I was interviewing a candidate at my job recently. As I talked to him, I was humbled. He was a super smart guy with an MBA from a well respected school, but that wasn’t it. He was quite personable and articulate, but that wasn’t it either. He previously served in the armed forces. Part of his responsibilities were overseeing reconstruction work in Afghanistan. I probed him with questions to determine if he would be up to the tasks the role he was interviewing for required. His answers elicited a bifurcated response from me. The first was an analytical one of the interviewer assessing the specific examples and details in his answers to determine if they indicated the skills and aptitude to transition into this civilian position. The second was awe. Here was a twenty something who was an instrumental part of building schools for girls half way around the world which would afford them their first opportunity at a better future. He assisting in rebuilding village infrastructure for people who had become accustomed to living without these basic services.
After the interview, I returned to my office and reflected. I have a good job and like what I do. But is it important in the big scheme of things? Does what I do matter? Have I made a positive difference in the world? These questions hung in the air. A friend, who also happens to work for me, stopped by to talk about a work issue. I mentioned to him what I was thinking. He is involved with a non profit as I am. And I know he also is concerned about the larger impact he has. He listened to me describe the interview and my reflections. There was a momentary, what seemed to me, lengthy pause. I wasn’t sure what to think. . Then he responded, “I don’t know if this means anything to you, but you made a big difference in my life.” I told him it does truly mean something to me. And he walked away. After he was out of sight, I let my eyes fill with the tears I had been holding back at his words. His direct statement took my breath away. It was so powerful in that moment. In his simple words, he affirmed me.
Is it that simple? Is that what we need to do to make a difference in the lives of those we cross paths with? I would not have known that I had this impact on his life if he hadn’t told me. This experience, encourage me to more consistently reach out and tell people the positive impact they have made in my life. I don’t assume they know... I didn’t. I did this now on a few occasions since, including to the original person I interviewed who was offered and accepted the job. I was amazed to find I received similar reactions back from them to the one I had. I appear to have inadvertently stumbled on a pay it forward activity with an immediate pay back. How cool is that?!?
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