I have been wearing the same brand of shoes now for about 15 years. Yes, I’m a “leave well enough alone” type of guy. I have been wearing this type/style/make of shoes for so long that the manufacturer no longer makes them. So, I watch E-Bay every day, hoping that someone will have a nearly new pair that they found in a vault or that they didn’t like. They are nothing special… I just like them. My wife frequently asks why I don’t change or if I would make a change. So, to honor her, I do occasionally change… but, just a slight color change. When I do find them, I don’t take any chances and buy them, even if I have a new back-up pair ready-to-go. Sometimes I wonder if it truly is time for me to swap my shoes.
Over the last few months, I have been impacted by a temporary, soon-to-be-repaired, back problem that hampers my ability to walk very fast or very far. I waddle. So, on a recent trip to the Iowa State Fair, my wife rented an electric scooter for me to ride. Of course I was reluctant. But, in order to attend the fair with my wife and friends (yes, I was threatened), I agreed to the scooter. Over the course of two days, I took that scooter everywhere and enjoyed my time. However, it gave me a new and unique perspective for those that experience this every day of their lives. I was actually “walking” in their shoes for a couple days. I saw how frustrated others became when I tried to work my way through the crowd on the scooter. I saw how difficult it was to get to some locations. I felt the frustration of this limitation on my mobility to go where I wanted, when I wanted. I think this experience has given me a new attitude regarding others that suffer limitations permanently. It was good to swap shoes for a couple days.
In the same way, it would probably be good for us to “swap shoes” with some others (e.g., colleagues, friends, family, neighbors) to give us a better perspective of what they experience every day. Would doing so help us reach a better level of understanding or compassion for what they are experiencing? I think the answer to that question is a resounding, “Yes!”
So, at least in your mind, swap shoes for a day with….
- That colleague that must decide which positions will be eliminated and which will be retained
- That senior executive that must decide which of many projects is highest priority and can be funded and which will never be funded
- That single mother that cried last night because she couldn’t do more for her children that miss their father
- That coworker that just learned that they or a loved one has inoperable cancer or another serious health issue
- That coworker that just send her child away to college — just when she was getting good at her job as a mother, it was over
- Those leaders that must decide if we should take the risk of eliminating important product development steps or miss a launch date that will make the difference between a successful product and a dead product
- That colleague that is struggling with “what next” with their challenging children
- That coworker that just buried a loved one and is just trying to get through each day
- The one that is disappointed with their career, their life, or their view of the future
- That supervisor that must choose which of his two top reports will get the job and which will be devastated
- That wife or husband that is struggling with their marriage
- The coworker that has no true friend and, as a result, always eats lunch alone at his/her desk
Look at life from that other person’s viewpoint before you judge. Consider what you can do to show understanding or compassion or friendship to someone that needs it. Maybe it’s time for you to “swap shoes for a day” – perhaps that pair you are wearing is getting just a little bit too comfortable.
Have a great day!