It’s your choice.

Hi Gang,

I am taking a week off this week, but want to introduce you to a friend of mine who has just written a fantastic book called "Backpack", Dr. Tim Gardner.

I really think you will enjoy this post and do hope you stop for a moment and consider your own Backpack.

Here is a link for you to get a copy of the book. I really think you will enjoy it. It is one that I recommend you read and then read again with your team. A lot of great discussion can come from a work like this.


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Do you ever think about all of the people that are impacted by the choices you make?

Seriously. Every personal choice. Every single day. Every person impacted.

If you stop and reflect on it, which all leaders should … regularly … uh, daily … you’ll realize that it’s a BIG number. Some we see; some we don’t see. Too many we don’t even think about.

We may be inclined to think that a substantial part of our total daily choices only help (or hurt) ourselves, like the food we choose to eat, to exercise (or not), how much we sleep, whatever we listen to on our commutes, and so forth. But I could easily argue that even those choices affect others because they all can affect our physical and psychological health; they impact our moods and our body. What I do with me has an impact on others – negative, positive, or neutral – whether I realize it or not.

There is a gentleman that I frequently see at the gym where I play racquetball. Typically, I observe him on one of the exercise machines where there is a bench – because that’s where he’s sitting working on a crossword puzzle. I’ve never seen him pull on a lever or lift a weight. I’m guessing he goes home and tells his wife he had a good workout. Maybe even tells himself that. I could be wrong, but…. She hopes he’s getting healthier, but is he? Well, maybe his brain is. Although he may not see it today or tomorrow, his choices are affecting others

Those personal choices (and many more) impact the people in our lives; but so do our not so personal choices. Those choices that have an immediate impact on others, good or bad. Even further, some of our choices may seem personal at first, but can quickly and ultimately have a huge negatively impact on those in our path.

Dr. Scott Livingston is a good friend of mine as well as a fantastic executive coach. He recently passed on a story that is the perfect example of what I’m talking about. It reminded Scott of the ideas discussed in my book, The Backpack. A client of his had been out to dinner with their family when they observed a young man who was:

  • Inattentively walking through the restaurant, which caused him to

  • Inadvertently run into a waiter, who happened to be

  • Carrying a tray full of waters, that ultimately

  • Spilled all over six innocent bystanders trying to enjoy their meal.

They were all collateral victims of the young man’s metaphorical backpack.

The backpack represents our self-awareness. Complete self-awareness is more than being aware of me and taking responsibility for me. It also always includes an understanding of exactly how I am impacting others. Am I whacking you with my backpack as walk by you or not?

Are my choices helping you? Or hurting you?

True self-awareness is understanding, owning, and making changes to the trajectory of the inevitable domino effect of my choices, both positively and negatively. I’m hurrying, not paying attention, and run into another person; that person is personally negatively impacted, but the next domino falls when he spills the water he was carrying that, another domino, negatively impacts six other people who were now not only drenched, but had their meal impacted, domino, domino.

Our choices can have a bigger domino affect than we realize. And, of course, our positive choices can have the same pay-it-forward results.

We shop at a local grocery store where you get a cart by depositing a quarter that you get back when you return the cart. This past week, I was walking up when a man offered me a cart. I offered him a quarter and he said, “No, thanks, it was given to me.” So, of course, I did the same thing for the first customer I saw when I was coming out of the store. Yes, it’s small. I actually do it every time I go, even if I’m the one to put the quarter in to get the cart. I just give it to the next person. It’s only a quarter!

And guess what? Everybody smiles. Every time.

In The Backpack, one of the main characters is a wise, old cowboy named Buddy. Here is one of the ways he views life:

Buddy knew that every single encounter with every single person on every single day presented a single opportunity. He could make their day better, worse, or to have no impact at all. Buddy preferred making things better.

How many people are impacted by the choices we make?

Reflect on it.

Then decide if you need to use the exercise machine, or cleanup a tray of spilled waters, or spend a quarter.

It’s your choice.