Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Paid In Smiles

I've been speaking professionally for only about 4 years now and loving every 
minute!  For me, this has yet to turn into a highly successful career and the 
money isn't enough to let me go full-time...yet.  Recently, I experienced 
payment that exceeded any I could imagine.  The payment came from budget and 
I am learning that there are budget constraints in every organization and every 
family.  Whenever I am asked to speak the inevitable follow-up is, "We don't 
have any budget for a speaker."  I learned from a great leader that the answer 
is always "Yes, now when do you need me?" 
Gina from a small charter school in Manitowoc asked me to speak to her students 
about ThoughtShredder and overcoming childhood experiences.  Yes, the follow-up 
statement soon followed.  After reviewing a few creative ways to fund the event 
-- asking other schools to join; finding a business to donate; getting me 
contacts from others in the area who could hire me in the future; we settled on 
her researching ways while I committed to speak regardless.  Gina's guarantee 
was payment in lots of smiles.  I'm a sucker for smiles. 
When I arrived I received 2 checks to 'cover my gas expense'.  One was from Gina 
herself and the other from her mother who originally referred me.  Each gave 
from their own pockets to make me feel appreciated.  Without ever witnessing her 
classroom, I knew then I was in front of a great teacher -- commitment, 
sacrifice and appreciation flowed from her. 
At the end of my 90 minutes with the students, I indeed received lots of smiles; 
just as she promised.  Smiles from 45 teenagers who lined up to each get an 
autographed copy of my book; many telling me stories of their own lives, shaking 
my hand and saying, "Thank you!" 
I drove back to my day job after the speech, but couldn't get my own smile off 
my face.  I was filled with a joy that can't ever be attained through material 
things.  Knowing that you fulfilled, even for a brief moment, the passion that 
is deep within you brings a sense of satisfaction seemingly unattainable.  
Two weeks later I received a check in the mail from Gina's school along with a 
note expressing her sincere appreciation.  She noted that the money came from a 
budget that was intended to provide backpacks for some of the students.  But, 
she insisted, "rather than giving them something to carry on their backs, we 
wanted to give them something they would carry forever -- a message of hope."  
That note created more smiles for my wife and I.  I carry it with me to give me 
a smile anytime I need it.  
No, the checks didn't cover the fees I normally charge, but then how do you put 
a value on smiles?