I had lunch today with Wayne, an old friend who recently reached out to me to rekindle our friendship. Today was the second of what I suspect will be many future luncheons and/or conversations around coffee with Wayne. Wayne is one of those rare souls who knows how to be a loyal friend.
At one time, I was Wayne’s pastor. Both of us have been through a lot of changes in our lives since those days, however. While he is still a person of deep and abiding faith, his connection today to organized religion is an arm’s length connection. I’m no longer a pastor either, having closed that chapter a decade-and-a-half ago.
Our conversations seem to cover everything from what our children are doing who are now adults…to things like his business – he’s a consultant, to things like my business – I’m a consultant, too. We talk about life — how too damn brief it is — and only getting brief-er by the day it seems. We talk about faith, too. Of course. That’s something into which we’re both deeply interested.
Today, however, we talked business. He made a couple of salient points worth noting, too. If you’re a small business owner…no, even if you’re the CEO of a major company, these are pretty stellar reminders:
1. When your business is the busiest, your chances of expanding the business are the greatest. Capitalize on this business expansion opportunity. Many small businesses and self-employed persons, however, including consultants like me, often miss this field ripe unto harvest. Which is why we’re always saying, when it comes to the services we provide, it’s either “feast or famine.” We’re either enjoying the benefits of our busy businesses or we’re looking for the nearest line at a soup kitchen. When business is good, it’s easier just to sit back and coast and fail to aggressively market ourselves and our services. Then, all too quickly, the stream dries up and everything looks as bleak as it actually is. So, Wayne is right. When you’re busy, you’re not only around paying clients but, if you’re paying attention, your potential future clients are all around, too.
2. The second salient reminder Wayne made today is the importance of the “elevator speech.” Remember your first sales and marketing class either in college or in job training program? You had to not only write your elevator speech but, what was worse, you had to actually give it to the guy seated next to you.. I think I flunked that class.
Right in the middle of our conversation, Wayne stopped, looked at me, and asked, “So, Steve, why not give me your elevator speech? Tell me in thirty seconds what you do?”
I nearly choked on a leaf of lettuce. I was eating a salad. I couldn’t answer his question.
No, it’s not because I have no clue what I do. But, what I do is expansive, varied, even complicated, and it isn’t easily explained in two or three sentences.
That was, at least, my feeble response to his very good question.
That was noon today. It’s now after midnight and I’ve been thinking about his damn question all afternoon and evening.
So, I decided just to sit down and give expression on paper to the stuff I do in person.
Here’s my elevator speech.
Warning: It’s a bit longer than two sentences. But, short enough that, with practice, I could probably use it on those slow elevators that are located in almost every Hampton Inn I’ve ever stayed.
“What I do? Well, I’m a speaker. I give talks to groups interested in the joy of life and living…to those who are interested in the things that matter most…things like who we are and why we’re here…things like how to love and laugh and lead others to do the same. In other words, I give talks filled with laughter and stories on how you and I might live an optimal life so that, when all is said and done, we can retire knowing we’re leaving this world a more conscious, compassionate, and charitable place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. I’ll go just about anywhere to give these talks. And, if the price is right, then, yep, I’ll go anywhere.”
“I’m also a personal coach to a select group of persons…those interested in connecting with their highest self…who are seeking answers to the really big questions of life. Some of these persons are professional people just looking for some inner equilibrium, bombarded as they are by daily demands that would stagger anybody. Others are just seeking to connect to their spiritual center. Some have given up on organized religion or, they’re close to doing so, and largely because it doesn’t work for them anymore. Almost all of these are deeply spiritual people…they just want to keep advancing in their spiritual lives. I’m privileged to be their guide, as it were, in what is the most important task in life – the journey into one’s spiritual center.”
Well, what do you think?
Oh, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s still too long, McSwain.” I know. I’ll work on it. And, yes, there are other things I do, too, as many of you know. Which is why I said earlier…it’s varied…complicated.
I am an author, a writer for the Huffington Post, and other national and international publications. I’m a spiritual teacher, a fundraising executive and, for the last couple of years, I’ve been an adjunct professor of Communication at the University of Kentucky.
Oh, and I’m a father, too, as well as a husband.”
So, now, there you have it.
But, at 2AM this morning, there is something else that occurs to me. It happens to be another elevator speech that was given by another person long ago when he was asked a similar question.
It was the morning after his spiritual awakening that took place, apparently, under what’s known as the Bodi tree. Siddhartha Guatama was his name and he was met that morning by someone who asked, “Who are you?”
Siddhartha Guatama said, “I am awake.” Which is, of course, the meaning of the name by which he would be known to this day, “The Buddha.” Or, “awakened one.”
My friends, I’m not sure I could love my varied, even complicated life anymore than I do right now. But, maybe I will. I’ll see if that is possible.
What I can tell you is this: For all the fulfillment I feel at speaking and writing, coaching and counseling…for all joy I know at being married to Pamela, a truly beautiful gift from God, for all the peace I know at being a father and stepfather to four genuinely amazing children, I am most pleased…the most deeply satisfied…the most profoundly appreciative to God that, I, too, may say…
“I am waking up.”
Not yet awake, but awakening.
What could be better than this?