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Knowing Your Gifts

Excerpt from Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others

About ten years ago, I developed a bit of an obsession.  Of everyone I met, I started asking this question: “Why do you work?”

You could see them trying to figure out what answer I was looking for.  Because that is what we do when we are asked a question.  We try to give the right answer.

So they try to stay calm and say the expected.  “I work to put my kids through college.”  “I work to pay the bills.”  “I work to support my mother.”

Appropriate responses, even noble.

But the answers gradually reveal that the person doesn’t have an answer to the question.

I finally met someone who wasn’t stumped by the question, “Why do you work?”

That someone is Chris. He is my hairdresser.

Chris welcomes me to his chair.  He is immensely interested in my day.  He offers a neck massage, asks how my haircut is working, and wonders if there is anything about it I want to change?

For 45 minutes, the stressful world evaporates as Chris and I banter. I’m feeling better already. I tease him that I wish I could stop by every day.

When I asked Chris, “Why do you work?” he responded . . .

“In my twenties I was a partier. I didn’t go to college. I didn’t have a career plan.  I was enjoying life – playing sports and hanging out with buddies.

“My parents kept asking me about my plan, but I wasn’t too concerned. Then I met this girl I really liked, and she wanted to know my plan.  I decided I better get one.

“A friend suggested I go to beauty school and make a living cutting hair.

“At beauty school, I found I had talent. With training, my skills improved.  I discovered that what I loved about the job was this . . .

“A woman would sit in my chair – usually stressed, feeling bad about how she looked. She needed encouragement. To face another day, she needed to be renewed.

“I started making her renewal my purpose.  I saw how she relaxed after a neck massage.  I saw how she appreciated me shampooing her hair.  I saw how she started to open up and tell me about her life.  I found opportunities to tell her she was interesting to talk to. I worked hard to get her hair styled just right – whether she was going out on an important date or not. When she left my chair, I wanted her to feel differently about herself.

“That is where the purpose of my work comes in. Every day I get the opportunity to lift up women– encouraging them, making them feel beautiful. They leave my chair with confidence – a spring in their step.  That is so much fun to watch.“

Chris knows exactly what he is doing at work. He knows why he is a hairdresser. He has a purpose.

This purpose has served his clients well – and it has served Chris well. Chris is a top producing hairdresser in one of the most popular salons in Atlanta. He is booked solid from morning ‘til night and his tips are huge. He is making good money and living a meaningful life.

Most hairdressers work every Saturday, some Sundays and the night before every holiday. Chris doesn’t.  He only works Monday-Friday, a normal work week, with a back-to-back schedule of women that will wait days just to see Chris.

He serves. He has purpose. He has superior performance results.

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