It is a fair bet that if I’m standing in a line at 4:30 AM, I’m not thrilled about it. One such occasion was last week in a line at a McDonald’s in an airport.
Glancing about, I was not alone in my distaste for the 4:30 AM club. And the unhappiest looking person was the woman behind the counter.
She was the only person working, and that McDonald’s was the only place serving food or coffee at that time. The line quickly grew.
She would take a couple of orders and then walk around back to fill them. I’m not an expert on fast-food workflow optimization…but this was not it.
The growing line began getting agitated. A few folks commented on how “incompetent” that place was. And I was tempted to join the grumblers.
Instead, I found myself feeling more sympathy for her than frustration. I discerned that her scheduled coworker had not shown up for work.
She was flustered but trying to take care of the line of grumbling folks. Why should we be mad at the one person who actually showed up to work in the one restaurant open at that time of the morning?
When I reached the counter, I noticed the woman’s nametag read “Anna”. When she mumbled, “Next customer”, I smiled and said, “Good Morning, Anna. Can I have a large coffee please?”
She looked up, and her face unclenched for a moment. She responded, “Uh…good morning.” As she quickly walked off to pour my coffee, she made small talk and apologized for the long line.
I chuckled and told her, “That’s okay. I appreciate you being at work at this ridiculous hour.”
She stopped in her tracks and said, “Thank you!” with a sincerity that actually made me feel pretty good. As I walked away, Anna handed me my receipt and wished me a good morning with an honest-to-goodness smile on her face.
Instead of “next customer,” she said to the guy behind me, “Good morning, sir. What can I get for you this morning?”
I’m not sure how long the improved mood lingered, but I was reminded of the power of simple, courteous pleasantries to improve human interactions (even at 4:30 AM).
My own mood improved by making the effort to improve someone else’s. That’s an amazing trait humans share.
How many moods can you improve today (including your own) with simple courtesies?
A recent column for ESPN Magazine by Pablo Torre had me smiling and reflecting on the fact that setbacks and struggles are not always the enemy of success. Quite often, they are actually key factors in reaching our highest potential.
His piece was entitled “How Stephen Curry Got the Best Worst Ankles in Sports”.
Many people who have only become aware of Stephen Curry over the past couple of years are unaware that he was on his way to being a sad footnote only a few years ago. Curry’s first seasons in the NBA were known more for ankle injuries than anything else.
His five ankle sprains limited him to only 26 games in his first season.
For all of his talent, Curry was known more for his propensity to roll or twist his ankles than his dribbling or shooting ability.
People around the league worried he had “glass ankles” that would end his NBA career.
The reason the current league MVP has only the fifth highest salary on his team is that when he signed his present contract, there was concern he wouldn’t be able to play to its end.
With determination to not have his career defined by injuries, and aided by the coaching of one of their team’s new trainers, Curry reinvented the very ways he makes cuts on the court.
He retrained his body to rely upon his hips and legs to change directions instead of his problematic ankles.
Curry became a fixture in the training room, and he strengthened his core muscles to an elite level even by elite athlete standards. And the fact that he has become arguably the most feared shooter in NBA history is largely due to the fact that he has developed a once unthinkable shooting range.
His newly-developed lower body and core strength allow him to have a lightning quick, compact, and consistent shooting motion from 5 or 35 feet out. And no player since Michael Jordan has as many young players trying to emulate his game.
Most of us will face setbacks and unforeseen challenges – large and small - in our lives and careers.
No one looks forward to them…but they may be necessary to help us reach our full potential.
Whether or not that is the case will largely depend on our mindsets when faced with those hardships.
We may not be able to keep setbacks from affecting us, but with the right mindset and work ethic, we can keep them from defining us.