Admit it, we all make assumptions about the people we meet no matter how hard we try to not judge a book by its cover. That happened to me this morning as my family and I enjoyed pancakes at our local IHOP(International House Of Pancakes) and it reawakened me to the (sometimes) hidden potential in all of us.
Lysomar greeted us at our table with a friendly and genuine smile. It was obvious that we would enjoy having her take our order and serve us our breakfast. She was direct, helpful, and personable and seemed to be enjoying the task at hand. As we proceeded to place our order, that’s when the brilliance of Lysomar became apparent.
It’s important to understand, that my wife does not have a great track record at restaurants. At times I think she was an evil and dictatorial chef in a previous life, because the number of times her orders are completely screwed up in restaurants, is astounding. She is also very picky about how her food is prepared, so part of the problem is that harried kitchens sometimes just don’t care.
So, our order while not only for 4 people, was also complex as she added things, changed out items, and requested well done for her breakfast on certain things and not others. We all chimed in with our orders, but Lysomar never pulled out a pad for taking the order….
“How can she remember all of that” asked my wife. “I could never get all of that back to the ordering system while still helping other tables in between”. Ultimately she was concerned that her specific order customizations might not make it to the kitchen the way she requested.
When Lysomar came back to the table to bring us our drinks, we asked her how she does it. She said that when she first started working there, she was in awe of her friend that didn’t use a pad for any order. She knew there was no way she could ever do it. Then one day she left her pad at the register, but did not want to rudely walk away from a table to bring the pad back to write down the order. So, she forced herself to remember it. It was that one circumstance that allowed her to realize, that her memory is better than she gave herself credit for handling. Now she never writes anything down and can handle multiple large tables at the same time and never screw up an order.
It’s amazing what our minds are capable of doing. The barriers we place in front of ourselves are all completely artificial. We’ve all seen it a million times in our lives when we’ve been amazed at something someone else can do, but the fact is, that there is nothing we can’t accomplish if we decide to allow our minds to accomplish it, by showing ourselves what is possible. This isn’t some positive thinking manifesto, this is fact. When you put barriers in front of what you “can” do, then you can’t do it. When those barriers are removed for you, because you forgot your pad and you have to memorize everything, then you suddenly realize you can. Mental limitations are perceptual. We place those limits on ourselves or we’ve learned the limits as we progress in life. Whether emotional, thought related, or even physical, perceptions and limitations are the only things holding any of us back.
I’ve often said that anyone can learn anything. I strive in my career as a leader to push people to see that, by forcing them to try and dive into things they never thought they could do. Whether entrepreneurship, public speaking, design, development, learning a language, overcoming fears, or anything else, once you see yourself actually doing or accomplishing something, suddenly the barriers go away. When a new person comes to work for me or seeks advice or mentorship, I force them to do something they’ve never done before. I require them to finish it and only ask me for help when they are truly stuck. When they come to me for help I push back harder and harder every time. Why? Because they must break through their limitations and see what they are capable of accomplishing. Once they do, there’s no going back.
People that work for me usually dislike or hate me for the first few months, because of the discomfort I make them feel about themselves, but once they break through and realize they can do whatever it is I forced them to do, then suddenly I become their best boss ever. The silly thing is not that I am a great boss in the traditional sense of the word, it’s just that I try to be as nice and supportive as I can, while helping them realize that their perceptions of themselves are false.
We live an entire life of perceptions. We perceive other people in a certain way. We see colors, design, and objects in particular ways and we see and perceive ourselves and our personalities as we choose to see them. Our entire existence is based on perceptions, so if you can forcefully alter your assumptions, then you can delete limitations in your life and the lives of others.
Lysomar wasn’t finished reminding me of this lesson. As she and my wife talked about remembering things, my wife told her the story of a guy that could rapidly memorize everyone’s name in the audience of the Oprah show. Lysomar quickly said there was no way she could ever do that, because she is horrible at remembering names. So, I decided to try to break through her assumptions again. So, I asked her to tell me what my wife ordered – Eggs Over Hard, Rooty Tooty on the side, well done hash browns, etc. etc. She then did the same for me, for our kids and could have done it for the whole dining room. “Guess what”, I said, :you just memorized our “names””. “What?” “Well, my wife is Eggs over hard, well done, rooty tooty on the side. You’ve given her a name, it’s just not her real name, but nothing is stopping you from remembering that instead. Just because you have an association with menu items, doesn’t mean you can’t translate it to people’s names and it’s less complex, but with more possibilities.”
She said, “wow, you’ve really made me feel good about myself”. The fact is, that I didn’t do anything more than point out what she is capable of accomplishing when she removes her self-perceptions and self-imposed limitations.
All of the power of positive thinking gurus are teaching this simple little lesson. If you convince yourself by repeating things over and over again, then sometimes you can brainwash yourself to eliminate your perception of limitations. To my mind, it’s a heck of a lot easier and more successful, if you will just focus upon eliminating self-perceptions, by admitting the things you can already do and force yourself to overcome your fear and apprehension about doing new things, by just doing them. Certainly it can take a lot of work to overcome perceptions, but once you do the sky is the limit. Once you see you don’t have to fear any task, learning any skill, and that life is never lived in the past or in your mind, then there are no limits.
Lysomar then went one step further and showed us a couple of more skills she has – persuasion, marketing, and sales. At the end of the meal, she handed us the check and asked “Do you guys like free stuff”. We of course answered yes. She proceeded to explain that there is a feedback system on the check that will get us a coupon for free pancakes. All we had to do was go in and rate our experience with 5s or 6s and then submit it and we’d get the free coupon. Now, there is a little bit of sales/marketing deception there, because I bet I will get the coupon even if I rate my experience negatively, but she did it in such a persuasive manner, that I bet I would give high ratings when I went in to submit it and I am more likely to remember it, because of the way she engaged with us.
As we were preparing to leave, I told her that she has the skills already built up for a career in sales or marketing. She thanked me again for making her feel good about herself, but all I did was point out the obvious. She didn’t know it, but pointing it out to her would allow her to eliminate the perception limitation in her head and consider that anything was possible for her. I made a point to let her know that a waitressing career is just as good as any, but that she should be aware of the possibilities, so that she can explore whatever she might like to do.
I am fortunate to have been raised to never fear much of anything. The reason I’ve been able to excel at computer related careers, was that I was never afraid of breaking anything. I always knew if I had to I could fix it. I embraced the Internet in 1994 and made it my career, because not only was it liberating, but I also knew by then that I could figure it all out. My marketing and product development skills didn’t come about because I was born with them or learned them at home and I certainly don’t have an MBA to credit for them, but I knew that if I kept trying and screwing up and then trying and succeeding, that eventually I could become good at anything.
Perceptive limitations are there because we fear things we don’t know, but what you don’t realize is that there is nothing you know, that you knew before you learned it. You just limit yourself, because you think you can’t. Just doing it and diving into it will help you overcome it. There is literally nothing to lose in this world. Then once you accomplish something new, remind yourself for the next big perception destruction what you just accomplished on the last.
Thanks to Lysomar, for reawakening me to the hidden potential in all of us and reminding me about the silliness of perceptions and the limitations they impose upon us. Now, go wake yourself up!