Sometimes people in the most unlikely positions and places can teach you powerful lessons. I learnt one such lesson earlier this year when I travelled to Turkey.
The temperature was near zero when I landed in Istanbul and it was raining really hard that morning. I exited the airport, took a cab and sat down in the warm interior. When I arrived at my hotel I was met by the doorman who greeted me with a broad smile. It was still raining.
He came over to the car with an umbrella and helped me get inside the hotel holding the umbrella over my head while carrying my luggage. All this was while he himself was getting wet in the rain.
He waited while I finished my check in formalities and then he took my luggage to my room. I noticed that he was very athletic and could carry heavy luggage with ease.
When I started talking to him, I found him to be remarkably well informed and articulate.
I was in Istanbul for the first time. This person gave me a lot of information. He had answers to practically all my questions on the city. More than anything else he had an engaging smile all the time.
I was rather curious to know how a person in his role was so articulate and well informed.
So I asked him, “How long have you been with this hotel?”
He answered, “I have been here for a little over a year.”
I could see that he had some experience and this couldn’t have been his first job so my next question was, “Which hotel were you working in before this?”
He responded, “I wasn’t working in any hotel.”
I could sense the pride in his voice as he continued, “I was a Commando in the Turkish Special Forces.”
Taken aback completely I asked him, “How did you choose this work. It has nothing to do with your skills or expertise?”
He answered, “With the kind of things I am trained for, there is really no employer looking for such skills. When I left the Forces, I realized I had to change my line and to do that I had to study further. I didn’t have much savings, so I took up this job to fund my studies.”
With a smile on his face he added, “Very soon I will be in a profession of my choice.”
Seeing I was interested, he opened some photos on his phone and showed me pictures of himself in Turkish Army combat fatigues along with his unit.
There was another picture of him in uniform, carrying an assault rifle with ease.
I couldn’t help saying, “I am very impressed with your professionalism. You know fully well that your work is not using even a fraction of your skills and what you have trained for. Yet your attitude towards your work, is remarkable.”
He said, “Sir, there are ups and downs in this work as there are in any other work. But, there is one thing I never forget- this is the job that is helping me pursue my dream. I have no doubt I will achieve what I have set out to do. It may take some time but I intend to give my best to whatever I do.”
He went on to add, “The Special Forces teach you a lot. More than anything else it teaches you to value what you have, for you never know if you will have it tomorrow or not. I have learnt this in the Forces and what they teach you, you don’t forget easily.”
I felt very humbled at that moment and I must confess, a little ashamed of myself as well.
I have lost track of how much I have complained about my work and here was a young person, perhaps half my age with many times my wisdom who taught me what the value of work really is!
Unfortunately many of us including me, choose to look at only what our work takes from our lives (our time, our control over our lives and so on) rather than all that it enables.
I thought to myself, if you ever look at all that your work/job/business enables in your life, you would be so very grateful for it. How different your approach to your work would be then! And, imagine with that approach what all you could achieve! Think how incredibly productive you would be!
It’s truly amazing what a right attitude towards work and gratitude for the things we have, can bring about! More so if you are a leader or want to be one.
Try it sometime and you could end up truly surprising yourself!
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.— Winston Churchill