Wednesday, October 14, 2015

'Attitude', lessons from the street

I'm a faithful believer of learning something from every single human being. I make a genuine attempt to keep the good ones with me, but the bad ones, recognized, sorted and discarded at once.
I traveled back in time while reading Why attitude is more important than IQ?
First experience - fruit vendor
I pulled my car closer to a roadside vendor selling fruits on a cart which had fresh apples and luscious yellow bananas.  I just realized how weak I became by the very look of healthy fruits.
I stepped out of my car and approached the cart.  I found a little boy, must be around 8 years, sitting on top of the cart along with the pile of fruits.  He actually appeared to be another apple there.  I looked around to see if he was accompanied by his father, mother or someone bigger than an the largest apple.  To my surprise there was no one other than the little boy anywhere closer to the cart.  I was happy to find his school bag with some books next to him.
A middle aged man pulled his 150cc bike closer to the cart and shut down the engine.  With a big sigh of relief he removed his black helmet tattooed with a Bridgestone sticker.  He appeared to be very tired and probably must have had a tough day at work.  He also looked famished and hurriedly pulled a banana from the hands without seeking any permission from the little boy and started peeling its skin.  I was busy picking the best apples that I could find and kept adding them to the basket kept in the weighing scale one by one.
Half way through eating, the biker tossed almost rest of the banana that he was eating towards a pile of thrash in a box lying next to the cart.  Probably the banana was not good.  He appeared to be visibly upset about it.  For some reason he decided not to sulk or complain but took a 5 rupee coin from his pocket, tossed it on the cart towards the boy and was about to start the bike.
The little boy was busy weighing the apples for me and packing them in a cover.  Interestingly, he was quite observant and mounted a smile on his face and glanced at the biker.  He plucked a banana from another hand of ripe bananas and extended his arm towards the biker and also asked the biker to keep his money. 
This gesture really stunned me.   When did the boy see the biker throwing the banana? and how did he probably know that the biker was not happy with banana he was eating?
The second - at the shoe shop
Few days later, on a busy evening, I visited a modern shoe showroom in a busy street.  It was very well lit, flashy and ostentatious.  I went inside and after a quick search I ended up finding what I wanted and asked the salesman to help me with the billing.  The price tag for the product read Rs. 499/-.  I moved towards the cash counter and found a middle aged women at the cash counter busy chewing something.  She appeared to be stiff, grumpy and certainly the boss for the shop. 
The salesman humbly crossed his arms and was waiting for her command while she was busy completing the transaction with me.  From her looks I figured out that she wasn't happy dealing with a customer like me who was buying something small in value.  Smile was certainly missing.  After I gave her a fresh Rs. 500/- note, she punched some keys in the store computer, took the receipt out and tossed it towards the assistant.  Bad manners! I thought.  The receipt did not land on the desk but slowly glided down the floor.  The boy appeared to be familiar with this treatment.  Without any reaction, he slipped the footwear into its box along with the receipt into a paper bag and handed over to me.
I waited hesitantly expecting the lady to give the 1 rupee change back to me.  She did not pay any attention but buried her head into a magazine that she was reading.  She also resumed chewing.  Already annoyed by the treatment, this attitude further irked me.  I said "Maam...its 499 Rupees with a stress on the NINETY NINE."   She looked at me with her laser sharp eyes and with a grumpy voice "mmmm...I know".   She straightened her back and pulled the cash key, scrambled to find a one rupee coin and kept it on the desk.  She went on reading the book.
On that evening, I was certainly really not in a mood to react.  I took the coin and walked away with a big disappointment.  
Reflections
After many years, I had an opportunity to reflect on the two different 'attitudes' that I experienced.
Dr Travis draws references to Psychologist Carol Dweks research on attitude on performance.  Dweck found that people’s core attitudes fall into one of two categories: a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.
"With a fixed mindset, you believe you are who you are and you cannot change. This creates problems when you’re challenged because anything that appears to be more than you can handle is bound to make you feel hopeless and overwhelmed.
People with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with effort. They outperform those with a fixed mindset, even when they have a lower IQ, because they embrace challenges, treating them as opportunities to learn something new.  "
When I compare the boy and the lady both had many things in common.  They both were sellers, one fruits and other footwear, both had products, both had customers, both had capital investments, both had attitude.
One was richer than the other.  With her fixed mind set she did not have the caring attitude towards her customer and the basic need to smile and serve.  Whereas the little boy went deep inside my heart.  He understood the importance of being a good human, read his customer well, acted even when not complained.  He was gifted to have the growth mindset.   I bet the biker would go to the boy again.  I'll definitely go there again and buy fruits if I'm still able to recognize the boy.
"People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude -John C Maxwell"
In both experiences, I did not hear their words but felt the attitude.  Yet another time, I had an opportunity to keep the good and discard the bad

"to have a great attitude you don't have to be rich
to provide the best service you don't have to be sophisticated!"
- Kay

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