By Mark E. Smith
The two symbolic, ground-breaking shovels that sit in the corner of his office catch my eye. One is gold-plated and the other, chrome. They’re the type of shovels that dignitaries and politicization use to pose with in a dirt patch when kicking-off a new development project. And, they’re leaning in the corner of his stately office, which clearly has not been remodeled since the 1980s, right down to worn leather chairs. But, all is spotless clean – even the shiny shovels.
I could picture him back in the day, likely slamming one of those shovels onto a board room table, and saying in a larger-than-life voice to his executive team, “Are we going to dig our own grave, or dig our way to the top?”
Yet, now he’s a kind, calm, soft-spoken older man, a proud grandfather. And, as he talks I feel a bit writer and a bit grandson. “Never trust words,” he says. “Flow charts, a good dresser, a great speaker – never trust any of it. Only trust results. When someone delivers, trust that. Trust whomever backs you in the trenches.”
And, for a moment, my eyes drift back to the shovels leaning in the corner, and I think about how true his words are, not just in business, but in life. As a writer and speaker, I’m a contradiction in that I’ve always distrusted words. It goes back to my mom and her always lying about not being drunk, my therapist would say. And, while maybe that’s where my distrust of words likely began, it runs more universally than that. I’ve learned that when we truly care about others, we don’t just say it, we show it. Show me you care about me, show me you love me – don’t just tell me. I’ve fallen for words too many times, only to be hurt by them – empty, hollow in the end, the words, me, all of it. You have, I have, we all have. And, what’s insane is that we continue wanting to hear them, the words, and believe in them – I’ll pick up the pace, I’ll make things right, I’ll quit doing it, I’ll change…. But, what’s any of it mean if there’s no action or effort behind the words?
The answer is, nothing. Here’s the fact: when we look and don’t listen – that is, when we gauge a person on what they do, not what he or she says – it’s the ultimate truth of what we mean to that person. No matter if it’s an employee, friend, or love interest, follow what one does, not what one says. Lots of people will say they’re there for you; but, who’s truly there in the sincerest ways? It quickly becomes a short list, doesn’t it?
And, yes, it’s a painful realization, but also a poignant one. See, in the process of realizing how adrift we are, alone at sea, we likewise realize who’s truly there for us, not in words, but in heart, soul, good times and bad. Words are so often an empty gesture; but, actions of the heart always prove true intent. Grab those who put their hearts and souls out there for you – hold on to them, truly trust in them, no longer adrift but anchored by them.
And, as he continues speaking, I stare at the shiny shovels, and again wonder why any of us still trust in words at all?