For the past two weeks I've been writing and sharing my thoughts on what it means to be a salesperson in this noisy world of 24/7 advertising—I wanted to take a break this week and share an unrelated story that changed the way I think about what it means to work hard. I hope you enjoy it and look forward to bringing you more thoughts next week about Honest Sales.
It's been about a year and a half since I've been back to New York City—I love that place and am always looking for a good excuse to escape back east even if only for some Shake Shack.
Last time I was there I was employed by Apple and worked in a retail store in California making the trip out east in consideration of moving to the Big Apple. You see a large group of my friends had recently made the eastern exodus and I thought I would be following close behind.
Exploring neighborhoods and dreaming about places I could never afford I found myself wandering around the Meatpacking District and after walking the High Line I needed to duck in somewhere to charge my phone before hoofing off to meet some friends for dinner.
I ventured into the West 14th Apple Store and wandered up the glass staircase to find a nice cozy spot near an electrical outlet and a window so I could plug in without bothering anyone at a table. If you haven't been in an Apple store recently, real-estate is in high demand and those tables get pretty full. I was quite content with my window space.
I spent about forty-five or so minutes charging my phone, people-watching, and entertaining small chat of "yeah, I actually work for Apple in California..."
After a few minutes I couldn't help but notice an empty table near a presentation screen in a corner of the room. A store employee with a microphone strapped to his face soon walked up and set down a few books down on the table, turned on the screen, and looked around briefly before proclaiming "Hi, welcome to the Apple Store! Today we're going to talk about iPhoto". It caught me off guard as there was no one in a 10 foot radius of his presentation table and seemingly no one but myself paying attention.
I laughed it off and after ten minutes of observing his pre-planned speech I turned my gaze back out the window to watch the traffic below. Something distracted me for quite some time, a phone call, activity out on the street, I don't know, but when later as I was getting ready to leave, I was amazed to see the lone presenter was no longer alone! Instead he had a full table of onlookers asking questions and participating in his now filled class!
If you didn't catch that, for a good ten to twenty minutes he was there, giving a presentation to no one—in comical fashion! Nodding his head back and forth to an invisible audience, pausing even at times as if waiting for an outburst of laughter to subside from one of his corny jokes. It was madness, or so my naiveté thought. With my phone at about 75% battery charge I was ready to head over to the Chelsea Market and continue my exploration.
It wasn't until a few days later while re-telling what I thought was a humorous story about a silly experience I had in a New York Apple Store did it dawn on me the sheer genius that I had witnessed. What I summed up to be a comical act of mild insanity, facilitating a class to no one, was actually one the most inspiring things I've witnessed and it was that day I learned about what it means to simply...show up.
Were the first ten minutes of the presentation awkward for him? Probably. Did he let that stop him from showing up and doing his job? No. Could he have simply noticed no one in the class and found another project to work on or someone else to support? Absolutely, but he would have missed an opportunity to turn an empty table into a participatory class.
I think about this experience often, especially at times when I find it hard to get to work. After leaving my three and a half year position at Apple to chase my dream of helping small business owners and independent artists like myself cultivate their creativity I often find myself at that empty table in that Apple store trying to decide whether or not I will show up today and get to work or whether I will look for something else to fill my time with.
A friend recently said to me "if you wait till the project hits your desk to get to work, you're already too late", I think in this instance you could substitute project for customer in an Apple store.
Don't wait for someone else, show up and get to work, you never know what the outcome will be.
Come back next week for more thoughts on Honest Sales!