Love one another and help others to rise to the higher levels, simply by pouring out love. Love is infectious and the greatest healing energy.
~ Sai Baba
My father-in-law is one of my most influential mentors. I’ve known him since I was nineteen and seek his counsel often. My family and I are actually staying with him and my mother-in-law for a getaway in Park City, Utah as I write this. It’s a beautiful, snowy evening (one of the first snowfalls of the season) and I’ve slipped away after putting my youngest son to bed to write, thinking about his influence in my life.
One of the great principles he taught me is regarding our power to choose how we respond to things we see or hear. In the book Crucial Conversations by Joseph Grenny, I learned a common pattern to describe how we respond to what we see or hear.
- We see or hear something
- We tell ourselves a story about what we saw or heard
- We feel something based on the story we told ourselves
- We then act on those feelings
The key to having consistently positive experiences with others is to master the stories we tell ourselves about them. When we don’t, we allow others to control us. My father-in-law refers to this as “yielding our agency.” His counsel is to never yield our agency to others. You always have a choice regarding how you will respond to stimulus.
An amazing events planner and a good friend of mine, Amy Bruun, sent me this parable of the law of the garbage truck this week. The story is a great example of a taxi driver who does not yield his agency. I loved it and thought you might too.
“One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!’ This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’ He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally, just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so…Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don’t. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it! Have a blessed, garbage-free day!”
Choose to tell yourself stories that give people the benefit of the doubt. Choose to love others first. As we move into the weekend again, I encourage you to practice looking for the good and being the one to stop spreading garbage. You will feel an increase in satisfaction and joy to fuel your renewal.