When I was growing up in tiny Janesville, Minnesota, I developed an enormous fondness for the mail. To me, it seemed the most compelling evidence of life outside my village came through our family mailbox at the post office.
I did everything I could think of to increase the amount of mail that arrived bearing my name. I sent away for things advertised in comic books by taping dimes and quarters on little bits of cardboard. I acquired penpals. The quality of the mail I received was far less important than the quantity.
When I began my self-employment journey it was natural to include some sort of mail order component. As a result, daily trips to the post office have been the only regular activity of my business life.
Because the post office has been my partner in business, I’ve always cultivated relationships with the postal workers that I see on a regular basis. I know their names,I know about their families and they know about me.
Even before I moved to Las Vegas, I acquired a post office box with the help of my friend Cheri who was living there. The gang behind the counter is an eclectic bunch and, with one stunning exception, all friendly and fun.
Then there’s Judy. She seldom smiles and frequently scowls when her co-workers are sharing a joke with a customer. I did my best to avoid going to her window, but it’s not always possible to circumvent her.
One day, I made a purchase from Judy and when she handed me my receipt she slipped something else in my hand. I didn’t look at it until I got to my car and discovered she had given me a religious tract. Apparently, she had decided I needed to be saved.
I promptly sent a complaint to the postal service via e-mail. The next day, Judy’s manager called me and expressed his horror that she had done such a thing. He promised to discuss the matter with her.
I assume that Judy knew that I was the source of her reprimand (although she may have spread her proselytizing around for all I know) and any time I landed at her window, transactions were conducted in silence. Sometimes I’d let the folks behind me in line go ahead just to avoid an encounter with her.
On the Saturday morning when I went to the post office carrying dozens of copies of Making a Living Without a Job to be mailed, I was slightly dismayed to see that only Judy and one other employee were minding the store.
When my turn came, I was paired with Judy. Several of the books were going to other countries so needed special attention. When she realized what was in the packages, she asked me what kind of books I wrote.
I mumbled something about self-employment and Judy surprised me again by saying, “I want to be self-employed.” I said nothing. She kept processing orders and asked, “How much is your book?”
I told her the price and then (to my further astonishment) said, “I’d like to give you a copy. Maybe it will help.”
“Would you autograph it?” she asked. She was smiling for the first time ever. I assured her I would do that.
I walked out of the post office shaking my head at the unexpected shift in my relationship with her.
Later that day, I returned with more packages to mail and a copy of my book concealed in a gift bag. “You may not want to read this in the employee lunchroom,” I suggested.
Based on my experience with Judy, I would not think she’d make an especially good entrepreneur since she doesn’t seem to like people very much. I could be totally wrong about that, of course.
Perhaps her misery in her current job is simply too great for her to keep it to herself.
Judy reminds me why it’s so important that we make the commitment to discover the work we love and then do it with all our heart.
When we don’t, we inflict our unhappiness on others. We never become masterful. It’s like going through life with a low grade fever that’s not bad enough to keep us in bed, but we don’t feel good enough to operate from our best self.
George Bernard Shaw, who showed us he knew a thing or two about personal transformation in his play Pygmalion, observed,“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”
For most of us, that purpose is expressed through our work and if we fail to connect with the work that ignites our imagination and makes us wildly eager to share, we spread a virus of a different kind, one that infects everyone who comes in contact with us.
Yes, it’s that important and the Judys of this world that keep reminding me of that. I only wish that there were fewer of them.