When looking for inspiration, you are not likely to find it. However, if you keep your mind open ideas and people will naturally come to you.
I am in the business of finding solutions and public speaking. Being interested in people comes naturally to me – a gift fostered by my late father. He taught me to question everything and take an active part in the world. However, after three months on the road I am momentarily creatively tapped out. I have imparted knowledge, shared findings, made suggestions, been creative, hell – I have nothing left in the tank to give.
Have you ever felt this way too? Call it burn out or simple exhaustion – my work load ahead feels insurmountable even though it is actually much more manageable than what I just accomplished. When this happens, I know it is time to take a mental health day (or at least a couple of hours) walk in the sun, bike, and remember why I love what I do in the first place.
I recently met a person who will serve as an inspiration to me for years to come. I have decided to write the story of our meeting down as a way to capture what he told me.
I was on my last stop of an eight country tour. Each day I needed to dig deeper into my energy reserves. My presentation style is quick and funny – requiring me to be at my best. After three months of changing weather, currency, languages, and customs, slogging through each 12 hour day looked great on the outside, but felt like swimming through quicksand. On one of my evening walks around the buildings of the old city of Istanbul (the only time I was not working) I ducked into a nice jewelry and art shop. It was a chance for me to turn off my brain and look at lovely things made by hand. That is when I met the store owner. When he first approached me to start a conversation I was ready to snap – having already experienced the harassment of some very aggressive carpet sellers outside the Blue Mosque. So far, walking around tourist sites had meant I was approached by dozens of sellers vying for my attention. Finally I started donning a scarf and glasses so that people would stop approaching me. (See picture above.) He adeptly read my mood and left me space to roam; only answering questions when I asked. After ten minutes of looking, we started a conversation about the history of the pieces, artists’ background, and the city area. I found out he is a master marketer with keen observation skills and perspective of selling to different cultures. I asked him if the tough sales techniques of the street sellers, “Lady, what’s your name? Where are you from?” really worked on people. His response was, “Well, not for about 15% of the people they approach, but 85% of people answer and strike up a conversation. This makes the tourist feel good – as though they are mingling with people from the city. Then the seller pretends to be offended by something they said. This scares and hurts the buyer’s feelings. The buyer will then give any amount of money to make that pain go away.” We started talking and he offered me a chair…
Other interesting tidbits he offered were, “Some cultures want to be fawned over and others want to be left alone. It is not for me to choose how to approach a person, I have to adapt to them.” We talked pricing and he said, “If I price something at $500 and it does not sell for two months, I can change the price to $1,000 and it will sell in two days. The reason this works is because now it is a thing of value. Under-pricing an item makes it worthless.” I think he would be a great Marketing professor at a prestigious University, but of course, he lacks the proper (insert sigh here) credentials. While we chatted, I also watched him work as customers came in switching to Turkish, English, French and Arabic. Impressive, but it was his change in body language and mannerisms with each interaction that fascinated me. I have also observed these different body postures when watching my husband switch languages from English, German, French, or Italian. There is something in the vocabulary and culture that changes the way they communicate.
He invited me to return the next night. Even though I was bone tired I did go back and we talked again. This time I told him about a challenge I was having with a competitor who charges twice what I do. He said, “He will remain more respected than you until you change your pricing. Companies feel more pain to pay him and so they will listen more to him too.” He offered me a discount on anything I purchased in the store. I said, “Then I will buy twice as much as I planned to.” He responded with, “I know.”
If I had walked into his store and stayed closed to meeting someone new, I would have missed making a great friend and learning something from him. There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, “An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”
Along the journey of life we brush by people capable of showing us things that we miss. Taking the time to appreciate the gifts life gives us is what makes everything worthwhile. Now I am going for that bike ride!