Props to All the “Real” People

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I have always loved, and been inspired by, the “Common Man” (and Woman).

When I was 25 years old at my first start-up company in Manhattan I had literally one thing hanging from my office wall (other than 587 sticky notes and whiteboards, both I have had various obsessions with over the years).

It was a photo I’d torn out of the Wall Street Journal of two older Chinese men doing backbreaking work in a remote village for what was an incomprehensibly low wage with brutally long hours.

Frequently, a group of us would be at the office past 2am. On occasion, I would feel myself  get into a “EFFFF! Man, this is SO HARD” mental loop.

But then I would look at the picture and remind myself.

“No…You know what’s hard? Working 14 hours a day in rice fields at the age of 71 doing mundane and incredibly physically demanding manual labor to earn a barely livable wage. That’s hard.”

Over 15-years later I still have that same photo, which I still look at periodically to remind myself of the same thing.

Inspirational speakers don’t often inspire me.

I find my greatest inspiration in “Ordinary People…Doing ‘Extra-Ordinary’ things” (a quote I’ve always loved from a great college football coach of mine, Joe Williams).

Last week I drove from San Francisco to Sedona over the holidays to celebrate the wedding of an amazing friend. En route at 4am after having driven 12-hours I was tempted to sleep at a rest area, but since I had the kids I found a roadside motel instead.

The place was a total dive, some roadside hatch in the middle of nowhere Arizona for $46 a night.

I pull up my car to the crappy entrance ”guest reception” to check in. My expectations of the front desk employee falls in one of two tranches: low and lower.

Instead, I am met with the most amazing woman who is working the front desk.

Graying hair in her early 60′s with imperfect teeth and a glowing personality, she was one of the most enthusiastic, positive, professional, warm, and cheerful people I’d met in months.

In five minutes of checking in I fell in love with her. If I’d had a job for her I would’ve hired her on the spot (which I’ve essentially done before–in fact, one of my first FloWater employees was my waiter at a restaurant where I basically did just that).

People like her? Now that inspires me.

In a land (esp Silicon Valley, though I’m not knocking it–but there’s a reality check we can all use) of companies that offer free food, decompression parties, meditation rooms, unlimited vacation policies, culture workshops, and on and on (all designed to recruit and retain the greatest talent and provide an atmosphere where they can do their best work), what REALLY inspires me are people like this.

Working at a ratty hotel. In the middle of nowhere. At 4am. Earning minimum wage.

And blowing my mind with an amazing customer experience and an incredibly friendly and generous personality. 

Props, tonight, to all the real people.

That do real work.

That often goes unnoticed.

You inspire me.

~Raz

 

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