Category: AD Blog


There’s Always A Hand Waiting

George got into the truck this Tuesday morning not knowing what to expect.  He was nervous sitting inside the cab. Last week, Walt was not very talkative. He did not want to ask about business loans or anything related to the company.  After a few minutes, Walt interrupted the silence and asked, “George, aren’t you going to ask me how things are going?” George responded, “I didn’t know if you wanted to talk about it.”  As they moved down the street, they exchanged updates on their families. George described some drama that was happening at his work. As the truck turned the corner, George asked Walt, “So, tell me what is going on? Didn’t you have another loan application meeting this past week?”  As Walt nodded his head, he said, “I actually had two meetings at the bank. When the first meeting was over, I was taken upstairs to a conference room and had to speak with four managers at one time.” For the next few houses Walt described how the meetings went and how nervous he was to speak with bankers.  After an eternity of questions about Walt’s business plan, the expected quarterly profits, insurance, facility rent, truck lease payments and many others, Walt said he leaned back in his chair and stopped talking. When the group grew frustrated he asked them, “Can I speak about me?” George tried to tell Walt that it was the bank’s job to find out as much as they could before lending money. The bank will take all the precautions to ensure that the loan and interest will be repaid.  Walt and George continued to speak about the details of the banking process until Walt changed the course of the conversation.

Walt told George, “After 30 minutes in the conference room I did not look the direction of the process, so I decided to change it.”  He added, “I wanted to be who they wanted me to be, but it killed me inside.” So Walt changed the topic from the bottom line to what he wanted to add to the trash collecting experience.  Walt described that he would provide a new trash and recycling can to all customers. He detailed that he would provide the best trash cans for people to put outside their house. He also added some niche products that his company would offer customers.  He highlighted that employees would treated with care and respect and be required to maintain the trucks before every shift. When the bankers asked Walt how he was going to pay for these changes, he had a financial plan for these new expenses. Walt said, “I made up my mind that I would be me because I am good at what I do. I would rather be myself, even if it meant that I had to go off what they wanted to hear.”  George asked, “How did they like that version?” Walt described that, they left me in the room and met with the bank president. He said, “About twenty minutes later, a man walks in the room alone and introduces himself as Phillip Rhodes, bank president.” Mr. Rhodes asked Walt to describe his vision and after about ten minutes, he stops Walt. Mr. Rhodes says, “I know who you are, I know what you’re about and I know how you care for your customers.  I am willing for this bank to take a chance on you so I approving the loan.” George belted out, “That’s awesome, you got the loan!” Walt returned, “That’s not the best part.” He asked George, “Do you remember the house up the lane that we went to a month ago?” “How can I forget, I had to throw their trash into the truck in the snow”, said George. Walt told George that he has went up the long lane once a month for five years and took their trash. He never once told the bosses he did this, so those people never received any bill.  “What I didn’t tell you or even know myself was their last name was Rhodes” said Walt. Walt smiled as he told George that Phillip Rhodes was that couple’s son and he knew that Walt did this act. This monthly act proved to the bank president that Walt cared about his customers, even if they did not pay for it. As the truck pulled up to George’s house, Walt said, “I will tell you more next week.”

Everyone has heard the phrase, “Random Acts of Kindness” and I have observed how doing something unexpectedly for someone has blessed me personally.  But more often than not, my random act is just that; random and once. I ask myself, I am willing to continue doing something for years, like Walt? Walt made that trip over sixty times and rarely received a thank you, but kept doing it.  He carried out those acts because he cared for that couple, he valued his impact and eventually received an unexpected blessing himself. I encourage you to look for something you can do for someone more than once without saying a word. You never know how that blessing will come back to you.


Turned Down

As the truck headed down the street, Walt was his typical quiet self.  He meticulously sat each can on the sidewalk. Meanwhile in the cab, silence prevailed between George and Walt.  George actually enjoyed the stillness over the noise coming from the garbage truck. As they turned the corner, George wondered if the entire ride was going to amount to anything worthwhile.  He liked spending Tuesday mornings with Walt, but he really enjoyed the wisdom that Walt passed along. Every week in the truck was like a classroom, and George was the student. George asked Walt, “Any word?  Any progress?” Walt said, “I’ve been depressed this past week. I have gotten turned down for a loan by two banks and now I don’t know what I am going to do. Walt then said, “I guess it’s not supposed to be. At least not yet anyway.”  Walt detailed how the loan application process went at National Community Bank and Old Savings and Loan Bank. At the end of both appointments he heard phrases like; “You’re just not ready,” “You’re just not the business owner type and your lifestyle cannot support this size of a loan.”  Walt was dejected after hearing these words and expressed his frustration. But he still had one more option and that meeting was in two days.

George could sense that Walt was upset and asked him, “Do you want any advice? Are you going to give up?” Walt knew that George understood business and responded with, “Can you help me?”  George grabbed a piece of paper and a pen off the dash to make a few notes. He opened with, “How did the the interviews start? What did you wear? What did you say?” Walt said, “I don’t remember what I said, but I do that I was nervous. I am not used to being in a bank.” George empathetically replied, “But what did you say, how did you say it?”  Walt told George that he just told the bankers how he was going to make money. George exhaled a deep breath and said, “Are you ready Walt? You’ve got two days to make big changes for your next loan interview.” He continued, “But you have to believe you can, no one is going to give this to you and if you don’t believe that this can work, then you’re not going to convince a banker to loan you the money.”  George asked Walt, “Why do you do this every day?”  Walt said, “So we have money.”  George said, “Why do you need money?”  Walt answered, “So we can buy the things we want.”  George asked, “Why do you need to buy things you want?”  Walt, “I want my wife and kids to have things that don’t come from Dollar General or from garage sales.”  Again George followed with, “Why do you want things from other stores?”  Walt said, “So they fit in.” George asked, “Why do you want them to fit in?”  Walt said, “Because their dad and her husband is a garbage truck driver.”  George asked, “Why are you a garbage truck driver?”  Walt was upset and expected business advice,  not “why” questions, but he answered them anyway, “Because a long time ago, a man gave me a chance and people need their trash collected.”  George came back with, “Why did that man give you a chance?”  Walt said, “He saw something in me.  He told me that I would get up and always keep going.  He knew that I would take the job seriously and care for the customers.”  George said, “I’m confused Walt, because you said earlier that you needed money so your family could buy things.  Then you said, you care for customers. Which is it?” Walt responded with, “The real reason I get out of bed in the morning is so I can make someone’s life a little better.”  He continued, “But I know the banks want to hear about how I can make a profit. Honestly, it’s not about the money. What matters to me is the impact that I can make on one person, one house at a time.”  The truck was stopped at George’s house and before he opened the door he said, “That’s your why. Write it down, repeat it out loud and I will be back tomorrow morning to talk about business.”

Sometimes “why” questions can drive us crazy.  These questions drive us crazy because maybe we don’t want to know the answer.  We don’t want to admit the answers because they may scare us. It scares us because that answer is our true self, and our true self may be different than what is projected to what society expects.  To know yourself, ask yourself why do you ________. Then continue this process repeatedly using the previous answer to ask the next why and eventually you will find what stirs you. When you get there, not only will you breathe easier but maybe you won’t hide your why.  Let your “why” be seen, because it is worth sharing.


Go, Ready, Set

A passerby would have questioned the pace of  George’s brisk walk this morning, but he was anxious to get to the truck and see Walt.  As he gave Walt his coffee, he couldn’t wait to hear about everything that he missed the last couple of weeks.  As the truck got to the next house, George hurriedly asked, “So Walt, how are you? How has work been?” Before Walt could even breathe, George added, “Have you bought the company yet?”  As Walt watched the mirror putting the trash cans down on the sidewalk, he exhaled and simply said, “Not yet. And I’m okay.” Then George spat off, “Why’s it taking so long? What are they waiting on?”  Walt reached across the center console and put his hand on George’s wrist. Walt told him that he wanted to own his the company for several years now so he could wait. Little did Walt know that years ago the seed of a dream was being planted when he was fed up with his company, his route, and his life.  

Walt told George about the day right after Christmas when all of the trash cans were overflowing, and that he had enough with trash and no longer wanted to deal with it.  Then he realized that he had two choices. One was to keep complaining about the trash or the other one was to do something about it that made a difference. Walt told George that his light bulb moment happened before the truck even got to the end of the street.  He said to himself, “One day I am going to own this company.” George was confused but before he could respond, Walt interjected by saying, “I know what you’re thinking; how could a driver buy an entire company?” “Well, I believe that I can because a long time ago twelve regular guys did some extraordinary things and at the end of the day, I’m a regular guy too.”  George decided that he would try to get Walt off track by asking, “So what’s the name? Walt’s Trash Company?” Walt chuckled and said, “The name will remain the same, because the man who started this company gave me a chance, he believed in me and I want to honor him.”

While Walt rubbed his face, he told George that driver morale went to an all time low shortly after the original owner sold the company.   The culture went from serving the customers first to all about making money instead. For example, drivers did not get raises, truck needed repaired, insurance was expensive and nothing was being done to help.  Walt said, “Isn’t it funny that when the goal is only about the profit, that four years later the company is for sale?” Walt remembered the first owner and said, “It’s more than my dream, it is my debt to him to make sure this is done right .  If that means stepping out on a limb, I am going to do it.” “You see George, if I don’t take action with my life now then I am forfeiting my future, and the future of my family. I refuse to sit back and do the same things over and over any more,” said Walt.  Walt was willing to trust his dream that started on a snowy day because it was a dream that was much bigger than himself. He told George that he is trying to figure out the answers to the business questions every day. To do this the right way, to push the status quo, he had be prepared when the time came.  “This is bigger than me, I wonder if I am ready or if I have the ability and I’m sure I don’t have the resources to pull this off, but that won’t stop me from taking the first step,” said Walt. As the truck stopped at George’s house, Walt left George with, “This is my calling, I may not be qualified yet, but I’ll keep watering the seed because I  trust that one day she’ll sprout.”

There are a lot of questions running through Walt’s mind about his dream.  Like Walt, we all have dreams and those dreams have questions. Will you chase the answers before taking a step or will you take the step and figure out the answers later?  The old adage of “Ready, Set, Go” does not apply to chasing a dream because you’re never ready. The result of waiting until you’re ready will be an unfulfilled dream, more like a wish that could’ve been.  You have what it takes to Go right now, you don’t have to wait for the Ready command. So, will you Go? Will you step out on the limb in faith and watch the tree fall behind you while you move to the next branch.  Or will you hug the tree on the ground because you’re not ready to start climbing yet? Go, Ready, Set; the starter for your race is waiting for you.


The Unplowed Path

It was a typical winter day as Walt & George headed down the street sipping on their coffee.  By now, George was used to the houses and he kind of enjoyed seeing what people threw away. Each of them made small talk with no agenda, they just enjoyed each other’s company.  After Walt made the usual right hand turn, George noticed that the truck did not turn again at the next street. After a few minutes, Walt turned the truck to the east and headed to the edge of town.  Once the truck arrived at a dead end sign, Walt pulled forward, made a slight adjustment and took the truck down a long, narrow, snow-filled lane. To George, it looked like no one ever had been down this drive before.  As the headlights shined ahead, a small house began to appear. Walt slowly pulled the truck into what used to be a gravel parking spot and stopped the truck. He said to George, “I hope you’re dressed for it. Get out.”  George scanned the area for any signs of life, he heard the sounds of trash being thrown in the back of the truck. Walt was working on a pile of trash that included furniture, sticks and many other types of junk. George joined in the clean-up and after a few minutes, Walt took his gloves off and said, “Well, that’s enough, let’s go.”  George looked out the windshield and wondered how Walt would turn the truck around. But before he picked a clearing, he heard the “beep-beep noises” of the truck in reverse. Now Walt had to back this large garbage truck down a narrow path in the complete darkness and George thought, “For what?” After getting back to the street, Walt proceeded to drive back to Tuesday’s route.  After a few houses, George couldn’t take the silence any longer and asked, “Walt, why did we go back there?” Walt smiled and offered George a simple, “Because I can.” That wasn’t the answer George hoped for, but decided to stay quiet until Walt further explained. After the next set of cans, Walt reminded George of the talk they had a month ago of doing the ordinary things in an extraordinary way.  George nodded his head because he remembered that and asked, “What was ordinary about that? It looked like no one even lived there and picking up the trash didn’t matter.” Walt sighed and said that sometimes even the ordinary things aren’t ordinary at all. He told George that this morning he felt pushed to do something extra, even if it meant driving up a snow covered lane and throwing the trash in the truck by hand.  Walt explained that there was an older couple who lived there that could not afford the city trash pick-up. He said, “You can tell that even their family doesn’t visit them in the winter.” “And today when they check outside hopefully they notice trash pile is gone”, said Walt. What Walt didn’t tell George was that he would venture up that same lane about four times a year.

George wiped his head in disbelief that Walt would go to a place where no one ever traveled and took care of their trash.  So many things raced through George’s mind, so he blurted out, “I get it, but what’s in it for you?” Walt held out his right hand and said, “See this hand?” and he then put it over his heart and said, “I have two hands, an able body, a garbage truck that takes trash, and a heart that beats for people.”  Walt explained that taking fifteen minutes off his route today will not stop someone from getting their trash cans cleaned but it will allow the man in the mirror to smile back. Walt then went on to explain we had the chance to take a road not taken and also take trash that hadn’t been taken. And by choosing this road this morning, Walt believed that it will make all the difference for him in the future.

As they neared George’s house, George asked, “Before you drop me off, do you still want to buy the company?”  Walt winked and said, “Things are in slow motion right now with the company. I am trying to do the best with what I have, where I am and with who I am with.”  He continued with, “It’s His purpose that will stand, not my plans and I will keep trusting God for I know that the right door will open when it’s time to open.  But let me tell you, that when that door cracks, I am going to kick it open. I will not sit and wait any longer. Losing my dad reminded me that time is futile, so I better make the most of it.”  George could feel the fire heating up in Walt and told him, “Kick it open Walt! I can’t wait to see it.”

After reading Robert Frost’s, “The Road Not Taken” it begged me to wonder if there is a road that is calling you today?  Is it a well-traveled street or a driveway with very few travelers? Whether we realize it or not, everyday we are surrounded with roads to choose from. Some of those roads are predictable and others you may not know the results, but at the end of the day, the ones that are snow covered may be worth traveling down.  Which road will you take today?

Tigers News · INSIGHT’S WITH STEVE #21


George hurried out to the truck today as the freezing rain was falling.  As soon as he slid on the sidewalk, he instantly knew that his two kids would be happy because school could be closed today.  Walt was waiting by the driveway when George came out. The garbage truck had to drive extra slow today but nonetheless the cans still had to be emptied.  George noticed a solemn look on Walt’s face but kept quiet for he sensed that something was wrong. As they moved down the street George noticed that the radio in the truck was playing this morning.  One song became two songs and then back to the first song, then the second one again. He kept listening and after a couple cycles with no commercials, he asked Walt, “I keep hearing the same two songs, are these your favorite?”  Walt said nothing. They had been riding for fifteen minutes and hadn’t left the city block yet, so George tried again by asking, “Walt, is everything OK?” Walt wiped his cheek and returned with a broken tone and said, “We had to bury my dad this weekend and I miss him.”  Walt went on to tell George, that his father passed away in the hospital and that this week has been hard for him and the family. He told George how his kids missed grandpa and how his mom was not herself yet. Walt took a breath and said that after the funeral when he got home, he went into his garage and just sat in the quiet.  After a thirty minutes, he took out his phone because he wanted to call his dad to tell him that he loved him and he regretted not telling him that more often. Walt always tried to be tough on the outside but right now he was hurting on the inside because he missed his dad. After a few minutes passed, he wanted to escape the pain so he played his music playlist.  The first song was “Savin Me” from Nickelback and everything was good until a line said, “teach me wrong from right and I’ll show you what I can be.” Walt said that he just bawled pleading for his dad to come back so he can show him what he could be. But instead, Walt just yelled out, “Thank you Dad, you did show me wrong from right.” Then George chimed in and said, “Isn’t it ironic how music from a rock-and-roll band can get you emotional?”  Walt then told George that it didn’t stop there because after he cried for the entire song he decided to listen to one more before he went back into the house with his family. The next song was also from Nickelback and he asked George, “Have you ever heard the song, ‘If today was your last day?”’ George shook his head and sheepishly said that he listens to pop songs on the radio and really never listened to Nickelback. Walt then said, “Maybe you should, let’s just listen to the words of these two songs.”  As they went down the street not saying a word, Walt asked, “So, what do you think? Did anything hit home?” George was now wiping his face and said, “More than I ever thought it would.” He reiterated the lines from Nickelback’s song, ‘… each day’s a gift and not a given right’ and ‘if today was your last day’”. Walt said, “they get to me too but what about, ‘cause you can’t rewind a moment in your life?’” George didn’t know how to answer that as his mind immediately went back to not getting the promotion or  turning down the job and said, “Are you thinking that I should change my mind and say yes to the job offer?” With a slight cough, Walt said, “No, not at all, that was the right thing to do. I am not talking about your job George. I am talking about your life, your kids, your wife, your parents and things like that. I never want to just ‘drive by’ the things that matter to me in my life ever again.” Walt told George that he doesn’t watch music videos but got on YouTube and watched ‘Savin Me’ and noticed the countdown clock above everyone’s head.  He told George that we all have a countdown and that he was not going to waste any more time because “I don’t know when my clock will go to 00:00 but I am going to live today as if it were my last day.” George asked, “How are you going to do that? Are you going to back to school? Are you getting a different job?” For the first time this morning a smile came across Walt’s face and he responded, “No, but I am going to either start my own company or buy this one.” Walt said that the company has been for sale for over a year and now it’s time to make his mark, to show his dad of what he can be.  Walt loved helping people but his next step would be against the norm because the CEO wasn’t expecting a driver of all people to make a serious purchase offer. Walt pulled the truck up to the house and looked George strait in the eyes and said, “Remember what the song said, you can’t rewind but you can live today as if it were your last day.” Before George got out, he turned back to Walt and said, “Walt, I am really sorry about you losing your dad.” After they shook hands, George headed inside and before he opened YouTube to watch the videos he called his dad.

How will you live today?  I bet it would be different if you could see  a countdown above your head when you looked in the mirror.  Or I bet you would treat people different if you saw theirs.  I don’t know what mine says, but I want to embrace today as if my clock was in its final countdown.  Just thinking about that idea frightens me but if I choose to keep driving by the important parts of my heart then I will have the regret of ‘what if’ and I will never be able to rewind that.  Like Nickelback says, I encourage you today to ask yourself, “if today was your last day?’’ What are you going to do today? Who are you going to love without conditions today? How will you say goodbye to those things that hold you back today?  When will you put what matters on the front burner instead of the back one? You’d better do it today because today will be gone tomorrow.


You’re Either In The Weeds or In The Soil, But Not Both

It was bright and early and George couldn’t wait to see Walt.  George buckled up and Walt moved the truck down the street. Just before they got to the next set of trash cans, George spoke up.  He asked, “So Walt, aren’t you going to ask me how my week went or what’s going on?” Walt, took a breath while setting the trash cans down with precision and said, “I wasn’t planning on it.  I just figured that if you had something to say, then you would say it. And it sounds like you do.” George reminded Walt of last week and the guidance Walt provided by telling him to be thankful for not getting the promotion.  Even though he was still a little upset about that; today he smiled from ear to ear. George was so enthusiastic that he practically downed his very hot coffee. “Yesterday I got offered a position in another division of the company.  I have not said yes yet but I plan to today,” said George. He mentioned the pay increase, the stock options, the insurance and the other benefits that he would get. Walt was happy for George but realized that he better focus on the trash cans too.  In the midst of George’s excitement he said something that peeked Walt’s interest. George said, “I don’t know anything about the job or what that part of the company is like, but it’s a lot more money and I’ll figure it out.” As they went down the street, now it was Walt’s turn to speak up.  Walt merely wanted to get more information so he asked, “Why don’t you know much about the job? Why is the last person not there? And why did they ask you?” Since George could not answer any of questions, Walt threw out a few more, “What does the job entail? What is the turnover in that part of the company?  What are the bosses like?” Finally George knew some answers he said, “I would be the production leader and they need a good one because there has been six people in the last five years in that position.” Walt put his hand to his chin and said, “That’s interesting. I am trying to understand that there has been several production people who have failed and now they want a numbers guy to lead production with zero experience.”  By now the wind is going out of George’s sails but he was still optimistic because he felt that he was the one to right the ship for the company and for his family. He told Walt, “It gets me out from my desk, I’ll learn it and the money’s too good to pass up.” Walt returns by stating, “I get the first two reasons, it’s the third one that concerns me. And before you get mad, let me explain.” Walt explained that his mom’s father was a farmer who had a small farm just outside of town and how he remembered that his grandpa was always happy.  He recounted that his grandpa did get frustrated at times though because no matter the crop, no matter the time there were two acres that produced poor results. Walt said that Grandpa always blamed the land of those two acres but for years still planted there anyway in hopes of better. There was a section of ground near the creek that always grew weeds but could never grow corn. There was another acre on the west side that was always dried out, hard as a rook and couldn’t grow anything. Walt said that one spring his grandpa decided to quit planting seed in those two acres altogether. He said that grandpa would always look to that land with the idea of more money but eventually he had to let it go and only plant in the good soil.  Walt remembered that one day on the tractor he asked his grandpa why he didn’t plant near the creek. His grandpa said that the weeds would choke out the crops and they would stop growing. To refocus the conversation, he then asked George, “Do you know if there are weeds in this new position? Is it worth the cost of the seed to plant there?” George was taken back by this and came back with, “Yes, there may be weeds but the benefits will help my family.” Without missing a beat Walt said, “What are the higher ups like? Are they like weeds or are they dry?” George started to get upset because when he got into the truck he couldn’t wait to tell Walt about something better had come along. But now, he didn’t even want to speak. Walt could feel George’s anger, so he ended with, “Listen George, I am not suggesting that you do not take the job.  I’m just telling you to focus on what matters and to not be swayed by more money because it can choke you out. Remember, you got into this truck for a reason and even if you buy new things you can still ride with me but don’t let those things distract you of who you are. Tell the bosses that you need another day to think about it and you will have an answer on Thursday. When you get some time, write down the things that are already producing fruit in your field. Then ask yourself, If planting in the weeds or on the dry ground is worth the cost. If the cost isn’t worth it then say no, thank them for the offer and then reap the fruit from the rest of the field, just like grandpa did. In the end, you may be happier.” With that Walt stopped the truck, they shook hands and George headed inside.

I believe that we are all like George in some fashion because our heads are swirling with questions.  We are led to believe that we can benefit from objects now rather than waiting for a harvest later. It is almost considered a failure if you don’t plant seeds in the weeds but the truth is that our seed is not meant to be planted on dry ground or amongst thorns for the best harvest to occur.  We can be deceived by society’s false measure of success but we must understand that a person’s true measure of success is sown in good soil that bears fruit for years. There is always a cost in planting so ask yourself which ground will you plant in? Do you want the short lasting fruit that yields temporary satisfaction or the long lasting fruit that is truly worthwhile for years to come?  I don’t have your answer, I just know where I am planting.


Every House

As George climbed in the truck he was still upset over yesterday and didn’t want to talk.  George’s feelings were hurt when management promoted some “whipper snapper” to a role that he was clearly more qualified for and it was obvious that he deserved the promotion.  George did not sleep last night as he knew that he had the most seniority of anyone in his department and it was his turn to be recognized. The last thing that he wanted to do was talk to Walt about it.  He was just going to ride along, keep quiet and drink his coffee before going back to that wretched place again. During the first few houses, he noticed that Walt was taking an exceptionally long time with these trash cans.  Then suddenly, Walt put the truck in park and quickly jumped out. A few seconds later, Walt got back inside and drove to the next house without saying a word. As they got to the next house, George noticed a determination in Walt’s placing of the cans on the sidewalk.  This method happened for a few more houses until Walt asked, “George, are mad, did something happen? You’re not your talkative self today.” George angrily said, “Maybe.” He tried to take a breath, but still blurted out, “Heck yes, I’m mad that I didn’t get the promotion that I deserved.  And no promotion means no raise, and no raise means we are still barely making it. What else do you want to know?” Walt could feel the tension in George and thought he could break the ice so he said, “I was reminded last week by my favorite customer of doing the common things in an uncommon way.”  George looked puzzled because he didn’t remember saying that phrase. Walt went on to describe a customer across town who for years used to stand outside and yell at Walt. At first he would just go about his business as usual but after a while, it became annoying. “I never seemed to do it right, it was never good enough.  So one day, I saw her out by the cans and I just drove right by” said Walt. He went to say that minutes later his supervisor called him on the radio telling him to go back to her house and pick up the cans. But Walt decided to wait until the end of his route that day before he returned to her house. When he pulled up, there she stood waiting.  He pulled up the truck and got out because he was going to face the fear head on. He was tired of dreading her house, her yelling and her attitude in general. When Walt got to her cans, he asked, “Ma’am, I have done something to anger you?” She was taken back by Walt and replied, “No, I want to make sure it’s done right and you need to get it right.”  Walt remembered the anger he felt that day because he knew that he was doing it right and that it was good enough. Walt went back to that day in his mind and told George that his anger disappeared as he asked himself, “Is my way good enough? Is my way the best it can be?” George was still listening when Walt said that by the time he got back to the lot, he knew he could do better.  The next day as Walt began his route he was determined to treat every house as if that woman was standing at the trash cans. From that day on, Walt placed every can down the best he could because even though she was not there physically, he would feel her watching. Two things happened during that time that changed Walt’s perspective. Walt recognized this woman’s persistence and told George that he thanked her every week.  Walt also noticed that when he treated everyone like his favorite customer and delivered their trash can with this attitude that good things started to happen. He told George that the man staring back in his side mirror was proud. Before dropping George back off, he said, “Remember George, things happen for you, not to you. And your success happens because of you. Success is not going to be just given to you.” George sat there staring before opening the door and then asked Walt, “So are you saying that even though I didn’t get that promotion that I should be thankful for that.  Are you kidding?” Walt told George to be grateful for not getting that one because maybe there is something better down the road. “Keep determining your own success, do not let someone else do that for you, and things happen for you,” said Walt.

It’s easy to believe that the world is against you and things happen to you.  When you set this thought in motion the only direction you can go is down. This downward spiral can also force you to believe that you’re a victim of your situation and that you will never be anything.  It is imperative to understand that regardless of what you’re going through right now that this too shall pass. But it will pass a lot quicker if you pick yourself up and do the work that only you can do.  I don’t know what success means to you, but what I do believe is that success will find you if you can just be a better version of yourself tomorrow than you were today. You know what you have to do, so do it.  When you do your best in the little things over and over what will happen is that person looking back at you in the side mirror will be proud.


I Will Drive My Truck

It was Tuesday morning and George waited by the back door watching for Walt’s garbage truck.  He was not about to go out early because the wind chill was below zero. George saw the truck, grabbed two coffees and headed outside.  He walked to the driveway and Walt stopped the truck to collect the cans. George tried feverishly not to spill the coffee while opening the door.  He offered Walt a good morning and asked him if he drank coffee? Walt replied, “Yes, I’d love some. Thank you.” As the truck moved down the street, George felt the eeriness of silence again and since he was not one to be quiet he asked, “So Walt how’s it going, how are ya?”  Walt finished putting the cans on sidewalk and shrugged his shoulders. Walt then lowered his head and George knew that something was wrong. He said, “What can I do for you, can I help you?” With a different tone, Walt then said, “You can’t help, it’s my issue, and I have to fix it.”  George reminded Walt of last week’s talk about Dabo Swinney and how his mantra of doing the common things in an uncommon way. George told him that he even took it to work last week. “Well that’s good, keep at it.” said Walt. A few minutes later, Walt opened up and said, “I just wish life were that easy.”  He explained to George that his father was in the hospital and the situation was not good. He looked up to his dad more than any other man he knew, but he was heartbroken because he was about to say goodbye. Walt then asked George, “Have you ever had one conversation that changed everything for you and made you feel like a loser?”  Walt went on to describe last Friday night at the hospital with his mother. She told him that it was time for him to get a real job, make good money, and that would make his father proud. Walt then described that his dad retired from a factory and that his grandpa worked in the same factory through the depression. No one in his family had money, they just worked blue-collar jobs and paid the bills.  Walt said that he got his first job when he was ten years old and had to ride his bike to the dairy farm to shovel manure almost every day. He never had the permission to play sports, go to dances, or be a normal high schooler. George sat there listening and his heart broke for Walt. He remembered the gleam in Walt’s eyes last week and today that joy was gone. Walt again said, “It’s my problem. I either get a new job or disappoint my parents.”  “But I am 50 years old, with no college. How in the world am I going to get something else?” “And besides, I like my job.” George was in a daze by now, not knowing what to say so he just uttered, “Walt, we’re the same except, you’re doing something you want to do. My first love was working construction. I loved building homes. I loved seeing them go together all the way to the final product. But skipping college was not allowed in my house. And now I sit in a cubicle staring at spreadsheets all day.  Sure the money is good, but I am bored, I’m burned out and I am not building anything.” George went on to speak from his heart and told Walt, that we both can have questions but yet we’re the only ones with the answers. George then told Walt, “We are the ones who set our own identities, not anyone else. Our past is over, it’s gone so why should it have a say in our identity tomorrow.” George told Walt about a former convict who is now impacting the fitness world and how he did not let his past criminal record determine either his identity or his future.  George said, “There are many successful people right now who had terrible home lives and still climbed out.” “So why can’t we keep climbing? Why do we let others tell us what to do or what to be?” Now George was getting emotional and he slammed his fist on the dashboard and said, “Well not me! I am in control, I’m climbing out and I am driving my own truck. No one else is taking my wheel.” As Walt pulled the truck to George’s house he turned to George and said, “Thank you, I needed to hear that. You’re right, I am the driver and I like my truck.” They shook hands and smiled.  Before closing the door, George left Walt with “Keep driving Walt.”

Where in your life has your identity been set by someone or something else?  Where do you believe that success is only for the chosen few and not for you?  When you allow anything to label you or stall you then the only person that is hurt is you.  You are the only person who can set the course of your life and even though that direction may change, at least you’re the one driving.  Your road may have many twist and turns or obstacles but at the end of each day you are the one who chooses to keep driving, no one else.  When you’re passionately going in your direction, then everyone will want to ride along. Keep driving!


Common Things

It was getting late and George sat alone on the couch in hopes of going to bed soon.  He wanted to finish the the Netflix series that he and Anna started this past weekend.  George and his wife had binged watched several episodes on Sunday and he just wanted to watch one more episode before heading to bed.  It was already past his normal bedtime and the show only had 7:47 left until the end. Once the credits started to roll George turned the TV off and went to bed.  He slid into bed trying to be as gentle and quiet as possible. Just before drifting to sleep his eyes popped open and he remembered that tomorrow is Tuesday and he can ride with Walt.  He knew that the trash cans are out on the curb but wrestled with getting up at 4:00 am because he really wanted that extra hour of sleep. He reached over, grabbed his phone and changed the alarms to earlier than normal.  He closed eyes and fell asleep.

The next morning the first alarm went off at 3:50 am, then the second at 4:00 and finally on the third alarm at 4:05 am, George decided to get up.  When getting dressed, George remembered falling in the snow last week so this time he dressed for the weather. He looked out the living room window and saw Walt’s truck three houses down the street.  It’s time to go so George grabbed his coffee and braced himself for the cold air. As George stood at the curb expecting Walt to get here soon, he remembered that Walt had a way of placing and returning the trash cans to the sidewalk, so this might a few minutes.  When Walt stopped to get George’s can, he rolled down the window. Both men exchanged pleasantries and George walked around the truck. Before George buckled his seat belt the truck already moved towards the next set of cans. George noticed that the cab was quiet; the radio was not on and Walt didn’t seem to be  talking, so he broke the ice and asked Walt, “have you seen anything interesting in your mirrors lately?” Walt, cleared his throat and said, “nothing has really changed, some days are better than others though.” The garbage truck was halfway down the street and George knew the ride would soon be over. He was hoping that Walt would enlighten him with some miraculous words like he did last week.  But nothing, just quietness for another house. George spoke up and asked, “What’s going on with you, why are you so quiet?” Walt began to explain that he was tired and that he had to work extra hours covering for someone. George knew why Walt felt tired because he too worked long hours. In fact after a stressful week that’s why he and Anna binge watched Netflix on Sunday. But before he could offer Walt any help, Walt responded by asked George if he watched the college football national championship game?  George put his head down and said, “No, I didn’t, I watched Netflix with Anna all day.” Walt then said, “It’s alright, it wasn’t much of a game. But I sure do like Clemson’s coach Dabo Swinney.” Walt said, “You know, Dabo said something years ago that I still use to this day and since then I have always liked Dabo.” Walt continued his thought when he asked George how can a #1 football coach relate to a simple garbage truck driver? Before George could answer, Walt jumped in and explained that Dabo said, “Do the common thing in an uncommon way” and that phrase really hit home.  Walt described that every day before he opened his truck door that he would repeat that simple phrase over and over. Walt described that picking up trash is a very common thing so instead of being bored with his job, he decided to do it in an uncommon way, even down to returning the empty can to the sidewalk. George immediately remembered the process and the details that Walt used at every house. Walt continued and said, “If I can do this job in an uncommon way, then I can do everything in that manner.” “I even carry this mantra at home when I help my bride, wash my car or while I help my kids with their their homework” said Walt.  George was listening to Walt talk about doing things in an uncommon way that he did not notice when Walt pulled the garbage truck up to his own driveway. As Walt put the truck in park, he said to George, “see you next Tuesday?” Wanting more, George couldn’t wait for next week and offered his hand and said, “You bet, see you next Tuesday.” As George walked up the driveway, he grabbed both cans and returned them to their spot so his kids didn’t have to. He then went inside, put the dishes in the dishwasher and made coffee for his wife and uttered the words, “common things done in an uncommon way — thanks Walt”.

Today, you will be faced with hundreds of common tasks that maybe you take for granted.  It’s possible that you just want to complete them and move to the next one, but before you finish, remember what Dabo Swinney said and ask yourself, “How can I do this common thing in an uncommon way?”  I don’t know what that means for you, but I am confident that you already know. Be uncommon today!


What Do You See?

It was a blustery cold Tuesday morning at about 4:30 am and George was outside trying to get the garbage and recycling cans to the curb before the garbage truck arrived.  Just minutes before, he had jumped out of bed realizing that the kids had forgotten to do their chores last night. He quickly grabbed his pajama pants, threw on a long sleeve tee shirt along with a pair of Crocs and headed for the door.  As he went down the stairs he chastised his kids while trying to decide if he was going to wake them. Instead, he hurried through the kitchen as he knew that the full trash can had to be emptied because it was two days after Christmas. He made up his mind that if the garbage truck was past his house, he would pull the can down the street, yelling until the truck stopped.  As soon as he opened the back door, reality hit him right in the face. The wind was howling and it was snowing heavily outside. Needless to say George was not dressed for this. He went for it anyway and tried desperately not to get snow on his feet. As soon as he got to the can, he heard the truck at the neighbor’s house, now he had to hurry. He started to pull the heavy trash can down the driveway when suddenly the bin toppled over spilling the holiday trash all over.  He looked up and saw the truck coming so he frantically started picking up the snow covered trash putting it into the can. As he made it to the bottom of the drive, he began to lose control but this time the can stayed upright, and instead George fell flat on his back in the snow. As the garbage truck pulled up to the normal pick-up spot, George jumped up, brushed the snow off his pants and tried to scurry back to the house to get the recycling can. He took a deep sigh of relief when he heard the truck’s arms pick up his trash can.  Now it’s really a race and he turned to yell, “wait!!, I have one more”, but before he could say anything, he heard the garbage truck door open. George needed to refocus and get to the recycling as quickly as possible before the truck pulled away. He started rolling the recycling can down the drive when he noticed that a large tall man was standing in his driveway. He wondered what is going on and then realized that he doesn’t even know him, why is he out of the truck. As George tried to get the recycling bin through the snow to the street he saw the garbage truck driver walking up the drive.  George offered a head nod and said, “may I help you?” The driver replied, “well actually, it’s me who wants to help you, let me take the can the rest of the way.” At this moment, the adrenaline had worn off, George was freezing but at least the cans made it to the truck. The driver brought the recycling can back to George with a grin and said, “I hope the rest of your day goes a lot better.” George joyfully returned an answer saying, “it has to be warmer than this, and by the way, thank you.” As the driver approached his truck Georged yelled out, “I didn’t even catch your name.” As the silhouette of a man opened the truck door, he said, “my name is Walt Hatfield, but you can just call me Walt.  Now you better get inside before you catch a cold.” George extended his hand and said, “my name is George Espinoza, it’s nice to meet you.” Both men smile and as George blew on his hands, Walt asked him, “would you want to ride along down the street? The truck is warm and I will bring you right back.” George thought, I’m already cold, it’s 4:40 am, what’s the harm, I would like the warm air blowing on me right about now, so he replied, “sure, it might be fun.’

As George settled in the passenger seat, Walt pulled the truck forward to the next house and to the next house after that.  After the 3rd stop in 10 minutes George looked in the mirror and could easily see his daughter’s car along the street. Even though he is warmer, he is already bored with the slowness and thought I can walk faster than this.  So he blurted out, “Walt”, how do you do this everyday, isn’t this boring?” Walt pulled the truck up to the next can, pressed the button and responded with, “No, this is the best job I’ve ever had.” As the can sat back on the ground, he pulled the truck forward, Walt finished his thought by saying, “it all depends what window you’re looking through.”  George, rubbed his eyes, looked ahead and says, “what are you talking about, there’s only one windshield?” Without missing a beat, Walt says, “wouldn’t you like to know about what I see every day through my windshield?” As the truck headed down the street, Walt began to share some thoughts to his passenger. He explained to George that he believes in his heart the old saying, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and that without people’s trash he would not have this opportunity to help them get rid of it.  Walt went on to say, “it’s not about the trash itself, the type of house people live in, or the cars they drive and it’s not even about the weather, it’s about me and my heart.” He said to George,  “you see, I have a process for every stop, I try to make sure that each can is put back in the right place and stands tall. To make sure it’s done well, I check the mirrors.” “Regardless if it’s 4:00 am and snowy or 2:00 pm and sunny the one thing I see over 100 times each day is my burley face. I get to look at myself in the mirror more in this job than any other career this gets me to stop and think about a lot of things.”  George let that settle in and asked, “so, what did you see?” Walt began to explain that he drove this very truck for 7 years and each day he was in a bad mood. He was frustrated and wondered if this was all life had to offer so in turn he started each morning and ended each afternoon angry. He would often compare himself to what people had to what he didn’t have. He informed George that after a long Wednesday of smelling trash for hours, he had enough.  So he parked the garbage truck at the plant and walked into the middle of the dump. He had to get this over with, he was done and no one would ever know in the middle of a pile. He hiked up a hill where he was going to jump into a heap where he would surely drop to the bottom and suffocate. He would not have to smell trash ever again. Seconds before he was about to jump, he took one last look around when a flash of light blinded him and caught his attention.  Walt bent down and noticed the sun was reflecting off a broken piece of shiny glass. “So I picked it up and saw myself looking back.” “That was the moment, when I realized the problem was not the trash nor was it the customers, the problem was with me” said Walt. George asks, “what did you do next?” As Walt got teary eyed remembering that day, he said, “I knew at that moment my heart needed to change. I just knew that it was not my time to be thrown out yet. It was my time to be the Febreze in this trash.”  Walt made a commitment on that hot day that from now on he would look through the windshield and his side mirror differently. He told George, “that was the day in the midst of trash on the ground and in my life that I decided that this mess didn’t define who I am. So I grabbed the piece of glass and walked out of dump towards my car.” George sat there quietly listening to this garbage truck driver talk to him with more wisdom and heart than any other professional he had ever worked with. George was mesmerized by Walt’s demeanor, his joy and his worth.  He was truly blessed to have gotten into the truck and even smiled thanking his kids for not doing their chores last night. As Walt pulled the truck up to the house he offered one more piece of advice to George and said, “it’s only about you, when you go back in the house, look in the mirror and see who stares back.” Before he shook George’s hand and said goodbye Walt said, “I will be back through here next Tuesday morning, if you want to ride along, just be alongside your trash.” They shook hands, George headed to the house and before opened the door, he said to himself, “boy, I need a shower, but man I feel better.”

As you go through the trash that may be in your life today just remember that there is always Febreze and a mirror nearby.  What will you do with your mirror? Who will look back? And where and to whom will you be the Febreze today?