assume he or she always had it.
We didn’t get to see the (often long) polishing process that almost always included hard work and overcoming rejections and setbacks.
Whether setbacks wear us down - or polish us - depends on our mindsets. What will yours be?