A Broken Rose And A Serving Of Crow

eating crow

This post is a departure from my usual. Normally, I try to teach in my posts. Usually, it’s a business lesson. Today, I’d like to share a life lesson I was taught just hours ago.

I sincerely love people – although at times they are a major source of angst in my life.

But at the end of the day, if I’m paying attention, they always provide me with some sort of life lesson.

My career is fast moving, full of long hours, planes, airports, and hotels. My success in this career is absolutely and utterly dependent upon efficiency.

Because those are the standards I live by in my business life, I tend to get tunnel vision and expect everyone else to live by those standards as well.

When I physically move about this world, I do so quickly and purposefully. I pay attention to what’s happening around me – and I assume everyone else lives that way, too. I try to get to where I’m going as quickly as possible without being rude to or impeding anyone else’s progress.


It Started In Dallas

Today I flew home from Dallas with a layover in St. Louis. A lot of very important balls are up in the air right now at work, so I’m multi-tasking my ass off making phone calls, emailing, texting, and just moving quickly in general.

Virtually everywhere I went today, someone between me and where I wanted to be was moseying.

A woman in Dallas stopped in a fast moving boarding line to fiddle with something in her purse as if she was the only person around, bringing the rest of us to a screeching halt.

I sighed and thought, “You HAVE to be kidding! Come on! Some of us have places to be!”

One guy in St. Louis was standing with a fountain drink sipping away right in the middle of literally hundreds of people trying to get to their gates. The crowd parted around him and then closed up again on the other side of him like a stream flowing around a big boulder that sits in the middle of it. He was totally oblivious as he stared off at God knows what.

I felt that vein in my temple twinge and muttered something profane to myself, disgusted with his level of rudeness.

I could go on, but suffice to say that this scene repeated itself over and over again throughout the day. I was beginning to become very impatient with and sick of my fellow man.


Safe At Home Base?

A few hours later after I arrived home in Omaha, I stood waiting for my luggage to roll by on the carousel. As soon as I got my hands on my bag, I started walking quickly toward the front door to catch my shuttle back to the long term parking lot.

Wouldn’t you know it?

Right in front of me was a woman who stopped walking abruptly, almost causing me to run into her. I somehow refrained from verbally accosting her, but I’m not proud to admit that I was thinking all kinds of colorful, angry thoughts in my mind.

“How can someone be so stupid and oblivious? What the hell? How rude! Do you think you’re the only person here????”

She eventually moved and exited the building.

We wound up on the same shuttle, and I was not at all happy that the only seat left on the shuttle was smack-dab next to this woman.

It was my only option, so I sat down next to her.


She Served Me Crow

This woman who I had labeled as rude, selfish, and clueless looked up at me and smiled weakly. She was clearly making an effort to smile through something. “Hi”, she said – and she looked back down at her shopping bag. Her smile didn’t stay with her.

Sticking out of the top of her bag was a floral arrangement. It was all greenery and sticks and other decorative things that I’m not informed enough to identify properly. But I did notice that there was no color in the arrangement – no flowers.

I noticed she was holding a big, beautiful, broken rose in her right hand. There was only maybe three inches of stem left below the huge bud.

She looked at me again and said sadly, “I almost got it home. It’s been fine all day. It even survived in the cargo hold … and then when I got my suitcase, I broke it. I can’t believe it.”

She looked sadder than a person ought to be over ‘just’ a flower. It clearly represented something bigger to her.

I felt small.

Tiny, in fact.

She wasn’t rude or selfish or oblivious after all. She was sad. That’s why she stopped abruptly and interrupted my stride.

“I’m sorry. That’s a shame”, I said.

I began to imagine that maybe it was a floral arrangement from a wedding she just attended – or maybe from a recent funeral of a loved one. Wherever that rose came from, it was clearly important to her and breaking it had hurt her deeply.

We spoke more on the ride back to the parking lot. She was very nice – and I scolded myself the whole way for assuming earlier that she was some kind of idiot.


Beware The Blinders

We all get wrapped up in our own lives and forget that other people are dealing with things too. They may be different things than ours, but that doesn’t make them any less important.

Maybe those other people who frustrated me earlier in the day really were just jerks. But maybe they were so distracted because they were dealing with some issues that were really important to them.


Consider That You Might Be The Problem

It’s difficult to step out of yourself and see things from someone else’s perspective, but you have to make an effort to do so. Consider the fact that whoever is driving you up a wall may not be the one who’s clueless.

Sometimes you are the clueless one.

Today I was.

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll also enjoy How to Overcome Adversity and Steal Its Power.

About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

50 Replies

  1. I can relate to your experience, although I usually do not end up having someone serve me crow. I am getting better at remembering this quote by Phio “Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

    1. I like that quote, Michele. A lot.

      Patience and I have a love-hate relationship, but I’m always trying to improve. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Everyone is going through something. For every event, there are as many versions of it as there are people involved. Took me a long time to learn this, but it’s been one the most important lessons I’ve learned.

    1. Very true, Kim.

      And at least in my business, it’s something I have to be aware of because there is a big difference between understanding when others have real issues to deal with and letting people get by with not stepping up. Maybe that’s where my built-in skepticism comes from. 🙂

  3. Such an important wake up call – and you tell the story beautifully! I also have to remind myself again and again that the person who is holding me up may be experiencing a pain that I’ve never had to confront.
    I also like to walk quickly and get frustrated in crowded city streets or places where I must slow to the pace of someone in front of me. A couple of years ago I injured my back and I was one of those slow movers for a while! It was quite humbling, and now I am much more mindful about the fact that the ambling person in front of me might be somehow disabled or hurting! Patience, compassion – virtues that some of us have to constantly cultivate.

    1. Thank you for the kind words and the insights, Sara! Much appreciated.

  4. It sounds like this woman on the shuttle gave you a huge helping of humble pie Gary. When I get one served up for me, especially when I don’t see it coming, and I have to eat it immediately – wincing as the taste hits more than just my emotional taste buds – I try to think about what it will taste like five minutes from now.

    Being humbled normally stings at first. But I’ve found there’s very little in this world better at changing your perspective and motivating each of us to be better and kinder.

    Kudos on the self-reflection and doing something about it.

    1. Five minutes later it tasted pretty good, Joel!

      Mainly because I’m always grateful for having learned something or having a new perspective called to my attention.

      Thanks for chiming in. Always good to see you here.

  5. I’m really glad you shared this story with us, Gary. It’s a powerful example of how/why we need to step outside of ourselves and try to see things from another’s perspective. You’re right, maybe those other folks were just rude, but maybe not. And why not give them the benefit of the doubt? It will mean a whole lot less negative energy in life.

    I’ve done this – I think we’re all guilty. It’s happened, for example, when a lane is merging and someone stays in it ’til the very last second, bypassing traffic… It’s SO easy to jump to conclusions, to get pissed off that they’re “cutting in line”… But it feels SO much better to accept that I don’t know why they did that – maybe they didn’t realize it was merging until it was too late. I know I’ve done it. Sticking with the first reaction is just a justification for your own anger – and who is the anger affecting but you? (Btw, I say “you” as a general, I’m not giving you a lecture, haha).
    Anywho…Great post. Thanks for sharing. =)

    1. Kayleeee!

      (That’s my thing now. Get used to it.)

      Not only is giving people the benefit of the doubt the right thing to do, but maybe it’ll keep me out of the cardiologists office too, right? 🙂

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  6. Jim Bessey

    isn’t it awful when other people don’t realize how important you are and make way for you, Gary?

    You DID teach me something today, after all. I see myself clearly in your description of your harried day as you race hither and yon. I imagine I’m not the only one who spends too much time looking inward, self-concerned, and too little time looking out — at whatever’s going on around us. My hand’s up: “guilty as charged.”

    You talk a lot in your “teaching” articles, Gary, about making human connections. I love the connection you made today, because there wasn’t any business benefit involved at all. Instead, just a little ray of sunshine for the Human Condition, two human beings at a time. Just because.

    We all need to let that happen to ourselves more often. Thanks for holding up the mirror, Gary. It really does help to look closer and deeper from time to time, doesn’t it?

    1. Ha! For the record: I don’t think I’m important. I just admit that I’m impatient. 🙂

      I agree that we all tend to get wrapped up in our own stuff, Jim. I think that’s just part of being human.

      I’m not giving a free pass to the human race either. Let’s face it – there really ARE a lot of inconsiderate people out there. I’m not promoting that we make excuses for their behavior at all. Or even tolerate it for that matter.

      I’m just suggesting that we give each individual person an opportunity to be judged as an individual. The opposite of what I did with that lady: Painted her with the broad brush of what I’d been experiencing all day.

      Thanks, Jim!

  7. Priska

    I practice mindfulness meditation. This story reminded me that I am not as empathetic as I like to think I am as I have been a irritated of late at others selfishness in the same manner you described. For instance a motor bike rider who’d left his bike blocking the entry into a service station causing traffic to build up, perhaps there was more to the story.

    1. The motor bike thing: Yeah. That would frustrate me. For sure.

      I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt, but that’s a doozie.

      Thank you, Priska!

  8. Adam Miller

    Very nice story. More people need to focus on looking at life through other people’s eyes instead of getting angry with them.

    1. Hey! You do read DTC every once in a while. Thanks for coming out of the shadows and speaking up, Adam!

  9. daverowley

    Thanks for the beautiful reminder, Gary. I know I’ve felt the same things and had to learn that lesson over and over.

    Like you in this instance, it seems to come up when I am feeling impossibly squeezed, so maybe there’s some room for self compassion there as well as for others. Times of stress might be a signal that the blinders you mention are most likely to come down. My hope for myself is that the time between lessons gets longer each time.

    1. Yes. Good point. Being busy sure can induce the blinders … or cause tunnel vision … or whatever you want to call it.

      So can focusing on, doing, and thinking about the same things over and over and over again. When we do that, we increase our expertise and experience in those areas by focusing so intensely on them – and as a result we create a little experience box that we live in. When that happens, we also tend to not notice other things going on outside of that little box that we’ve been focusing on so intensely.

      It’s a tough line to walk for sure.

      Thanks, Dave!

  10. It’s a huge problem in understanding others.

    When we make a mistake, we attribute it to something external (I did poorly on the report because I was having trouble at home), and when others make mistakes, we attribute them to something internal (they did poorly on the report because they’re lazy and stupid).

    Even knowing that it happens, I find myself doing it all of the time. Gerr human nature!

    Good job on remembering Gary!

    1. Thanks very much, Amit.

      And I think you’re spot on about how we give ourselves a pass way more than we give others the benefit of the doubt. Imagine if we could all flip that scenario. Might make for happier, more productive people, no?

  11. Just catching up with this one Gary, but I loved it! But, I must admit that I’m still frustrated by the volume of people who seem oblivious to people around them, particularly the people who block paths!

    1. Me too, Mike. Me too. 🙂

      As I said in the conversation below, I’m not suggesting we give rude people a pass. In fact, i’m ALL about calling that kind of thing out.

      But I do think many of us (me) need to keep an open mind and consider that at least some of those people have something bigger going on.

  12. Great post,, Gary. I was a multi-tasker and a type A personality . With my long legs I walked faster then taller men. Places to go, people to see. I looked ahead like a good defensive driver should even on my feet in a crowd, knowing that there would be one person, at least, who “would get in my way”. Of course “our” way is the only way, right? Now, my bones are disintegrating I can’t walk at all outside. I wish for one day to be in a crowded place again and stop to smell the roses, broken or not, of those faces who teach us lessons every day. You stopped to learn from a lady who now has touched all of our hearts. Thank you for this. Beautiful story.

    1. You’re welcome. And what a profound lens to look at this whole situation through. I don’t know that I can add anything to your comment except “thank you” for sharing it with all of us!

      1. Love disqus, but at 1am when everyone has commented and you are so touched by a post, you want to share your heartfelt thanks to the author…you forget that this will be smack in your face (and others) down the road. Everywhere. So just business talk from now on, Gary, ok? Don’t want to be caught in a weak moment by a touching story. 😉 (Yikes.)

        1. Gary_RA

          No worries at all. I don’t think anyone minds a healthy dose of sincerity around here. If they mind that, they’re probably in the wrong place to begin with. I thought it was a GREAT addition to the conversation!

  13. Jeanne Noorman

    I love this post. Why do we always assume that where we are going and what we are doing is more important than the whatever is going on around us? We need to look at the people who stop us in our tracks and see them as people instead of interruptions. So glad you shared the story!

    1. Thanks, Jeanne!

      I’m glad you found it as important a lesson as I did. It really took me down a peg 🙂

      And I’m very happy to see you participating here in the comments. Thank you!!

  14. Wow, awesome story @GaryKorisko:disqus. So true– we too often think the other person is the problem without realizing we might be.

    1. A dose of humility really does help every once in a while for sure. Thanks, Dustin!

      1. Don’t I know it. I recently wrote about humility on my blog– a big struggle for leaders and creatives alike.

        1. I don’t normally like links in the comments, but I think this audience would enjoy that.

          Please feel free to share it here!

          1. Well if you insist– it’s titled Stay Humble. Based on some recent experiences of both myself and a friend who happens to be a communications director for a well known pastor.

  15. Laura Leigh Clarke

    Brilliant and thought-provoking story Gary. Your writing is MAGNETIC. I just got hooked in!

    Beautiful lesson too. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thank you Laura. I’m very happy to hear you found it valuable. And thank you for the nice compliment – and the Tweet! I hope we see you back here soon.

  16. I am the opposite personality type from you, and I tend to be much more focused on how I can help others. That wiring, plus being an innkeeper of a large family bed & breakfast gave me lots of practice at seeing I was not the target. Little did I realize the experience and writing topics that experience would offer! 🙂

    Your terrific post brings to mind a story I read long ago of a dad whose children were misbehaving wildly on a commuter train. After many angry looks and individuals huffing in disdain, the dad lifted his head, and apologized for his children’s behavior, explaining that they had just come from their mother’s funeral. Ouch. I have tried to keep that thought in mind, that I don’t know what baggage other people are carrying, and to extend grace rather than having to eat crow. 🙁

    1. Hello Kim! Thank you for the comment and for sharing that story. Very on-point.

      For the record, I love helping people too. My *issue* shows up when I’m in a hurry and overloaded. I tend to operate with blinders under those circumstances – but I’m trying to learn to slow down and breathe instead.

      Welcome to the site. I hope to see more of you here.

  17. Sophie Lizard

    Dude. DUDE. OK, you were being judgmental on a bad day, but this post is brilliant – can’t get any more authentic. Have you read Wired for Story? You should.

    1. Thank you, Sophie. You know I really value your opinion (because I think you’re the brilliant one) – so that means a lot to me. I do not know that book, but I’m off to Amazon to buy it now.

  18. Laura Leigh Clarke

    Dude. DUDE. Awesome post (as usual!) but what on earth is crow?? ;))

    1. Ha. Very funny. For everyone else: They don’t say “eat crow” in the UK, so all my British friends like to tease me when I say that.

      Thank you, Laura 🙂

      1. Laura Leigh Clarke

        no, we eat “humble pie”.

        I recall my mum eating lots of it when I was little… never saw her physically eating any pie, so it confused me for a while… 🙂

  19. Leanne_Regalla

    Great post, Gary. Sophie Lizard said it was a “must read” and she was right. 😉 This is my first introduction to your blog – I will be hanging out and checking the site over for sure.

    1. Hey Leanne;

      Thanks so much. I’m glad you liked it… and that Sophie lady’s not so bad either, right? 🙂

      Hope to see more of you here!

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  21. Getting irritated is one’s own fault.. For you have interpreted a situation as something to be angry about.

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