Thursday, September 29, 2011

22. It’s Not Who You Know… It’s Who You Are That Matters

“The only economy that matters, that can actually put money in your purse, wallet, or the cracks of your sofa, is the economy created by your thoughts, words and baby steps. Every day, someone new, near you, becomes a millionaire. Next…!” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe

There is this guy who works on the security team for my office building. His name is William. He’s a young Hispanic man with a wide grin and an out-going personality. He works the front desk and makes it a rule to learn everyone’s name that passes through daily… not because he has to… everyone has electronic passes that show their name and photo as they swipe through the entryway. But he says “Good Morning, Virginia” to me every day...and I’m not special, there are a couple hundred people that work in our building. He’s set himself a goal to know EVERYONE by name. Very impressive.

One late evening as I was passing by the front desk, he was packing up to leave and he volunteered the information that he was off to school. Was I surprised by this? Nope. Clearly this was the kind of guy who would never be content standing at a desk and playing Words With Friends for very long. He told me he’s taking classes at a local community college and he’s planning to graduate with a degree in business.

I told him that I thought that was fantastic and I wished him much success. He smiled and humbly said, “Thanks.” He told me a personal story about another job where he had experienced income discrimination related to being Hispanic, getting paid less for doing the same work as a white guy. He said that with a degree, he felt he might be able to protect himself better against that kind of thing. And then he said something that really struck a chord with me…

“But as for SUCCESS, that’s a tough one… Because, sadly, it’s all who you know, anyway.” And that bright light that I see in his smiling eyes every morning began to flicker and fade. And that made my heart burn with anger at this silly world and the stupid misinformation that we’re taught growing up.

I had to speak up… and said, “No, William. It’s not who you know, it’s who you ARE that matters the most. And who YOU are is a person of value and you are not going to settle for anything less than you know you are worth, because what you bring to the workplace has value.”

He looked at me with surprise and smiled his signature wide grin.

Normally our conversations tend toward such scintillating subjects as the weather and the traffic. So the fact that I’m calling him out, in the lobby of our building, as being a “person of value” is not exactly business-as-usual.

After he got over the shock of my comment, he countered with, “You think outside the box. Most people are not like you.”

And I said, “Actually, most people are like me, I think. Here’s what I’ve found to be true, William. It’s not who you know… because if you are a total douche and you KNOW everyone… then everyone still KNOWS that you are a total douche. But if who you ARE is a person of character then the right people will want to get to know YOU… not because you’re super connected, but because you are a good person that other good people will want to know.”

He smiled and shook his head and laughed a little to himself. And just when I thought he had nothing more to say, he piped up with, “You are very intimidating to men. If this is how intense you are now, I can’t imagine how frightened I’d be if you were mad at me.”

Now it was my turn to be shocked! I immediately turned red and laughed and said, “Well, yes, I suppose you’re right. I may be a bit much for the timid.”

He nodded in agreement as I escaped into the elevator.

I do believe in him though. I believe he will be successful in business or whatever he decides to do with his life… Not because he’s started out with a bunch of connections or advantages … he hasn’t had those tools at his disposal, but it won’t matter in the end. He’s going to be successful because of WHO HE IS. 

He cares about his work, he goes the extra mile for people and has a great attitude every single day. I know that about him and I only see him for about a total of 2 minutes every week day. It's blatantly obvious. You’d have to be totally blind not to see it. 

He’s a person of value.  And I know that deep down… he knows it too.

Watch out, world… William’s an up-and-commer!


“Do you want to know why I have an issue with compromising, economizing, and settling for less? I have to work just as hard whether the bar has been lowered or raised. Dream even bigger.” – Mike Dooley, Tut’s Universe

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