This is personal post and a philosophical one. If you consider yourself a hard-headed business type focussed on the bottom line, nothing but the bottom line, then I suggest that you stop reading now. If you are open minded then it is possible that this post will find a listening in you. Let’s start.
Shopping with my mother
My mother is elderly. She finds it hard to get up, she finds it hard to move about, she finds it exhausting to go up stairs, she has to be careful coming down the stairs…. She needs help buying the weekly groceries.
This week, I was with my mother for a day and took her on her weekly shop to her favourite grocery store. Whilst there, I had to put patience into the game. Let her walk slowly, let her take her time. Some of the products were to low for her so I bent down picked them up and let her touch them to see if they were good enough for her. Her eyesight is not that good and she struggled to read the prices. So I read out the prices for her.
I also found myself protecting her. How exactly? There were many people in this small supermarket and they were in their own worlds: busy focussing on their tasks, rushing by, and oblivious to the needs of an old lady. More than once I stood between my mother and someone’s trolley or brisk – shoving – walk. Finally, we got to the cashiers till and stood in line.
An old man struggles with his shopping
There was an elderly man in front of us. His hand-held shopping basket was full. He found it hard to carry so he placed it on the floor while he waited for his turn. When his turn came he bent down and started taking one item at a time from the basket and putting it on the conveyor belt. Just watching him I got his situation. I felt for him as one human being for another fellow human being.
So I walked up to him, looked him in the face, smiled and said “Allow me to help you with this!” Then I picked up his basket from the floor and placed the contents on the conveyor belt. The old gentleman had a huge smile on his face whilst saying “Thank you!” Someone standing in the queue, came up to me and said “It’s great of you to help out this old man. This just does not happen anymore.” I replied, “Thank you. I was brought up to help those who can do with help. This is my mum, she’s the one that bought me up that way.”
Now here is what gets me: the cashier saw the old man’s struggle and did nothing; many others standing around queuing saw the old man’s struggle and did nothing. Where is our humanity? Have we disconnected from our empathy – our natural way of being? Have we locked up our natural compassion and thrown away the key? Is all our talk about service, experience, relationship simply empty talk?
Some questions to consider about business, about our lives
I have a deeper questions for you, me, us. What are our lives about? What are our businesses about? What are our organisations about? What is our society about? Is selfishness, greed, and money-making the best that we can aspire to? Is “profit maximisation” the most noble purpose that we can aspire to? Is that how we want ourselves and our age to be remembered?
If business, if Customer Experience, is merely the pursuit of profit maximization then count me out. I am not inspired by that game. And, I doubt that many people in your organisation are inspired by that game. How many people do you know that get up in the morning fired up by the idea of filling the pocket of nameless-faceless shareholders with gold?
I yearn to live a noble life: to make a contribution; to generate connection and touch lives; to contribute to co-creating a world that shows up as a kinder world – a world that works for all. How about you? Are you happy with a life, a tombstone, that reads “Here lies X s/he did a great job of maximising profits for shareholders.”
If you find yourself called to life a noble life, like the one that I have described then I’d love to hear from you, to know you better, to connect with you, to work with you if that is a possibility.
At your service and with my love