I was at the Acme last night grabbing a few things to make my morning smoothies. Strawberries, blueberries, bananas, nonfat yogurt, you get the idea. Anyway, I was walking around looking for the little turkey sausages we have snacked on in the office and couldn’t find them anywhere in the store. I get weird cravings and thought about them all day. I really had just started looking, but to be honest had NO idea where I might find them since the last time I got them they weren’t in a place you would assume. There was an older gentleman rolling a large cart to stock the shelves down one of the aisles. I past him, looking clueless I guess, because he asked me if I needed help finding something.

I smiled and told him that I really wasn’t sure where I would find what I was looking for, but perhaps he might know. I described them as best I could and he quickly set out on a mission to see if he could find me what I was looking for. After about 2 minutes of quickly looking in some spots he thought may be the ones, he went and asked someone at the deli. They directed him to talk with Roberta, the lady who stocks that stuff. He went off to find Roberta. He came back maybe 3 minutes later, almost jogging back to me. He apologized about 4 times that they didn’t stock them at that store. He told me that he asked Roberta, the lady who stocks them, and then he went and asked the scanner for the entire store to double check. After everyone said no, they don’t carry them, he came back and apologized that they didn’t have them and that he was really sorry for making me wait.

I immediately looked at his nametag. Charlie. I glanced back to his eyes, big and blue, making his grey unkempt hair look like it was perfect. I smiled and thanked Charlie for everything he did to help me.

I walked away, but for some reason, turned around again to watch him scurry back to the aisle he had left his stock cart in and get right back to work, busily making sure the cans of tomatoes perfectly lined up with each other, labels out and neat. I was struck by him. Quick and efficient.

I smiled, nodded my head and remembered that regardless of the job, setting himself apart was Charlie’s way of doing things.

About a week ago, my battery in my phone fried itself. I called Verizon Wireless to ask them to send me a new one. Some of you may know my trials and tribulations with Verizon and my phones. I often feel like perhaps candid camera did a piece on me and I still haven’t seen the reruns. Or my door will open and Ashton Kutcher will be my next visitor. I feel like, for whatever reason, I am being punk’d about my crazy cell phone experiences. Nevertheless, I have spent more of my fair share of my life on the phone with tech support, customer support, and every other support team Verizon has. I have always been on the phone for hours trying to fix my issues.

I called and got a very pleasant voice. Her name was Michelle. She asked me what she could do to help me. I have heard that a thousand times before there calling to get help. I was hoping it would be not a huge dilemma to get a new battery. She quickly made notes, put in for my battery and told me she would overnight it to guarantee 3pm delivery so I would have it and not be without a working cell phone. 1.5 minutes and I was off the phone. The battery was in my hand the next morning. Michelle didn’t do anything but her job that day, but her pleasant tone, quickness to please and take care of her customer made me feel like I was the most important thing in that moment. All of a sudden, I felt like perhaps all those sales meetings that taught us “customer service isn’t a department it’s an attitude” weren’t so hokey after all. What if we took that beyond the job? What if that 1% extra would be what makes us stand out in our lives? It’s what makes us be the one other people remember.

In sports, it’s the difference between the first and second place finisher. There is never any competition at the top… in business, in sports, really in life. Most people aren’t the top 3%. Those are the ones that stand out. You know, the ones that do the extra lap in practice without being told, the extra pushup when everyone else collapses. The one with the sheer determination to be just a little better than everyone else. Most of the world is content with being status quo. Mediocre. Mainstream. Maybe even complacent… don’t rock the boat. You know the deal. Pareto’s Principle. 80/20 rule. 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people… “The difference between oridinary and extraordinary is just the little extra…” blah blah blah. I could go on and on with the cliches that describe this…and funny how there are so many. And maybe, just maybe there is something in that too…

So, why did Charlie and Michelle stand out? Charlie didn’t make something appear that didn’t exist in his store but he certainly would have if he could. Michelle didn’t make something simple difficult when I was already frustrated at the battery dying when it was pretty new. They did their job, but they did it gladly. They did it because their job was to help me in that moment.
My job is very much the same. Each moment has someone to “save,” someone to run down a product for even if you come back empty-handed.
Each someone has a moment, when in that moment that person is the most important thing in the world.
We are very much connected in that way. Who knows, tomorrow you may be my Charlie.
I may be your Michelle.

Awareness is everything.
Awareness of reaching beyond what is required.

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