The Key To Jealousy By Kate Caddle When we compare ourselves to others, the issue isn’t in noticing the difference between the other person, and ourselves. We hit discomfort because we give away our power. And when we give away our power, we lose connection to...
Just before midnight.
By Andy Ferguson
A funny thing happened to me in the last few hours of 2018. Unusually, for me, I ended up in a pub. And considering most pubs on New Year’s Eve or Hogmanay as it’s called here in Scotland, shut early so that everyone can go home and be with their families, being in any pub was not something I had foresaw myself doing earlier that evening.
One of Nicki’s friends had texted us out of the blue saying that this pub was open and did we want to meet them there to “see in” the New Year. As the kids were both away, leaving just the two of us, we thought, “why not” and off we duly popped.
Now, this particular New Year was a bit special to me. It would be exactly thirty years since Nicki and I had met at a New Year’s Party whilst working in France.
We had our first date a few days later on her birthday. Given this and the fact that our kids were now grown up and spreading their wings, it made the normal end of year reflection even more potent, as it felt more like the exclamation mark of a three-decade journey.
We met our friends and took a seat but when I was asked what I wanted to drink, not frequenting pubs much meant I was unsure, so I decided to walk over to the bar to see what they had on offer.
I was just making my mind up when a guy came up to me and said “you don’t remember me do you? You don’t know who I am?” I confessed I didn’t. He then went on “you should know you had a huge impact on me years ago. I used to work at such and such a company and you were my trainer”. (FYI … I left that company nearly 15 years ago). He continued “You know nobody ever treated me the way you did. And nobody’s treated me like it on any training course I’ve been on since. You made me feel like I was important, and what I said or thought mattered. You treated me with respect and showed me how to treat people properly and it left a huge impression on me.”
We talked for a bit and it was obvious he held me in very high regard because of the way I had acted all those years ago. It was a hell of a conversation to be having as the minutes ticked away to midnight. There I had been for the last few weeks getting all worked up about this anniversary, three decades worth of life – this history, meeting Nicki, living more than half our lives together, bringing up a family and now them moving on and yet this part of my story, my history, I had no idea about. The timing was insane, god must be having a laugh, at my expense.
I won’t go into too much detail why this seemingly random encounter really shook me up but in essence, he made me remember something it’s so easy to forget – what we do, every day, matters, even if we hardly notice it ourselves. I had worked with thousands of people as a trainer and coach with that company and I’d like to think I treated them all the same: With respect, empathy and warmth. It never occurred to me that some people would take more than the specific training and skills development away from our encounter. I wasn’t setting myself up as a role model so much as trying to do my job well.
I have many flaws, after nearly 11,000 days together, I’m sure Nicki could provide you with a really long list, I’ve let people down and failed to do my best on many occasions but on a good day … as that guy reminded me … on a good day I have the power to inspire and encourage and empower others, not just by what I say but by what I do, what they see me do, how I treat the world and the people in it.
If I learned anything in 2018 it’s this … I’m not perfect and that’s okay. I have my good days and bad. I don’t always “turn up” or at least not at 100%. I make promises I find I can’t keep and start things I can’t finish. I’m lazy and stupid and selfish even when, perhaps especially when I don’t set out to be.
But just because we can’t do everything right, all the time doesn’t mean we can’t do some things right some, or even most, of the time. And realising this, that we are trying, allows us to forgive, ourselves and others. It can even inspire us – “so none of us is perfect but I’m not going to use that as an excuse not to try”.
Meeting that guy in the pub, at that precise moment has had an impact on me perhaps as much as I had on him all those years ago. If our lives are an unfolding narrative, what story does ours tell? There’s a paradox though, we need to be aware and mindful of what we do at each moment and yet as the years slip by the longer perspective tells it’s own story. Is it a love story or a disaster movie? A lifetime has taught me that whilst the destination is always uncertain the journey is the real deal. How we act, how we behave builds and aggregates and creates its own momentum. A life only makes sense when we look at it in the long view but it is lived in all the little details day to day.
Thirty years, half a life time together or just a brief encounter in a training room, how we treat others defines who we are and the story people will tell of us. So what is that story going to be? I may not be perfect, and my life has been far from perfect but randomly meeting a guy in a bar just before midnight of a New Year’s night reminds me of who I want to be and who I can be, when I try and it reminds me how what I do has an unseen impact, one way beyond what I’m aware of.
Life, like that evening is full of surprises, twists and turns, it may never be perfect or predictable but it can be extraordinarily rewarding, if you keep trying. I’ll leave you with this thought experiment. Imagine you’re in a pub, a decade or three in the future. As you stand at the bar trying to make up your mind what to have a succession of people come up to you and describe what impact you’ve had on them … everyone from the shop assistant in the local supermarket to your family members. A whole raft of people telling you their experiences of you. That’s your story.
And now let’s take it one step further … imagine you’re standing there right now with your future self and they are telling you about the person you became, the life you lived. You can’t control what is going to happen to you. But you can choose how you indent to behave … so what’s it going to be? How are you going to act, from today? Your story is still being written, with all your little acts …. of kindness, empathy, compassion? Thoughtfulness?
Thoughtfulness … isn’t that what this time of year is all about? Now there’s a thought!
Have a Happy New Year.