The beauty in deep conversations with strangers
Two People, Two Stories. I Speak Less and Learn More
In the last two days I have had amazing conversations with two people I didn't know three days ago. The stay with you, think about them over and over, touch your heart kind of conversations. The best part is...I hardly spoke. I know, I know, hard to believe, but it's true.
Being in a new city, in a new role, but in the same industry is giving me a very unique last few weeks. Every day I am meeting 10-20 new people. The names? Forget it, that will take awhile, but the impressions are what strikes me.
How often do you really pay attention when someone is speaking to you? No distractions. No waiting until they are done so you can make your next point. No automatic judgement. Just listening. It isn't that easy and our culture doesn't lend itself to slowing down and making connections. We live in a society that prides itself on a "Do More, Do It Faster, Think Three Steps Ahead" mentality. We just are not programmed to stop thinking, slow down, and just listen with an open mind and an open heart. So, to that end I challenged myself when I got here to do just that. They don't know me, I don't know them. I really wanted to meet people the right way. To learn something about them and from them. To care and listen to what they had to say. For the most part I have screwed it all up and failed terribly ;)
But not yesterday and not today. I met two lovely people who sought me out for some advice and a point in the right direction, and after it was all done, I feel they did more for me than I did for them.
For the sake of their privacy I won't mention names here but lets just cal them JD and BNR.
My conversation with JD yesterday was just amazing. I have written before about how everyone out there, all around you, have a marvelous backstory, have led fascinating lives. We pass in a hall way, or stand behind each other at the grocery, and rarely even notice the person next to us, let alone engage them. But what if we did? JD proves to me that this little experiment can put a smile on your soul.
JD stopped by my office on a very routine business matter. Just had a couple of education questions. But he was warm, and friendly, and I'm not sure how I could tell, but he was also fragile. While I was taking care of enrolling him in a class, I just started asking questions. It started with business, our common bond, and then moved into what he had done before this and why he had found real estate so late in life. None of this had to happen, I could have enrolled him in the class and he would have been on his way, but that just ain't my style! He explained the transition to real estate and how his wife hadn't even given him a choice. He came home one day and she announced "You start real estate school on Monday!, Don't even bother arguing." His smile after he said it, and the way he slightly turned his head down, shaking it ever so slowly, stopped me. I knew there was more to it and in his head I was safe. He didn't know me and I didn't know him. No judgement.
I ask JD what his wife thought, now that he has been in the business a few years. He told me, in detail which I won't repeat, that she died shortly thereafter. She wasn't sick. No one saw it coming. I didn't have to say much, I just ask about her, and he told me story after story alternating between heartbreaking and hilarious. I won't go into any more detail about this part because I have great respect for this man and was honored he opened up to me and told me all about her. It was a profound conversation. He spoke, I listened.
I decided to move us into a little more happy territory and ask about his real estate career, and how it was going. He told me he enjoyed it, as long as it was a farm he was selling and not a townhome in the middle of the city. Tractors and Horses, Check! Neighbors so close you can touch em and all that traffic? No way! We had a good laugh about that and I asked what he had done before real estate. He responded with them most unassuming, humble answer I think I have ever heard. He said "Oh, I was in the music business here in Nashville" "Wrote song songs, owned a studio" that kind of thing. Then he went straight back to business and asked me about the fee for the class he wanted. I told him that is was a minor fee, I had already enrolled him, and he gave me his credit card for the payment.
So another moment when the conversation could easily have been done, but I wouldn't let it go that easy. There was something about this man that made me want to speak with him for hours. So....when in doubt, make a joke. I told him I was not giving his credit card back until he told me a music business story. You should have seen the look on his face! He beamed. He was far too humble to bring anything up himself but I had insisted, so he just had to talk.
Turns out my friend JD has written more than a handful of top 10 country songs in his lifetime. He has written for George Jones, Charlie Rich, Randy Travis, George Strait, and......wait for it........The Man in Black, Johnny Cash!
JD told me that the very last song his mother ever heard, was Johnny Cash singing onstage with Billy Graham. A beautiful gospel song........... that JD wrote.
He went on to manage country stars and rock acts, has received awards, and toured the world. What a life! And now, because he lost her, he took a big step back from music. He drives his tractor at the farm. He enjoys real estate because he sometimes sees and old farm, or a beautiful old home and 10 or 15 acres and thinks to himself, "She Could Shine Again". So he will buy it, and represent himself ( now that he knows just what to do, because she made him go to that school ) and he will do all of the work himself. Taking his time, going slow and enjoying the breeze and the sun. Then he will list and sell the property to someone who will love it.
All of this happened because I ask a few questions more than I needed too and he could use someone to talk too. What would happen if you slowed down and just asked a few more questions to the next person you meet? I am willing to bet they have a story. Everyone has an amazing story inside them.
So I told you I met a lady named BNR, but I tell you what. Lets save that story for tomorrow.
Oh and just as we had shaken hands and JD was headed for the door, he turned, and said "You know, I just may be getting the itch to play a little music again"
Glenn Killey, Nashville TN, 2/27/2018