In one of my LinkedIn groups, a member (Shannon Miller) asked a thoughtful question that prompted me to dig the following bits out of my archive and post it.
So what impresses me? Three things impress me, every time, without fail.
Real expertise. Real expertise is qualitatively different, even from someone who has much learning and experience. Experts think about the problem differently, and that’s evidenced through how they act. There’s a surety and efficiency to expertise. Years ago, I would rush to the front window when I heard the truck coming on trash day. I would stand there with my morning cup of hot tea just to watch one gentleman. We was a middle-aged garbageman and was truly elegant in his motions. He had a complete understanding of how his job was best accomplished and managed to smoothly execute even as he was instructing his younger co-worker. Expertise is elegant, and it’s everywhere — if you open your eyes to it.
Spontaneous expressions of joy (not “happiness” — happiness is shallow and common). True joy is much rarer, and real joy cannot be planned or anticipated. It escapes from us involuntarily in a giggle, sigh, gasp, moan or belly laugh. Children, just learning the world (if they are fortunate enough to be born into security and love), evidence a lot of joy with each new discovery. I remember the peals of delighted baby laughter the day our son discovered his right foot — and that it would (sort of) do what he wished.
Common decency. “Common” decency is not common enough, but it’s around us in small, often overlooked, gestures. It’s in the ways we acknowledge our shared humanity without making a big deal of it: opening a doors for someone, carrying a package, returning a dropped wallet, thanking a frazzled server on a very hectic day. Decency, for me, is just about the little, spontaneous ways we connect and try to make a difficult life a bit easier for one another — with no thought of reward.
It’s a privilege to witness these unselfconscious, transcendent moments. They are all ordinary, yet wholly exceptional, nonetheless. I suppose, they all have two things in common: they evidence when people are “in the flow” and are truly connected to their environment or one another.
So what impresses you? What causes you to pause in your day and note the remarkably ordinary?