Over the summer, while on vacation in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, I took my family out to lunch after we finished a hike around Jenny lake toward the falls. Knowing our kiddos can be a bit rambunctious, I carefully chose a lunch spot where we could sit outside. As we approached the restaurant, I could see the outside counter for placing orders. Behind the counter was a young lady sitting comfortably on a stool, who after taking our order, flipped the digital register around for my signature and the expected tip. Without thinking, I tapped the 20% button and went about my business of wrangling up the kids. As I walked back to our picnic table, the family demands started, “Dad, can you please raise the umbrella for some shade, I’m thirsty when will it be ready, Hun-did you get so and so?”
Trying to decipher through all the questions, I started to raise the umbrella. It wasn't very stable and as I turned the handle it began to lean and I couldn't get it to lock into place. I looked over to the girl at the counter for help, and her first response was to just look away. As the umbrella leaned in a horizontal position to the ground, and the wind started opening it up for take off across the patio, the kids scrambled out of the way. In desperation, I looked over at the counter right as the table was being tilted and our water glasses hit the ground.
The girl from behind the counter yelled over, “Yeah, I don't think that one works.” I closed it up, asked the kids to pick up their cups, and we moved to the next table over. As I sized up that umbrella and started easing it up, it hit a snag. By now the kids are getting cranky, which only made me more impatient as I wrestled the umbrella like a bear. I remember thinking, "Damn lady…don’t get off that stool to try and accommodate us.” After realizing there wasn’t any umbrella on the patio that worked, I heard my name being called at the counter. I grabbed the food from the counter, passed it out to the family and started eating my sandwich. With every bite I became more irritated I had given a 20% tip to someone who could care less about our customer experience. Then I realized I shouldn't have given a tip at the register as I can always tip on the way out the door.
As I drove the family back to the lodge and got the kids down for a nap, I had time to think about how that lunch experience felt like some of the relationships we all have in our life. We make reasonable assumptions, have reasonable expectations and our experience either proves our theory, right or wrong. People will surprise, disappoint and at times even make you feel a bit transactional, like when I gave a 20% tip and assumed that there would be an effort on her part to give us good service. The reality is, I don’t know her story. It could be a work ethic problem or it could be that she’s processing the worst news of her life. When it comes to relationships, we need to be honest about who we are and how we show up in that relationship. As I mentioned in the life philosophy blog, having a healthy self identity is a great place to start. Healthy relationships are one of the greatest joys in life and is a key ingredient for true happiness and wealth.
Take inventory of who the key people are in your life. Make a list of these close relationships, and ask yourself what it is about that relationship that makes it special. Chances are, the key people in your life are the people who have shown by their actions that you matter to them. My first memories of those who had an impact on me were a fourth grade friend and a Little League baseball coach. My friend helped build my confidence and my coach invested his time into making me a better player. Great relationships will encourage, challenge, inspire, and motivate but they require an investment of your time. Being intentional with our time is the key to building great relationships. Who have you invested your time in to building a meaningful relationship?
Getting back to Jackson Hole, when I looked across the table and saw my four loud messy kids and my beautiful wife, I shook my head and said to myself “Yes, you’re a little wound up, (I actually felt like throwing my sandwich across the table and into the street), but then I realized what really matters is right in front of me. I am blessed. Keep pouring into my family…life is short.” Give some thought to the people who have made a difference in your life and the people you can do the same for and map out who your key relationships are and who you want them to be in the future. I think you’ll enjoy reading about Jack and his key relationships in part two of this blog.
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