There's a story in the Old Testament of the Bible that tells of a weary Moses that has been up all day and all night adjudicating civil trials all day long. Now regardless of what you think of the book it's found in, the story itself is interesting.
Here's a guy who's the hero so far. He's helped his people escape from slavery – even though he was no negotiator.
He's helped his people get food and water – even though he was no chef or survivalist.
And he's helped them win a battle – even though he was no military strategist.
And because everything had been going right, the people trusted him and wanted his input. So for every possible squabble that any of them had (and we're talking a lot of folks), they would come to him and get his judgement.
And he's up all day and night doing this.
“She stole my sleeping bag.”
“He took my flashlight.”
“He promised me his portion of quail if I gave him extra manna.”
If he's fallen prey to his own press, he's thinking, “I can't believe I'm wasting my time here.”
If he's feeling like a big impostor, knowing he's not responsible for anything, he's thinking, “Wait until they figure out I'm a cruddy judge too!”
But that's not the part of the story that's interesting to me.
No, the part that gets interesting is when his father-in-law visits him and sees this craziness. And his father-in-law tells him he's going to get chronic fatigue syndrome this way. “You gotta stop doing this man!” he says to him (my translation). “You need to delegate. You need to set up a system and only hear the cases that are really hard (or show up on appeal).”
And Moses does what Jethro tells him to do. Apparently with much success – because we never hear much more about the court cases or the father-in-law.
The Impact of a Few Words
I don't know if you're like me, but if you love stories, then you likely do what I do when I go to the movies, or watch television.
I pay attention to every single character that shows up on the screen, wondering how they'll play a part later in the plot line. Because there are no wasted characters. No folks just filling up space. So when you see that odd conversation in the hallway with the corporate mailman who delivers packages, you just know he's going to show up later and be important. Right?
So my rule of thumb is that every character has a role. And every role has a goal.
And it seems, in this story, that the entire goal of Jethro's was to prevent burn-out for his son-in-law. It's why he's in this story.
That's a lot of impact he has, in just a few words.
And it's a long life of prep to have a moment's worth of impact.
If I had to guess….
Now, this is just me, but if I had to guess, this wasn't the first time this dude went walking around telling people how to make things more efficient. We all know those kind of people. I'm one of them.
I can't help myself. I'm wired in a particular way. So I'm not much fun at parties because I don't have the “chit chat” gene.
I hear about business inefficiencies and I start tweaking things, creating ideas for how to make this better, faster and more profitable.
So I “get” this guy. But I'm guessing Jethro didn't always have success. I'm guessing not every bit of his advice was heeded. I'm guessing some people called him a “know it all” and didn't really like him.
But this is all just a guess. I don't know it for sure.
Here's what I know for sure
What I know for sure is that he couldn't help himself. He saw a system that wasn't working and he had to share some advice.
What I know for sure is that you can't always help yourself. You see something or some one in a particular context and you can't help yourself.
Your entire history is filled with stories of you doing it.
You can't help yourself.
You were wired the way you were and even if it wasn't your job, you've been you the whole time.
And I bet if you looked back and thought about the four or five times in your life where you were thrilled – because something had worked out just right, because the advice you gave was perfect, because the work you did was effortless and you were in the zone and it all worked perfectly – I bet if you looked, you'd find a few of those moments.
And when you did, I bet you'd find a theme. A theme of your life that you can't get away from, because everywhere you go, you bring you.
You want to know your story? You want to find your voice? Start by finding the theme of those four or five moments.
Find the moments where you couldn't help but be you – and it worked.