Fred Picker’s shovel



When you meet with people, give them respect.  Respect their time, their money, and their possessions.  Take pains to value their priorities even if they are different than yours.  This is common courtesy and it’s good business.

Years ago I was a young man working on a building project and needed a shovel.  My friend Morris offered to loan me the shovel of Fred Picker; his new father-in-law.  Fred was happy to do this when asked and I was happy to be able to use a shovel without buying one.

About a week after this loan, Morris met me at the building site and told me that Fred had visited there a few days prior and was not too happy about the condition of his shovel.  I stared at the shovel while he spoke but didn’t have a clue what Fred could be upset about.  I knew I had used it and left it outside for a week but it was still there.  It wasn’t broken, stolen, or abused. He mentioned something about it being rusty so I hit it a few times with a wire brush and returned it to Fred.

Fred brought his shovel back to me.  He wasn’t smiling and I could tell he was quite upset.  He gave me a stern lecture about returning borrowed things in the same condition they were received.  Fred told me he had loaned that shovel without a bit of rust on it and it was oiled and sharp.  He expected me to clean and sharpen that shovel and only then would he accept it.

Fred Picker taught me a valuable lesson that day about caring for tools and respecting others’ things.  Anyone who uses tools for a living knows that tools being clean and sharp makes a considerable difference in their performance.  And greater than that, people have standards that are sometimes different than ours.  We need to perceive and respect those standards even if we don’t understand them or agree with them.

People have different standards regarding time, emotions, formalities, money, decision making, chit-chat, dress, and many other other things.  Like shovels.  Especially when it’s their time and their money and their shovels, we need to be very respectful.  Don’t expect that your standards are the only right way.

Being respectful of others’ way is something quality people do.  You might strongly disagree with them or their decisions but there is rarely a need to assume they are wrong and you are right.  The one exception to this are your minor children.  Spouses, adult children, co-workers, bosses, employees, the homeless, the rich, and everyone else should be respected.

Being respectful of others’ time and possessions is good for business too.  Your customer’s time is due your respect.  Tell them so, then back up your words with actions.  Treating your supervisors and direct reports time and possessions with respect is always a good idea and might earn you their respect.

And certainly if you borrow someone else’s tool or anything, return it in a better condition (or with more gas) than it was loaned to you.

And Fred, if you’re reading this I want to thank you once again for making me sharpen your shovel that day.  You helped me become a better person than I was.

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