Thought of the Week: The Eyes Have It

One lazy summer day, sometime back in the 1970s, a Wal-Mart executive found himself driving back to Arkansas on a business trip with Wal-Mart founder and owner, Sam Walton. As they drove through a sleepy Mississippi town, Sam asked the executive to pull over at the town’s principal department store. No, he told his executive, he didn’t need to buy anything. Just wanted to check out another store.

The parking lot was almost deserted, and they parked directly in front of the store. Sam told the executive they’d split up, walk through the store, and meet back at the car in twenty minutes.

The executive did as instructed. He strolled through the aisles of goods from one end of the store to another. He saw few customers, and no store employee ever greeted him or asked if they could be of assistance. Any items on sale weren’t promoted, the place was quiet as a tomb, and the entire store just screamed of apathy. No wonder the place was dead.

The executive finished his tour of the store and met Sam back at the car. As they pulled out of the parking lot, Sam asked, “Did you see the great lighting the store used at its cosmetics display?”

No, the executive said he hadn’t noticed that.

“Well, did you see the creative way they organized their men’s coat racks?”

No, the executive hadn’t noticed that, either.

“Surely, you must’ve seen the unique layout of their shoe section.”

No, the executive confessed he hadn’t noticed it.

A lengthy pause of awkward silence ensued, and the executive loosened his tie, which now seemed far too tight.

Sam finally asked, “Well, what did you see?”

Sam Walton could always find the positive in any situation. Where his executive only saw the drawbacks and the negatives, Sam saw what the store was doing right and chose to concentrate on those attributes.

When you look at others, what do your eyes see? Do you see the positives in people, or do the negatives capture your attention? When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Thought of the Week: Words Matter

Upon his election to the presidency in 1860, Abraham Lincoln prepared to move from Springfield, Illinois to Washington, D.C. The night before he boarded the train, he sat in his law office with his partner of more than fifteen years, William Herndon. They swapped stories as they reminisced of past cases and clients, tough and eccentric judges, and courthouse gossip.

As the evening drew to a close, Herndon expressed doubt whether he was good enough to keep their practice open on his own while Lincoln ran the country. Lincoln leaned back in his chair at his desk and clasped his hands behind his head. He bluntly asked Herndon, a known alcoholic, how many times he’d been drunk over the years. Herndon, taken aback by Lincoln’s bluntness, answered the number was more than he could count.

At this point, Lincoln confessed that many people in Springfield, both in and outside of the legal community, had encouraged him many times over the years to drop Herndon as his partner on account of his drunkenness.

When Herndon asked him why he hadn’t dropped him and found another partner, Lincoln stood up. He threw on his coat, grabbed his box of personal effects and walked to the door. As he placed his hand on the latch, he turned to Herndon and said, “Because I never stopped believing in you.”

With those words of Lincoln’s unwavering support, Herndon gave up alcohol and proved a successful attorney in Lincoln’s absence.

Words matter. They’re powerful and can make a profound difference with people, whether we know it or not. Even the simplest forms of encouragement can do wonders. When was the last time you personally told someone you believed in them?