Do you remember bunny’s dilemma? (You can read about it here) That concept discusses the need to look both ways. Yesterday, I built upon this concept with Three Lessons From Neil Armstrong adding the need to look up. Today I want to talk about looking down.
In 2009 I was driving to work where my ship had been in drydock for a few months. I had the morning commute down to a science. It was like clockwork and I was on autopilot. I left the house at the same time every morning, drove the same route, and even parked on the same street.
One morning while turning right onto the final street where I normally park, I heard an unusual thump at the rear passenger window. I thought it was a ball or a bird. It didn’t feel like much. Turned out to be a motorcyclist, a Senior Chief in the U.S. Navy. Even though I believed he was at fault – you can imagine how I felt as a young Sailor.
In 2011 we were stationed at the same command. Little did I know that we would brush shoulders again. As soon as he saw me he said, “Hey everyone, this is the guy that hit me on my motorcycle!” We laughed and parted ways. I didn’t see him again for almost a year.
When we did cross paths again, he taught me a simple lesson that has had a profound effect on me. I was coming back from physical training and he was leaving for the day. We were walking different directions in a high traffic area. I got the dreaded, “Hey SHIPMATE – come here!” He pointed down to a piece of trash on the ground and asked, “You’re going to pick that up right? I know you saw it!”
He was wrong. I didn’t see it. I wasn’t looking down and even if I had been, I wasn’t tuned in to keeping an eye out for trash. I understood his point though and picked up the trash without question. As we say in the Navy, “I carried on smartly.”
I will ever be grateful for his willingness to teach me. He could have very easily ignored the trash as well as me, “the guy who’s car was in the way of his motorcycle.” Instead, he gave me a taste of REAL deckplate leadership. The lesson stuck with me and to this day, I often pick up trash just because it’s in front of me.
(1) Look down! There is too much laziness and passivity when it comes to trash. We tend to think it’s someone else’s job. Maybe so, but try it out. I’m not asking you to put on an orange vest and walk down the highway, but if you pass over some rubbish and there is a trash can nearby – toss it. It’s an easy task that will make you feel good. Take pride in your surroundings. Take ownership of your stewardship.
(2) There are always difficult lessons that need to be taught. These opportunities are never convenient. You run the risk of offending or embarrassing others. But give it a try. When that lesson finally does sink in with someone you will influence them forever and may add tremendous value to society.
Photo by Jes