I once enlisted one of my wiser friends to help me with my writing. One of the lessons I learnt from him was that a sign of great writing is the ability to make the writing less about you and more about the subject. That’s one of the many reasons why I love Seth’s blog – the posts are hardly ever about Seth and his experiences. They are always about the idea.
I struggle with this and, in some ways, I’ve long given up on my writing abilities. These days, I’ve learnt to focus on the showing up and sharing bit. And, this is a long winded way of saying today’s post is another one of those that is centered around an anecdote. :-)
This afternoon, I went out for lunch with a friend – it was nice meeting him as we’d been in touch via blog and email for more than a year now as he consistently responded to my weekly “200 word project” notes every single week. It was great to meet him in “in real life.” Post lunch, we headed to a mall nearby as we both needed to get some shopping done. As I was getting done with my errands, I received a text from him. He was buying his first suit, was feeling totally lost and wondered if I might be able to help.
I knew exactly how he felt because I’d been in his position just a few years ago. I had moved to London and was about to fly out for an important client meeting in a few weeks. My manager suggested it was time to invest in a suit – I only had a blazer that wasn’t really a great fit.
This was the second important clothing recommendation he’d made. When I’d just moved to London, I had found my work attire inadequate by London standards. Big cities seem to be filled with folks with a lot of fashion sense and I needed to get with the program. So, he’d taken me to a T M Lewin store close to our work and suggested I buy their shirts. 4 shirts for a 100 pounds was a great deal for good quality shirts, he said. And, I listened. It was great advice. Now, it was time to listen to his advice again except for the fact that buying a suit can be an overwhelming experience if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Recognizing that, he did something incredibly nice – I used to often walk to the station with him on the day of the week I worked at the office (rest were at the client) and catch up. This time, he took me to the T M Lewin outlet that dealt with suits. In the 20 minutes that followed, he explained what I should look for, helped me get a sense of what colors would look good for the shirts I had, helped me narrow down on a grey suit and made sure I tried it on to see how it fit. It fit well, he said. And, I bought my first suit.
It was a small 20 minute odd errand from his side.. but it meant a lot to me. It was what I’d expect a parent to do.
So, when this friend reached out wondering if I might be able to help, I was glad to be able to pay a bit of the goodness I received forward. As he tested his suit out, I typed out a note to this manager and friend and thanked him for that lovely gesture. I also shared the story with this friend and asked him to pay it forward.
It isn’t always possible to help everyone who wants help, of course. I’m a big believer in making sure we’re selfish about taking care of ourselves first. This sounds like a contradiction, but, the more we feel taken care of, the more time we have to really give ourselves to others. And, when we put ourselves in a position to really be of help, every once in a while, we get an opportunity to help people with what might seem to just be a small investment of our time.
And, I’ve learnt to make those small investments as often as possible, because, as my manager demonstrated, a small thing for us can often be a big thing for someone else.