One of my favorite parts of being in management is that you’re exposed to so many different people from different walks of life, different backgrounds, and different mindsets. In e-commerce especially, I feel as though I’ve been exposed to people that I had never been exposed to growing up in Austria or going to college. E-commerce requires everything from the seasoned executive to the energetic entrepreneur, to the warehouse laborer and everything in between. It’s a great mixing pot and one of the many reasons I love it so much. Ever so often though something comes up in the lives of employees that just knocks the air out of me when I hear about it, it breaks my heart for them and I am in a position to witness their emotional response first hand. It’s an incredibly human and emotional experience when these things come up, and as sad as it is, it’s a great reminder to count my blessings.
Stoic philosophy suggests we imagine worst case scenarios regularly so we can inoculate ourselves from our fears, having these worst cases appear in my office on occasion is like a forced version of this. The Carthusian monks that lived in the monastery I grew up outside of would greet each other with “Brother, remember your death”. Steve Jobs said in his famous Stanford commencement speech that you should think of your death daily, so counting your blessings and looking at the bigger picture is a good idea no matter who you are. In light of this, I thought I’d just share a few hardships I’ve never personally had to deal with so far in my life, but been exposed to multiple times in my years in management. I see these as something I should never take lightly or attempt to ignore. I hope thinking of these people will help you to count your blessings and remember what’s important as it does for me.
People attempting to get work visas. I’ve worked on sponsoring several visas and each time I do it I can’t believe the lengths we have to go through to get them locked in. While this isn’t nearly as heavy as the next few topics below, there are so many levels of complication, humiliation, extremely long turn around times, and expensive fees. Then once you get through it all it’s set to expire so you can do it all over. Us U.S. citizens are so lucky to be able to work here without having to objectively prove beyond any reasonable doubt that we are essential. This is something I barely ever thought about until I started working on visas. The freedoms and opportunities afforded to us are unlike anywhere else, and many people that weren’t born here are willing to go through hell to obtain those freedoms and opportunities.
People battling cancer, injuries, or other sicknesses. I’ve been extremely lucky to not lose any close family members to cancer, but I’ve worked and currently work with amazing people who have spent their lives battling cancer and other diseases or have had loved ones they must care for because of this. To live with that on a daily basis is so foreign to me, but it’s a complete reality for many people. Without getting to spend time with these people It wouldn’t even be on my radar, but to see their bravery, optimism, and hope has stuck with me and I’m inspired by them. Whenever I have a bad day these are the friends and coworkers I try to think about. My problems are so petty by comparison.
People whose loved ones were killed. I’ve had multiple occasions where someone has come to my office to share this news they had just received. The look in their eyes as they share the news is chilling and something I will never forget. I’ve seen this due to both gang violence and domestic violence but never had to experience a loss in that manner myself. For many people, this is a reality and even a somewhat regular occurrence. It really puts things in perspective when you’re frustrated about pretty much anything at all.
People that are war refugees trying to make a living. I’ve had the honor of working with immigrants from all over the world. For a while when I was running a warehouse I would always joke that I’d only hire immigrants since Americans seemed so lazy and unhappy by comparison when we’d bring them in. I had the chance to spend some time with some of them and hear their stories. First, they were some of the happiest and most grateful people I’ve ever worked with. They also knew how to work incredibly hard but also have a blast. Their standards of living were very low by most American’s standards, and their origin stories were often terrible, being taken from their parents as children during civil wars as an example, but they lived with a joy and purpose that few others have. These were folks that knew how to count their blessings! Seeing these guys laughing all day just loving life while living a life so much harder than anyone else I know was something I always admired and respected deeply. I only hope one day I could emulate that. They were such an inspiring example, and when I think back on my time working in New York, those guys are what I miss the most.
Management is all about people, and being exposed to people in all their various states of life is a given. Anyone managing teams will see and hear some crazy things, and that’s one of the things that makes it so interesting. One of the greatest blessings of being in management though is meeting inspiring people that teach you life lessons by their example. These people show you how to suffer with integrity, and come to work each day and keep going despite the obstacles. We could all stand to learn from their example and be more thankful for the blessings we have.