Garbage Trucks and Success

Positive personal impact is one of the keys to personal and professional success that I discus in Straight Talk for Success.  If you want to create positive personal impact, you need to do three things.  1) Develop and nurture your unique personal brand.  2) Be impeccable in your presentation of self – in person and on line.  3) Know and follow the basic rules of etiquette.

Being impeccable in your presentation of self is more than just dressing for success.  People who are impeccable in their presentation of self treat the people they meet with kindness and respect.  The other day, I got an email from my friend David Devlin.   He sent me a great story about treating people with dignity and respect.  It’s called “The Law of the Garbage Truck.  Check it out…

Law of the Garbage Truck 

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us.  My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!  The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy.  And I mean, he was really friendly.  So I asked, 'Why did you just do that?  This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!’ 

This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.” He explained that many people are like garbage trucks.  They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment.  As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you.  Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on.  Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.   Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets.  So…love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't.

Pretty cool story, right?  Being a Pittsburgh guy, the fight side of my flight/fight reaction is over developed.  By nature, I choose to fight.  However, as the garbage truck story indicates, fighting is usually not very productive.  It tends to ruin your day and day of the people with whom you come into contact. 

More important, it identifies you as someone with poor personal impact.  People who create positive personal impact don’t fly into a rage at the slightest provocation.  They smile and go on about their business – just the taxi driver in the story.

The common sense point here is simple.  Successful people create positive personal impact.  People who create positive personal impact are impeccable in their presentation of self.  They dress for success.  And, more importantly, they conduct themselves in a manner that demonstrates they respect both themselves and the people they meet.  They don’t pick fights or respond in kind to rude behavior.  Instead, they smile and go on their way.  They love the people who treat them right, and pray for those who don’t.

That’s my take on creating positive personal impact by keeping your cool.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  As always, thanks for reading.


PS — I just came across a quote from Gandhi that sums up this post quite well: "The weak can never forgive.  Foregiveness is an attribute of the strong."  Think about it.

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  1. What a great story! It’s taken me years to keep my cool and I still have to work on it. What’s helped me the most is not to take the actions or words of others personally. Once I’m able to realize that they’re acting out based on their own experiences and perceptions and that I’ve really got nothing to do with it, it’s easy not to take it personally.
    Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Ben Davis (bendav) says:

    Bud, another excellent post. There is more than one point in this story. For me the point of the story is not so much about how I respond to rude behaviour; rather, why I produce rude behaviour (sometimes I’m the driver of the car). Somewhat like a broken or blocked garbage disposal, I take it in without letting it pass thru and finally erupt, spewing garbage everywhere. As you describe, impeccable presentation of self is necessary to create positive impact. I need to block the intake (like the taxi driver) or clean the pipes allowing it to drain so I don’t produce the negative behaviour.
    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

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