This week we feature an article by John O’Leary, a speaker, coach, and best-selling author. He shares an excerpt from his #1 bestselling book In Awe. Scott worked at the valet stand. When he saw [me] this nine-year-old kid wrapped with bandages, eyes reddened from the physical therapy session he’d just endured, Velcro-strapped into a wheelchair, waiting […]
This week we feature an article by John O’Leary, a speaker, coach, and best-selling author. He shares an excerpt from his #1 bestselling book In Awe.
Scott worked at the valet stand.
When he saw [me] this nine-year-old kid wrapped with bandages, eyes reddened from the physical therapy session he’d just endured, Velcro-strapped into a wheelchair, waiting for a ride home, he must have recognized that this kid needed some extra attention.
Although Scott was incredibly old (a nineteen-year-old is ancient in the eyes of a nine-year-old), he would take time away from his job to keep me company. He would pull a chair alongside my wheelchair, look out at the driveway filled with emergency vehicles and we’d pretend all those ambulances were part of our army and that we were planning an ambush. Scott was my sergeant, and I was his lieutenant. He took orders from me.
For a little boy who had a team of doctors, nurses, and therapists always telling him what to do, it was a welcome reversal.
When my ride finally arrived, Scott would do one more thing that always made my day: He’d let me talk on his walkie-talkie.
He’d hold it in front of me, push the talk button, and say, “Okay, we’re live. Go for it!”
With great enthusiasm, I’d say, “Johnny to base. Johnny to base. Send reinforcements. Enemy approaching. Over and out.”
We’d laugh uncontrollably as some angry security officer would hop on and yell: “Kid, get off the radio!”
With tears no longer in my eyes and a big, beaming smile on my face, I would be wheeled by Scott toward my parents’ car and he would help me in and tell me he looked forward to seeing me the next day.
It doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when I look back on it. They were, after all, just small moments of kindness. Yet to a struggling child, they made a huge difference.
Scott was a college student, trying to earn some spending money for the weekends. But even at that age, he knew that work wasn’t just about putting in the time and picking up a paycheck.
He knew that any job, when performed with excellence, could become something greater. He knew there were no insignificant people, that small acts mattered and little things made a big difference.
I believe every job we do matters, and all work is sacred. But too often, we can get caught up in busy work and neglect the essential life-giving work begging to be attended to. Sometimes we must turn away from the demands and instead focus on what truly makes a difference.
The kind of work that makes us immensely proud.
Remember when you were little and were excited about something you created? What words would you say as you took it from your backpack and handed it to your parent?
Look what I made!
I still hear those words from my children every time they create art, whether at school or at our kitchen table. They smile broadly, hand their picture to me, describe the scene they created, and light up as I compliment it. Before walking over to the fridge to hang it up proudly, they do one more thing every artist does after completing a masterpiece.
They put their name on it, to claim it as theirs.
When was the last time you walked out of work feeling that kind of satisfaction?
When was the last time you finished a project, printed your name on the bottom of it, ran to your boss, assistant, or colleague, put it on their desk, and pumped your fist, proclaiming, “Boom! That’s how you crush an Excel sheet, baby!” or “That’s how you teach the Pythagorean theorem, my man!” or “That’s how you do a patient hand-off to afternoon staff!”
Why are these statements laughable instead of commonplace?
…Martin Luther King Jr. wrote extensively about the sacred value of work. He reminds us of the immense opportunity it holds for each of us:
“When you discover your life’s work, set out to do it so well that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn’t do it better. And no matter what it is, never consider it insignificant because if it is for the upbuilding of humanity, it has cosmic significance. And so if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Raphael painted pictures. Sweep streets like Michelangelo carved marble. Sweep streets like Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”
Any work we do, when we do it well, has cosmic significance.
Do you feel this way about your work? Are you sweeping streets like Raphael painted in your sales job, in your role as a custodian, or at your position in middle management?
…Our goal professionally isn’t to simply be busy and active, but effective and productive. We might equate those goals, as if they are similar, maybe even the same.
But they are vastly different.
This is an excerpt from John O’Leary’s #1 bestselling book IN AWE and many are saying this book has the message we all need right now. John also wrote #1 bestseller ON FIRE, is an in-demand live + virtual event speaker, corporate coach, host of the Live Inspired Podcast and – most importantly – husband and father of four. Find out more at www.JohnOLearyInspires.com.
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