David Blaine is a magician who has done amazing, death-defying things. He was buried alive in New York City in a coffin for a week living on nothing but water. He froze himself in a block of ice for three days and three nights. He stood on top of a hundred-foot pillar for 36 hours, and went to London and lived in a glass box for 44 days with nothing but water. He has done some seriously scary stuff and lived to tell the tale.
Recently, I was listening to a radio show where they were talking about fear and interviewed Blaine. He said he really doesn’t get scared, he relishes the challenge, he is not afraid of death or injury, a trait inspired by his mother’s fight with terminal illness. After some talk about his fearlessness and details about how he’s been able to do the things he’s done, he was asked if he had children and he said yes he has a daughter. They asked if she was also fearless to which Blaine replied that his daughter was beyond fearless. He said she pets alligators and loves sharks. Then they asked the really telling question, “Do you ever experience the fear that a parent sometimes fears?” Before the interviewer could finish, Blaine jumped in to say, “Big time. Enormous. Even when she just, like, trips or something, I have a heart attack.”
This irony immediately got me to thinking about the selflessness it demonstrated. While doing all of these death-defying stunts and not concerning himself with his own life or safety, Blaine can be worried about the tiniest thing surrounding his daughter. His mindset is set on what he can do for her and not what he can do for himself.
We live in a world of increasing self-importance where so many want their claim to fame, their Warhol fifteen minutes as it were. Very telling is some current research on popular song lyrics that shows a dramatic increase in the use of the words I, me, and mine and a decrease in the use of the words we and us. While some might shrug this off as coincidence, I’m not so sure. Just look at our President who tweets retorts to anything that remotely attacks his personality. Look at social media where people constantly post where they are, who they’re with, and what they’re wearing. Is it a coincidence or is it a sad state? I’m going with the latter.
But why care about this anyway? Why do I concern myself with seeming trivialities like this? Well, I believe it has a lot to do with the state of work and customer experience. When we are self-focused it becomes hard to serve others, and serving others is what business is for, it’s the sole purpose for business to exist. Every business is in the business of helping others do things and this narcissistic trend is making it hard to really pursue this purpose.
This difficulty is what lies at the center of how workplaces are full of apathy, tension, and dissatisfaction, and why customers are largely distrusting and dissatisfied as well. When those who serve, or are supposed to be serving, are self-focused, the experience can only be false or less than satisfying.
So how do we fix it?
It begins with awareness. It begins by looking around us and searching out opportunities to help the person next to us, to lift them up before lifting up ourselves. We must see them as humans with needs, goals, and challenges and then adjust what we do to be more helpful. What’s interesting in my experience is that doing this becomes a virus that infects more and more. I believe this is where the fix begins, taking time to be aware and then taking action for someone other than ourselves.
We don’t have to be fearless, we just have to be aware, be flexible, and be more helpful. Start the virus today!