You never know who you’re going to sit next to when you fly first class to Los Angeles. Who knows, perhaps you’ll be seated next to a movie star, an athlete, maybe an entertainment mogul. Not that I was hoping for any particular seating arrangement this time. When I was flying out to LA for my first keynote speaking engagement, I was completely focused on reviewing my notes and being prepared to speak. But I found myself focused instead on the man seated next to me.
He was wearing suspenders and a little cap. His cane was resting between his legs. Over the course of our discussion I learned he had led an interesting life as a journalist and a world traveler. But he was also an 87 year-old man who was obviously in need of a personal nurse. I couldn’t understand for the life of me why he was travelling alone in his condition.
I have to say, even after he’d shared his perfectly interesting life story, the thought that kept recurring was “Why me?” Despite this, I found myself spending the entire flight assisting my neighbor. I helped him with his meal. I wiped his chin. When nature called, I took him to the restroom. When I realized he needed help with his suspenders and then his zipper… well, I assisted him then, too. I did not necessarily want to help this man, but it was the right thing to do, and I found myself doing it automatically even though some of my thoughts had a totally different attitude about the situation.
The reason behind my act of kindness was simple: I want to do what is right. One of my core values is that I treat others how I would like to be treated myself. It’s been a very successful business strategy. Like attracts like, and I work with lots of good people. It’s an easy thing to say, and sometimes it’s not very difficult to walk the walk. But doing what was right for the man on the airplane, however, was not as easy. It took patience, compassion, and humor.
The next day, I was giving an entrepreneurial coaching talk to a group of business professionals. I was talking about the value of doing what is right. During the middle of my talk, a gentleman stood up in the middle of the room and said to the crowd, “I want everyone here to know that this guy actually does what he says. Yesterday, I was on a flight with Dave and I saw him assist an elderly man throughout the entire flight.” I was shocked! This participant was on the same flight, sitting a few rows back watching the whole time that I was fumbling through my act of kindness.
Lessons are presented to you throughout your life. Do what most people don’t do: Look at your lessons, learn from them, and then use them to create your future. A lifetime of success is achieved incrementally, one day at a time. Your daily habits define who you are and how your life will be played out. If you want to change, begin by changing your habits. Consciously increase the healthy habits that will get you where you want to be and try to minimize the negative habits.
Human nature is most comfortable when lounging around and complaining. It is always easier to fall back into your old habits than to work on replacing them with new ones.
When you’re trying to live a life that is congruent with your values and trying to replace bad habits with good ones, you’ll find it takes a lot more energy to do what is right than what is convenient. Keep this in mind in order to maintain a healthy perspective as you gain the strength within you to have the patience and grace to stick to what you know is right.
Besides, you never really know when you’re being watched.