“How could you be so off on your measurements!” My client very forcefully shouted at me. I sat there looking at a perfect fitting sportcoat. Believe me, I’ve been off before, but this wasn’t my first rodeo, and I know a good fit when I see one.
For those who don’t know, I work in the custom clothing business. I meet with busy, successful guys in their homes and offices who don’t have time to go shopping or have a hard time finding really nice, well-fitting clothes.
It’s a unique business and most people are a little confused when I tell them what I do. Nevertheless, you get the idea. I’m standing in this client’s office, he’s very upset, and I’m trying to figure out how something that fits so well could deserve such a response.
I begin to ask questions. “So I can tell you what I see, but tell me first what you feel.” He then launches into how tight it feels in the shoulders and the armholes. He begins slinging and crossing his arms in front of him, as if he has plans to do a UFC match while wearing the coat.
I assure him I will make sure we get the coat fitting exactly how he likes if he will allow me to consult our tailor and come back in one week. I then ask him to stand looking straight ahead so I can take a photo to show the tailor.
“Don’t take a picture of me! I don’t let anyone take my picture!” I smile and try to calmly explain that I’m not looking to advertise him on social media, I just need a picture for reference so we can improve his fit. He begrudgingly agrees to a photo from the neck down but not before making sure I deleted the first one.
This story is not representative of my day-to-day. Most of my clients are a joy to work with. However, when you deal with hundreds of people throughout the year, a handful sometimes give you heartache.
I could have easily explained to my client why he was wrong, and I was right. I could have unleashed a few pointed retorts to his ridiculous insults and accusations. I could have decided I was done working with him at that moment.
So why didn’t I?
I heard a phrase earlier that same week that lodged into my mind: “Perceive more, judge less.” You’ve probably heard a variation of this in the phrase, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”
As I reflected back on the experience it occurred to me that this man, with all the money any person could ever want, in the corner office in the top of the building that he owns, could not be happy.
When you work every day, set goals, dream big dreams, and create a plan to move the ball forward, it’s humbling to encounter someone who “has it all” and yet still can find it within their heart to be discontent and angry.
In fact, it’s one of the saddest things I can think of. It might be one of the best definitions of failure I’ve ever encountered. If I work hard, achieve all my goals, gain status and wealth, and can still shout over a coat, I’ve missed the point.
In goal-setting, there are three words I’ve seen used time and time again. They are, “have, do, be.” The “be” part is a critical component. The “have” and the “do” can be fun, but without the “be,” the crucial character portion, what are we really doing?
I might be making a generalization about my client. It is possible that he’s going through something terrible and has been having a really rough day all seven times I’ve been to his office over the last year or so.
Regardless, every encounter I have like this makes me determined to not only perceive more and judge less, but to remain grateful and humble no matter how much or how little “success” I find in my life.