Twice a year we award worthy Australians with Medals. I get excited on both Australia Day and the Queens Birthday weekend in anticipation of reading the lists. As someone who has spent so much time recording stories and interviewing people it will not be any shock to you that it is the stories behind the awards that I like the most.
This year we have a cracker. The wonderful Dick Smith was awarded the country’s top honour and his is a lovely story, that should resonate with an entire generation.
Mr Smith is an achiever. The Americans would probably call him a winner. From humble beginnings he toiled to eventual business success and now seems to spend his time giving his money to people who need it more than he does.
The part of his story that should have ears burning everywhere, is his schooling. Marked 45th of 47 students in his year, he went through the apprenticeship route rather than to University. Many a young person is led to believe that if you haven’t made your mark academically by 12 or 13 you are up against it in the success stakes.
Dick Smith would have everyone know that he was not good at school but pretty good at business, leadership, learning and (in my opinion) being a good bloke. Personally I find it interesting that school failed to provide him the opportunity to shine. Though it doesn’t surprise me. The point though is that he didn’t let a thing like academics get in the way of success.
I am not teacher bashing either, some of my favourite people are teachers so this is not about teaching standards or anything like that. It is important for young people to know that the bumps and scuffs that almost inevitably occur during a young persons schooling are not an excuse to give up. In fact they should be providing the motivation to dig a little deeper and work a little harder. Dick Smith’s story shows there is more than one way to skin a cat. We need to be creative in the way we look at success, the way we approach hurdles and the methods we use to shine the light on the big world. Thank you Dick.
I grew up in a normal family, in a normal house surrounded by normal stuff. Probably just as you think you did. Though nothing about my upbringing was super sensational, in truth, it was definitely different to yours and about one million miles away from my kids upbringing.
That’s what I find when I interview people. They have all led the most interesting lives. Some of them have been singularly motivated by their lifelong battle with their anxieties. Others that I have met peaked in high school and have spent the rest of their lives trying to readjust. Some met the love of their life in primary school, and others are still searching.
Some people I have met have been moulded by events or in some cases a single cataclysmic event. Some have been cast by a life without event. Some people spend their life struggling while others march through without a glance to the left or right. Some are devout, which I find really interesting and others can’t spell the word.
While some people I have interviewed blame their parents, I have met plenty that realise they were given an unfair advantage by their folks. Obviously some of that is just perception and some of it is real. Some interviews make me feel sad and others are uplifting but they are always amazing because people are amazing.
Internationally renowned behavioural strategist (I think I just made that title up) and best-selling author Tony Robbins said “Life is not about weathering storms it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” The metaphor echoed in my head for days. At the risk of labouring it, it seems to me that some people spend their life planning for the rain, some spend their lives weighing up the cost of that last big wet and some others just want to buy the best all-weather gear.
There is an American sales icon by the name of Charles ‘Tremendous’ Jones that is attributed with one of my all time favourite quotes “wisdom comes from the people you meet and the books you read”. I might be a long way from distilling any wisdom, but I am reading as much and meeting as many people as I can.
One of my favourite short business sayings comes not from an American business leader or a President or wartime Prime Minister but from a waitress in Denny’s in Hawaii. My bride and I were on holidays there and we had ordered something from the menu out of curiosity and when we tasted it we curled up our noses at the blandness of it. The waitress leaned on the counter next to us and in her wonderfully rich American accent, said ” you’ve got to pump up that puppy” meaning add taste, and pushed a rack of condiments across the counter to us.
That lovely expression has resonated with me for years. How many businesses do you walk into that need to “pump up that puppy”? Recently I was in country NSW at one of the regional hubs and had breakfast at a cafe chosen purely because it was the first one open. It called itself something green and fair and rootsy, perhaps even organic but upon entering, it looked more like an ex ice cream shop. Bad lighting, bad furniture, bad decorating. It had bags of garlic hanging under the front counter that looked more like chewing gum stuck under a desk than it did an homage to rootsy back to earthiness. The quote came instantly to mind. You’ve got to pump up that puppy!
The coffee was great, or at least one of them was, you see, in spite of me being the only person in the place, two different people made my two coffees. Who is the best coffee maker? They should be making the coffee! Pump up that puppy by having clear roles and playing to your strengths.
The paleo pancakes read much like the French toast on the menu so I asked barista No1. which was better. He said he preferred the pancakes so I went with that. Once I had eaten them, that was the perfect time to engage with me by asking if I had enjoyed them. Pump up that puppy by engaging with your clients. Pump up that puppy by seeking feedback.
I understand that there is an inherent risk in asking for feedback, it can be scary. But here is your only customer and he has asked for your personal advice, followed your recommendation and you fail to follow-up? That is just a wasted opportunity.
The breakfast btw was sensational. The plate looked like something from the nineties which was disappointing all swirls and wisps, but I could not fault the texture or taste. Here was a business that really needed to pump up the puppy.
I wanted to give them feedback but I went to Facebook and couldn’t find them. Surely a new business is going to have a Facebook presence aren’t they? They should! Pump up that puppy by connecting with the local eaters and coffee drinkers, letting everyone know how early they open and what great food they serve.
I wonder if they will be there when I next return? Almost certainly not if they fail to pump up that puppy!