Earlier this year I shared on this blog Swim On, John, a piece by my colleague and good friend Lance Wilson, about maintaining a healthy work-life balance (https://courtleader.net/2020/04/22/swim-on-judge-roll-swim-on-a-lesson-in-living-a-balanced-life/). The post was an edited version of a chapter of Lance’s new book, Dashboard Bagels, Dishing Up Food for Thought. Lance has graciously agreed to share another lesson from his book, this time about Kip, the Moving Guy. This time the powerful message is taking ownership of your circumstances and keeping a positive attitude. Here is a condensed version of the book chapter to hopefully inspire you, too.
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Kip, the Moving Guy
With the exception of 4 to 5 hours sleep on Saturday night, we had all worked virtually 72 hours straight since Friday. With one notable exception, by Sunday night, all of us were exhausted and grumpy. This one exception is a person I only know as “Kip the moving guy” and I learned a powerful lesson from him. The story illustrates how our internal language impacts our attitude and outlook. It is a testament to the power of a one letter word – “I” – and its derivatives like “me” and “my.” “Kip the moving guy” cooked up a positive experience for me during an enormously stressful weekend.
The story unfolds as my colleagues and I were preparing to move from an old courthouse building to a new one, something many of you have likely experienced. Having the court closed even a day was not an option, so this relocation required moving eight judges’ chambers and courtroom supplies, over 120 employees’ offices, and all the related computers and equipment over one short weekend. Everything “went dark” (the theatrical term for “closing down” I learned living in Las Vegas) on a Friday at 5:00 p.m. and the Court had to be up and operational by Monday morning at 8:00 a.m. as one of the judges scheduled a jury trial for that morning.
While several court employees would be present all weekend to oversee the move, a private moving company had been hired to do the actual work. Kip was one of their employees. As this was a huge move over a very short period of time, the moving company also hired about 15 day workers to assist with the heavy lifting. We started on Friday night at 5:00 p.m. and lugged out desks, furniture, boxes, and computers until about midnight. We stopped for the night, agreeing to be back at 6:00 a.m. sharp the next morning. Saturday morning came and once again we began. We were all a bit weary from lack of sleep but massive amounts of hot coffee and sugar-laced donuts kept us hauling through the morning. As the day proceeded, it became apparent to everyone on the court staff that one of the moving company employees, this fellow Kip, was hustling much faster and was much more upbeat than any others. It wasn’t that the other workers had a problem; it was simply that Kip’s enthusiasm and positive attitude were patently obvious to all. He had an energy aura that glowed and radiated out to anyone working around him.
Early Saturday evening, as those in charge realized we would have to work very late into the night to accomplish what had to be moved that day, all the temporary workers said they had had enough and literally walked off the job. I will refrain from citing the language that the moving company employees screamed at the fleeing day laborers, imploring them to stay on the job site. Their attempts failed, and we wound up with just eight moving company staff and an equal number of court personnel remaining. We were 16 doing the job of 30. Our reduced crew worked until 1:00 a.m. that evening and finally called it quits, once again agreeing to be back again at 6:00 a.m. the following morning.
Sunday morning came way too quickly. Again, all through this long day of moving furniture, boxes, computers, flags, etc… Kip remained energetic, positive, and upbeat. About half way through Sunday, as my stamina was totally depleted, I walked over to Kip and asked him to tell me the secret to remaining positive. His response was this: “If I let my job upset me, I will ruin my day.”
This response was simple, concise, profound, meaningful to me. If you dissect his sentence, among its component twelve words, five are either “I,” “my,” or “me.” There is not a single “they,” “them,” “you,” “it,” “their,” “those,” or any reference to anyone or anything outside of himself as the cause of his emotional state. His sentence clearly demonstrated a core belief that he, and only he had full control over his attitude and emotions. He will not delegate his feelings to anyone. He will not give away his power over situations.
I found Kip’s sentence moving and refreshing, probably because one of my pet peeves is people who believe they are a victim to circumstances. Those who blame others for everything that happens to them bother me. Kip was the exact opposite of this, which is why I found him so impressive and feel I learned a lesson from him. It appeared to me everyone on the courthouse team learned a lesson too, as they worked harder and harder, following Kip’s steadfast pace and inspirational attitude.
This story also reminds me to always remain curious and ask people to explain their reasons for doing something a certain way or having a specific opinion. If I had not asked Kip how he stayed so upbeat and positive, I would not have heard such powerful words from him. Asking direct or bold questions is not always easy for introverts like me. It is easier to live in our own heads, in our own world of ideas and thoughts, than to reach out and exchange ideas. While this approach to life may be easier, I now realize how much it limits life experiences. I have found my life greatly expanded when I break out of my introvert personality and reach out to others as I did with Kip.
In case you’re wondering how the Court move ended, we succeeded but it took every ounce of energy we had. Thanks to all involved, especially those who took on Kip’s attitude, we accomplished the shift of buildings by late Sunday night, close to midnight. Monday morning the court was open for business and the previously scheduled jury trial was held in our new courthouse. Everyone was beyond exhaustion, but we all had a tremendous feeling of accomplishment.
Another takeaway lesson I learned from that weekend is we can receive many powerful, inspiring messages from all sources if we remain open to them. One does not have to read self-help books written by experts to learn inspirational lessons. You do not have to be sitting in some expensive conference listening to a professional speaker to take in provocative and potentially life-changing ideas. Rather, the most lasting lessons are often those observed in daily life and internalized through experiential learning such as this courthouse moving weekend. When we remain open to what is happening around us, use our natural curiosity, and ask questions about other people’s thinking, intentions and motivations, it is amazing what we can learn to change our own life. Thank you, Kip, for setting a wonderful example for us all.
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Wow, what an great story! If you are interested in reading more of Lance’s inspirational stories, Dashboard Bagels is available on Amazon and at https://www.etsy.com/shop/StarvedRaccoon (please order from the Etsy site if you would like a signed copy). I heartily recommend this book.
Lance Wilson is an author and consultant based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Past President of the Federal Court Clerks Association, and retired from his position as Clerk of Court for the U.S. District Court of Nevada.