We were at the beach recently and one of our cousins had her young child with her. The child overheard another adult use the word “stupid” and she immediately covered her mouth as if she’d heard a four-letter word, or worse.
So if you feel the same way about the word “stupid,” please don’t take offense at the title of this blog. It refers back to a comment James Carville made during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign. Carville allegedly said, “It’s about the economy, stupid” as a way to keep staff focused on a critical issue in their campaign — primarily because the country was in a recession.
While Clinton’s campaign may have been about the economy, life in general is really about the people.
Think about it. How easy would it be to get through your day without other people? It would be nearly impossible.
Today alone, I depended on hundreds of people from the moment I woke up. I emerged from my hotel room, after hitting the snooze button no less than six times, and realized that dozens of people were working long before I even got out of my bed. They had cleaned the lobby, tallied my bill, and even prepared a buffet breakfast. When I got to the restaurant, the bacon, eggs, pastries, even more bacon, and multiple cups of coffee woke me up. But the people who made them were hard at work hours before I ate.
Then, I delivered a hilariously funny and insightful presentation (according to me) in front of several hundred people at a conference. Interestingly, I have discovered, after many years of delivering hilarious and insightful presentations, that I benefit more when there are people in the audience. Maybe it’s just me but my stories and humor seem to go over better when there is someone there to hear them.
After the presentation, I jumped into a rental car and drove to the airport for a flight to another presentation. The airport was a small village of people who helped get me to my plane. At TSA alone, there were dozens of people standing around waiting for something unsafe to appear. As it happens, I was “randomly chosen” for a pat down and they sprung into action. They gleefully made sure I wasn’t carrying weapons in the seam of my pants or liquid in my shoes. By the way, I’ve often felt that my shoeless feet are more lethal than any explosives but I’ve found it’s better not to say that out loud.
My plane was staffed by four flight attendants and two pilots. I landed at another airport where I passed hundreds of people working, just in case I needed a Starbucks coffee, a magazine, or a discount on a new credit card. Finally, when I arrived at my hotel, I was flanked by a bellman, a valet attendant and a greeter before I even entered the lobby.
My point? While you may not encounter the same number of people during your day as I did today, you still need people. And yet, we frequently act as if we’re the only ones around.
In our family, we have a phrase for people who seem to think they are the only ones around. We call them COU’s or Center of the Universe’s. COU’s are the ones who push in front of you in the grocery line or zip into the parking space you’re approaching or let the door slam in your face as they’re leaving a building.
Recently, I was waiting to board a plane and apparently, someone was having a challenge getting to their seat because we were stopped at the door of the plane for a couple of minutes. Usually, this is due to an older person taking a little extra time or someone trying to store their but-I-thought-it-would-fit luggage. But after about a minute of waiting, the woman in front of me yelled, “Really? Geez!”
Apparently, the other people in the line did not consider the importance of her need to get onboard more rapidly. Thus, she showed her center-of-the-universe-ed-ness.
In my head, I thought, “Hey lady, put a lid on it. I’m the center of the universe. Not you.”
Unfortunately, it seems that we spend a lot of time competing for what we need rather than seeking the benefit of everyone we encounter. It happens in our families, in our jobs and even in airplanes. Yet, behind these encounters are people — and people matter. And when we get to the end of our lives, it will be the relationships we remember rather than the jobs, the cars or the the first class seats. And ironically, if you were lucky enough to achieve success, there were probably many other people who helped you along the way
Remember that when we understand that life is all about the people, it means treating everyone with the same respect, patience, and dignity that we would expect. It means showing compassion when we don’t always feel like it. And it means giving people the benefit of the doubt — even if they’re holding up the airplane line. One day, we will be that person looking for understanding from others. And when that happens, we will certainly appreciate it.
In the end, it’s about the people. In fact, in the beginning, it’s about the people too. And there’s nothing stupid about that.