February 2020

This month’s thoughts are dedicated to Katie. I don’t know her last name. 

Katie works at the front desk of a hotel where I was planning to stay beforemy TEDx Sonoma talkin January. In fact, I had already checked into the hotel and put my clothes away before I realized that the venue was almost as far away from my hotel as my actual home in San Francisco. Frantically, I called around to find a closer place to stay, threw my things back into the suitcase, and drove 45 minutes to the new hotel. 

As I unpacked again, my heart skipped a beat: I was due at rehearsal momentarily–and I had left my dress shoes at the first location.

Speaking on a stage in front of nearly 800 people is nerve-wracking, and knowing that whatever you say will be launched into the world on YouTube through the TED Network, viewable in perpetuity, cranks it up a notch. Doing it in a dress and barefoot (or God forbid, in my running shoes) was about to push me over the top on the stress-o-meter.

That’s where Katie comes in.  

*  *  * 

When I called the original hotel to see if they could locate the shoes, it was Katie who answered the call. She listened with obvious tenderness and empathy. In the next breath, she offered to turn the catastrophe into an adventure, bringing the shoes to me herself when she finished work and making it a night out with her husband. 

I learned three important lessons here. 

The first was how wonderful it felt to be seen in this generous way. I was on the receiving end of Katie’s empathy and concern. As was noted in the research conducted for my new book The Parlay Effect, I was moved by her generosity and immediately began to ask myself whether I would have acted in the same way. Before I knew it, I began to look for opportunities to do something similarly meaningful for someone else. Her action raised my game.

The second was that I felt guilty about accepting so much. I mean, this was a pair of shoes, not life and death (although the fashionista in me could argue the reverse). How could I possibly let a stranger do this for me? 

And third, by taking a challenge and turning it into an adventure, Katie lessened my burden. Instead of being overt about the favor she was offering me, she presented it in a way that made it sound fun for her as well. That made me feel better as the recipient and hopefully, made it fun for her too.

This story ends by me realizing that I hadn’t actually left my shoes behind after all. (They were hiding in my bag, attached to my outfit.) Katie didn’t need to switch up her evening, and I didn’t need to be barefoot on stage. 

And this story doesn’t end, because I still feel the glow of having met a stranger who was willing to shift her life pattern for me, and I am still looking for ways to put that out into the universe myself.  

*  *  * 

 Do you Parlay?

Share It Small: Find a way to turn a challenge into an adventure and share the way you flipped things upside down with someone who often sees the glass as half empty. 

Share It Big: As you find these “positivity hacks,” tell people about them! We know that witnesses of positivity start to replicate it themselves, so be the change you wish to see and do it out loud!

Share It with Me: I’m collecting stories of these cascades of good for ongoing community building and to track The Parlay Effect in action. I would love to hear how you lifted someone, were lifted, or observed something in others that made you feel good and recognize your own power.