First a quote: “We are all having a ripple effect on others, the question is, what kind of ripple effect, negative or positive, do we want to have?” — The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson.
Years ago, while on my way to facilitate a leadership workshop early one morning in my home town, I decided I needed a coffee for the drive to the meeting location. Glancing at my watch and realizing I was already later then I intended to be, I pulled into the drive-through lane of my favorite source of all things caffeinated. Wouldn’t you know, on the exact morning I needed the line to be both short and swift, that was not the case. “Murphy’s Law” I muttered to myself. Now trapped in a slow-moving line and unable to forgo the delay, the only thing I could do was to wait my turn. Patience is certainly not one of my strengths and I quickly began to fret and stew about my situation. “Here it is, not even 7:00 am, and my day is rapidly deteriorating, and it hasn’t even begun.” I complained to myself.
There are probably many lessons one could explore in this situation including how I wanted to blame some poor barista for my tardiness. After all, blaming someone else is so much easier than looking at how we ourselves have contributed to our situation. Certainly, it wasn’t my fault I hit the snooze alarm two extra times that morning or, that I decided to respond to a few emails before the leaving the office 15 minutes later than planned. This lesson is perfect for another Monday morning, not today.
When it was finally my turn at the window, I offered a somewhat forced “Good morning.” Not only was I greeted with a wonderfully warm and friendly smile, I was also offered my drink for free. “The woman in front of you paid for your morning coffee and, I was to tell you on her behalf to have a terrific day!” the barista offered. Off I drove in a completely different frame of mind than I had been only a few short minutes before. A stranger had put a positive ripple in my day with one small, but completely unexpected act of kindness. I know I facilitated a better workshop that day… a class of maybe 30 other individuals each effected by how I showed up to class that morning. And, I’m confident the ripple effect continued to spread in even wider circles, influencing even more people as the ripples radiated and expanded from one complimentary grande latte.
Since that day, I have made it a practice to occasionally pay for a stranger’s coffee, or an elderly person’s restaurant tab without fanfare, without identification… just to “pay it forward”… to continue the ripples started by some unknown person in my life. And the curious thing, my coffee always tastes better when I have started a new positive ripple in someone else’s day.
What ripples will you create today? Will those ripples be positive or negative? Please know positive ripples don’t have to involve spending money or paying for someone’s meal or coffee… in most cases, they will be absolutely free! Perhaps a perfectly timed kind word or thank you note for a job well done. May I suggest a goal for the week? Here it is, send three people an unexpected thank you, or note of encouragement, by Friday of this week. We are creating ripples every day whether we know it or not. Let’s be more intentional. Let’s create more positive ripples… on purpose!
How will you lead differently, or better, this week?
“Expanding Your Capacity for Success”