Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lessons from Joe

In December, I met a young man I’ll call Joe in one of my workshops.  My job is teaching job search skills to people who unemployed.  Often, their body language is very negative – reflecting the pressures of trying to find work in the worst economy since the Great Depression.
But, Joe was different.  His face radiated a smile every time he entered the room.  He always asks how I am and remembers things I’ve mentioned in previous workshops.  There is a simplicity and innocence about Joe.  He somehow cuts through the clutter and goes straight to the heart of any discussion.  Yet, I sense he’s had to deal with some major life issues in his young life.
In our interviewing workshop, I asked him a practice question about making a difficult decision.  At first, he said that he has never had to make a difficult decision.  I knew that Joe had come to our career center to get his GED.  So, I said that deciding to pursue this goal must have been a difficult decision.
With a smile on his face, he told the class that this was actually a very easy decision to make.  He dropped out of school for personal reasons.  He promised his dad (whom I suspect was in his last days) that he would one day get his diploma.  So, he moved to Cape Cod to live with a relative and fulfill his commitment to his dad.
What I learned from Joe is that keeping your word is your best compass.  It makes it easy to choose which fork in the road to take.  I also learned that smiling is contagious.  By the end of the workshop, his smile and good humor had transformed the day for everyone in the room.

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