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June 6, 1995

DRILLING DOWN

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For some reason, when we think of helping others, many of us think of doing so on a large scale. At Christmastime, we might donate canned food to a food pantry to help numerous people. Or we donate large sums of money to feed, clothe, or educate those who are less fortunate. And those are great things to do. But part of the Power of One is remembering that ONE person can make a difference for another ONE person.

What I’m saying is, don’t dismiss helping others because you’ll only be serving one or a small handful of people—that’s often where you can make the biggest impact. And, this is a big and, do for others without expecting anything in return. Seriously. Take a page from Dan Cathy’s book:

Dan Cathy, president of Chic-Fil-A, was invited to speak at a business luncheon in Northwest Arkansas. As any good executive does, he also scheduled some time with the managers and employees of the local Chick-Fil-A stores in the area.

Soon, with the help of Jim, one of the local store owners/operators, Dan’s schedule was filled to the brim. One meeting that stood out was a chance to speak to a large gathering of college students at the University of Arkansas. A representative of the school’s fraternities and sororities assured Dan that there was plenty of interest, so they booked one of the school’s largest ballrooms, set up a powerful sound system, and ordered books to pass out to all of the students in attendance. Obviously, they were expecting a crowd.

What they got, however, were four students. That’s it, just four. Not four thousand, four hundred, or even forty, but four. But Dan took it in stride. He could have cancelled, saying it wasn’t worth his time to speak to such a small crowd. He could have charged for lost opportunity. But instead, Dan pulled up four chairs and asked the students to have a seat.

The four men got personal attention from one of the family members and leaders of one of the world’s largest privately held companies. They were expecting a free seminar and to be one of hundreds in attendance. What they got was worth a semester’s college education. Dan asked each man in attendance to tell his story—what’s going on in his life, what are his goals, what does life have in store. The men opened up and shared from their hearts.

What did Dan do next? Just nod, say “good to hear it,” and get on the road? Of course not. Dan asked if he could say a prayer for each of the men, and they all accepted.

These four men got a great experience—a night of talking to an experienced businessman who’s also a kind and generous soul. And what did Dan get in return? Nothing. Nothing but the knowledge that he made a difference in the lives of others, when he could just have easily passed on the whole thing.

Dan will likely never know what kind of impact his time had on these students. But he’ll always know he spent time with others—and expected nothing in return. Ironically, that’s the greatest “reward” one could ever hope for.

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