A while back, I went on a road trip with a couple of friends from Chicago down to Houston. We had gone as far as Missouri and after about 6 or 7 hours in the car, stopping at a rest area was a fine idea. We all got out, stretched. I stepped into the restroom to wash up and wet my face.
What happened next is a little strange and uncomfortable but helped an important idea crystallize in my head.
There was something different about the restroom. I noticed how vast and clean the restroom was; not one cracked tile, no graffiti, it was pleasant. Oddly, there were more mirrors than I was used to seeing. I’m originally from New York and I learned that in the Midwest, people tend to be very friendly and everything was a cleaner. I came to expect things to be different everywhere I went in these parts but something seemed out of place.
I stepped up to the sink and ran my hands under the warm water. The door opened, and in walked an elderly woman. She was short, gray, and looked dazed. I was surprised to see her there but she looked harmless, bewildered- probably tired from hours of driving. I wasn’t about to jump to conclusions and my New York upbringing taught me “just ignore the unusual, keep moving”. She was stuck in the doorway staring but I confidently strode over to the air dryer then looked myself over in one of several full-length mirrors. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I gave that bleary-eyed woman a polite nod and walked out.
As I exited, I could not wait to tell my friends waiting in the car when it occurred that there could be a small possibility that I mistakenly entered the wrong restroom so- just to be 100%- I turned around and checked the sign on the door.
We all make mistakes right? Who hasn’t made a mistake once in a while?
I’m sure you guessed it. I had not been in men’s restroom after all.
The evidence was undeniable. I was wrong, mistaken, incorrect. I reflected on what had happened and I learned a lesson.
That moment at the rest area when I was convinced I was completely right followed by the embarrassing truth that I was absolutely wrong, was incredible. I realized that I can go through chunks of time, even a year believing that I’m fine and that nothing needs improvement but that’s not true. I am not yet perfect and I can change if I want to. Acknowledgement is the first step.
The human condition has certain hubris. We do so many great things but then we can get convinced that we are doing well enough. Once in a while, it is good to be reminded that there is room for growth.
Some of the most successful companies like IBM, Apple, and the NFL have needed to re-evaluate and even radically alter their focus in order to thrive. Jay-Z said, “I’m not a businessman; I’m a business, man”. He’s right; our lives are like businesses that can thrive if we allow for change or falter if left uninspired and unscrutinized.
We all want a sweet year. During this month, Jewish people have the custom to blow an instrument crafted out of the horn of ram called a shofar. There are many reasons for this, one being that the shofar sounds a wake-up call to the soul. This month especially, I am reminded to take an honest self-inventory. It will not always be easy but if I do, my year will be sweeter because it will allow me to become better than ever and enjoy my life even more. What could be sweeter than that?
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