Imagine a little boy saying good-bye to his mother at the bus stop as he boards the bus to attend his first day at school. As he ascends the steps of the bus, the driver blows smoke through her nostrils from the cigarette dangling in her mouth. The little boy starts down the isle looking for a place to sit, looking for a friend, or minimally for a friendly-looking face. Instead he is met with scowling expressions and hears, “This seat’s taken.” … “It’s taken!” … “You can’t sit here.” Wow! Not exactly a warm welcome.
Now fast-forward 16 or so years and the little boy is now a young man. This time he’s boarding a bus to boot camp as he has joined the U.S. Army. He again ascends the steps of a bus looking for a friendly or welcoming face and introduces himself to the bus driver. The return is a drill-sergeant-style tirade, flinging insults in his face; “Nobody gives a hunk of *&@% who you are, fuzzball! You’re not even a lowlife scum sucking maggot!” The young man makes his way down the isle and as he arrives at the first available seat he’s told, “This seat’s taken.” At the next seat he hears, “It’s taken.” At that moment, the young man wonders if he had made a mistake.
Of course the little boy and the young man are one and the same … Forrest Gump. For Forrest, those moments must have been deju vu. The amazing thing about both of those scenes was that what started very badly ended up OK in the end. In fact, both of those horrible beginnings ended up much better than just OK. In both cases, the very next thing that happened, after feeling totally alone and out-of-place, was that Forrest met the two most significant friends he had in his life … Jenny & Bubba.
Have you ever had an instance where something starts out bad but turns out good in the end?
I’ll acknowledge first that in the movies anything can happen. But one of the reasons that Forrest Gump is a timeless movie classic is that so many of the scenes mirror real life. Do those bus scenes remind you of an experience you had in your own life? Maybe you walked into a new place alone and you didn’t have a single friend? Maybe it was your first day on a new job? You didn’t know the procedures, the protocol, or even where you were supposed to sit. You suddenly felt very alone and the voice inside your head questioned if you had made a mistake. Someone says something innocuous and you interpret what they said as you can’t sit here.
But what typically happens in short order?
Before you know it, you’re going to lunch with a person you barely know, who later becomes a very good friend. Or the person who made the innocuous comment, who initially made you feel rejected or alone, becomes a mentor and highly respected professional colleague. In a short time you fit in just fine-n-dandy and laugh when you look back at the anxiety you felt that first day … which seems like a lifetime ago after just a few short weeks.
So why do we get ourselves so worked up over new ventures and change? Why are we reluctant to let go of what feels safe in exchange for what we don’t yet know? Especially when our own life experiences have taught us that things seem to work out better then first expected. The bus scenes in the movie Forrest Gump are a good reminder that good things often come from, or in spite of, bad beginnings.
The next time you hear You Cant Sit Here … either literally or metaphorically … move on because there is a much better seat waiting for you right down the isle.
To learn more on this subject continue to explore the SpeakingGump.com website or consider having Steve Weber speak at your next company or association meeting. And that?s all I?ve got to say about that!?
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Next Blog Date: June 7, 2010