Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
My family and I recently spent a weekend in Manhattan. Despite having been to New York dozens of times on business, I hadn’t visited many of the traditional tourist attractions. As it was my youngest child’s first time to the city, we had a blast spending time in museums, seeing the Statue of Liberty, taking in a couple of Broadway shows, and eating great food. We also walked along 5th Avenue, browsing in that street’s many flagship stores. One that caught our attention was the Microsoft store between 53rd and 54th. I’m a big fan of CEO Satya Nadella, and I have been intrigued by their investments in augmented reality, particularly as it relates to their HoloLens headset. Not surprisingly, my teenage son likes video games, so we decided to go inside.
As luck would have it, the store was relatively uncrowded on this particular afternoon. I asked a store associate if we could take a look at the HoloLens, and he gladly introduced us to a young man who offered to take us on a tour of this five-story building, the largest Microsoft store in the world. At the entrance to one of the first floors we visited was Microsoft’s mission (see photo below). Our guide proudly explained that this mission statement was recently developed under Nadella’s leadership.
Now if you’re thinking that this post is going to be about Nadella’s extraordinary leadership, I wouldn’t blame you. But it’s not. What I found even more extraordinary was our guide. He was bright, knowledgeable, and clearly invested in doing his job well. He was the type of person you meet that makes you pause and wonder what the world would be like if everyone exhibited the same character virtues. He was, in other words, extra ordinary.
I immediately took a liking to this man. I asked him if he was a reader. I told him that one of the first books Nadella asked his leadership team to read was Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg, which I explained is a life changer. He immediately took out his phone and saved the book title to a wish list. I have no doubt he will read it (I also unapologetically told him about my book, which he too saved 😊). He then told me about his career aspirations. Before I knew it, I suggested we connect on LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft) and told him to reach out to me if he needed any help on his path.
A lot of people complain about their circumstances…about being stuck in a dead end job. Implicit in this complaint is a belief that there’s little they can do to change their circumstances. It’s what I call a victim mindset.
This young man was the embodiment of something totally different. He exemplified a responsible mindset. He was taking responsibility for his job, doing it with a total commitment to excellence. Whether he ever takes me up on my offer doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that his way of being and thinking created opportunities that most others complain about never getting.
I left the store feeling great about our encounter. More importantly, I was struck by the fact that the extraordinary can be found anywhere if you’re looking for it. The most obvious place is within the elite ranks of professionals — CEOs, high-performance athletes, star performers. But more often than not, the extraordinary can be found in the ordinary. I found it in a random encounter with a young man working at Microsoft’s flagship store. What a gift!