Real Life Leading #2:
Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom
Hi, everybody, and here is the first book review in the Real Life Leading series! I just finished reading Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom, which is not thought of or marketed as a traditional ‘leadership’ book, but it should be.
Tuesdays With Morrie is a non-fiction book that is essentially about a professor, Morrie Schwartz, and one of his former students, Mitch Albom. After having lost touch for over a decade and a half, Albom revived his relationship with Morrie after seeing a TV news special featuring the older man.
Albom began visiting Morrie on Tuesdays, as they had done in college, and during those meetings, Morrie shared his wisdom in the form of fourteen conversations that each focused on a different aspect of life: from grand concepts such as culture, life, death, family, and forgiveness, to more everyday topics such as marriage, money, the fear of aging, and the perfect day.
In each of their conversations, Morrie shares the wisdom of the dying, taking time to help Albom understand things that we all should know but often refuse to acknowledge. There are many, many words of wisdom and practical leadership principles in the book, as you’ll discover when you read it. Here I’ve listed three of my favorite, and I hope they both challenge and encourage you as you continue your journey in Real Life Leading.
Real Life Leading Principles from Tuesdays With Morrie:
Principle 1: The people you’re leading need to know that they are significant, and you can communicate that to them in a million tiny ways every day.
“When Morrie was with you, he was really with you. He looked you straight in the eye, and he listened as if you were the only person in the world. How much better would people get along if their first encounter each day were like this—instead of a grumble from a waitress or a bus driver or a boss?” (pg. 135)
See, each of those things listed at the end—the waitress, bus driver, and boss—are all leaders in their particular locations: a table, transportation system, and a job. And each of them can encourage and inspire their charges (patrons of a restaurant, commuters on a bus, or employees in an office) through doing such a simple thing as looking someone in the eye and genuinely greeting them kindly each morning.
Principle 2: Encourage people in ways that are unexpected and therefore even more welcome.
“Do you know what I do? When someone wants to get ahead of me in traffic? I would raise my hand, as if I was going to make a negative gesture, and then I would wave and smile. Instead of giving them the finger, you let them go, and you smile. You know what? A lot of times they smile back.” (pg. 137)
Every one of us has experienced the frustration of being cut off in traffic. We're trying to get somewhere, others are too, and we get angry when someone seems to be cheating the system. It's entirely understandable, and the person cutting someone off usually knows they're not the most popular person around. So imagine how powerful it is to respond positively in what would normally be a tense, if even from a distance, situation. How many of us have the humility to purposely and unexpectedly show kindness and understanding to a total stranger who we will likely never encounter again?
Principle 3: Focus on others, and always continue to grow and change in positive ways.
“In business, people negotiate to win. They negotiate to get what they want…Love is different. Love is when you are as concerned about someone else’s situation as you are about your own.” (pg. 178)
“But if Professor Morrie Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as 'too late' in life. He was changing until the day he said good-bye.” (pg. 190)
One of Morrie’s favorite aphorisms was “Love each other, or perish.” And in our culture, we seem to have chosen the latter option. In my history classes, I teach my students that throughout history, nothing has united people like having a common enemy. But how much better would your little corner of the world be be if we united in a common love? It’s never too late to start, and there is no better place to start than wherever you already are.
This week’s Real Life Leading Practical Takeaway:
Tomorrow, greet each person you see with a genuine smile and positive interaction, with no agenda and no distraction, and see what kind of response you get. Then email me and let me know how it goes.