Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happy Holidays Everyone

(I can't say it better than this submission in Toronto's Globe and Mail by Farzana Hassan-Shahid who is the president of the Muslim Canadian Congress and author of the book titled Islam, Women and the Challenges of Today.

One good turn deserves another

As she helped me, and I tried to find a way to repay her, she looked at me with her blue eyes and said: 'Just pay it forward.'

The Wal-Mart in Mississauga can be a bustlingly busy place at Christmas or in the swelter of the summer -- or , indeed, at any time of year. It was on one of those hot summer days that I met Cindy in the busy parking lot of the massive department store.
For a while, she calmly observed the predicament I found myself in -- too many items, too little space in the trunk of my tiny vehicle -- and smiled occasionally. Perhaps she noticed my colourful South Asian garb and hesitated to make conversation with me. She may have thought I didn't know any English as the chatter in Urdu among my three children and niece was definitely beyond her ken.

Therefore, it was I who decided to break the cordial silence between us.
"We may have to make two trips to the house since we have so many items," I said.

"Where do you live?" she inquired. I told her I didn't live too far from the shopping mall.
"I can take you home," was her warm-hearted, instantaneous response. What a nice person, I thought.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"Oh, of course. Just hop in and let me help you put some of your items in the trunk."
My three children were clearly intrigued by such instant generosity from a total stranger. I asked my son to drive my car and for them to follow us with the other items, one of which was a new area rug for my daughter's room.
During the 10-minute drive from Wal-Mart to my house, Cindy informed me that she was mother to seven children, three of whom were in her foster care. Only such a loving and kind woman could agree to foster three children, I thought.
Ranging from age 7 to 14, she must have her hands full -- but she still found time to do a perfect stranger an act of kindness.

She turned into my street and then into my driveway.

"Thank you so much, Cindy." I said, feeling somewhat inadequate about those words not doing justice to the spontaneous goodwill she had demonstrated toward me.
"I would very much like it if you came and met my family over a cup of tea. Let me at least offer you some tea," I said.
"I really have to get going to those children of mine," she responded with a smile. I thanked her again and invited her to come in once more. As she helped me unload my items, she looked at me through her wide blue eyes as she said: "Just pay it forward.
"Do someone else a good turn."
If we were all to adopt this as a motto for life, the world would indeed be a blessed place.

In today's world full of hostility, broken trusts, bigotry and rivalry, if we only learned to perpetuate simple acts of kindness, perhaps our troubled world would turn into a more peaceful and compassionate abode for all. Cindy made me realize that small acts of kindness could come with huge dividends if they were "paid forward."

She taught me a lesson that I wish to share with all caring individuals this Christmas season. I will probably never run into her again, but that blue-eyed, fair-haired woman who helped a strange woman from a visible minority in colourful South Asian garb, overcoming all barriers of race, language and ethnicity despite the mistrust and hostility that pervades our world -- she forever left an imprint on my mind.

Thank you, Cindy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I need your help -

Hi Everyone,

I am writing a book on "Becoming the good guy*
* (or being a smart, personable, reliable, giving woman. )

It's about why people speak well of you, refer you business and open doors for you.

I am looking for the term (usually one or two words) in other languages that someone uses when they are referring business to someone else In Canada, it's often a "good guy." eg. If you need a lawyer, go see Steve, he's a good guy. Tell him I sent you!
It may or may not be a direct translation ( e.g. in French it is bons gars but in in Spanish it is chevere) . It may be generic (e.g. a mensch) or it could be gender specific (e.g. if you need a great doctor, go see Susan, she's amazing). I have also seen older phrases (she's really top drawer) and very new ones (he's solid).

If you speak another language or dialect or know someone who does, could you please find a translation for me?

Friday, December 08, 2006

All things are possible

Let me offer a version of the snakes-on-a-plane/lawyer-on-a-flight account that may prove redemption into a "good guy" is possible (I have used this anecdote in seminars to lawyers)

On a flight a few years back my seatmate was a high powered litigator from a major NY firm. Cuff-links, wingtips, power suit, the whole she-bang. I mentally rolled my eyes as the guy plunked down next to me as I expected the standard dog-and-pony look-what-I-can-do show.

Instead, the guy was the epitome of niceness. He jumped up to assist the attendant in closing the overhead compartments. He courteously left the center rest free for my arm. He proceeded to ask me some open-ended questions and expressed genuine interest in what I did for my company. Hell, he even picked up a soother an infant had dropped from the seat across the aisle. The guy actually wiped it off with a napkin and gave it back to the mother.

When I commented on what a nice guy he was, he told me his story.

In his words:

I wasn’t always like this. There’s nothing more intimidating to most people than a) a New Yorker b) a New Yorker who’s a lawyer and c) a New Yorker who’s a lawyer and a litigator. I beat the hell out of everyone as I climbed my way the way to the top of my firm. Manners? Those were for suckers. I used to enjoy harassing people in the courtroom and out on the street. Car service guys. Coffee shop waitresses. Hotel staff. What’s a few tears and some red faces? A squeaky wheel gets the grease and the way I squeaked, I got a hell of a lot of grease. Sure I pissed a lot of people off but I was a pit-bull for my clients and the money came rolling in. Rough around the edges? Hell, I didn’t even have edges!

The only person whose opinion really mattered was my wife. We had been married for 20 years and she was the best thing that ever happened to me. She put up with my crap because I guess she was used to it.

So one time I had to go to San Francisco on business and my wife wanted to come along to do some shopping. As usual, I harangued the staff at the airport counter for an upgrade on the flight, and when we arrived, I took a run at the car rental staff as well. By the time I was finished with the girl at the counter, I had another upgrade and she had a quivering lip.

So we are walking over to the full-sized lot and wife grabs my arm and stops me. She looks me right in the eye and says…you’re an asshole. You leave this trail of destruction behind you wherever you go and I have to tell you something… I am really ashamed of you. I never want to travel with you again.

My wife had never said anything like that to me in my life. I was severely shocked. It was a pretty quiet ride to the hotel. So I thought: I’ll show her. She wants me to be nice? I’ll be sickingly sweet nice.

My routine at a hotel is usually the same. I go up to the first room they put me in, and turn right around back to the front desk and complain for a better room. This time, I see this girl at the front desk who seems a little tired. I asked her how her day was going. She smiles and says she’ll be glad to go off shift. I ask her if I can get her some water or a coffee from the hotel lounge. She gracefully declines. I tell her my wife and I have just arrived from NYC and she says she would love to go there one day. I give her my business card and tell her to look us up and that I can recommend some great places to stay and some nice restaurants if she is interested. Guess what? We get the nicest room at that hotel I’ve ever had!

So now I’m thinking…maybe I can get nicer stuff from people by being sweet that I can by beating them up. So the rest of the trip, I’m smiling, I’m courteous, I’m handing out compliments, and people are actually talking to me. I start getting great service, some upgrades and my wife is happy …it’s great! And that was 10 years ago.

Then the lawyer looked over at me and laughed…yeah…that was 10 years ago and the best part is…I’m still a nice guy…but I don’t do it for upgrades or stuff anymore. I do it because I guess it’s the right thing to do.

"A Good Guy"

Thanks Nicola for submitting this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Let's help "B" out.

Dear Dave,

Last week I got the chance to go to a seminar and heard a CEO talk about her company and opportunities in the industry. I wanted to talk to her afterwards but she was surrounded by too many people. They were all trying to speak with her, to offer her their business card or resume or literature from their company. I couldn't even get close!

How do you stand out from crowd and get people to notice you? I get frustrated because of all the competition.