The Standing Ovation That ALMOST Never Shoulda Happened

I’m big into motivation and self-improvement. Anyone who knows me knows that kaizen – the Japanese word for continuous, incremental improvement – is something I employ fully in my life.

I’m always looking for ways to make my life better. I like to think I also try to find ways to make the lives of people around me better, too.

But sometimes life just sucks. Not for very long – but hey! Everyone has “those days” or “those moments” in their life.

I think I was having some of those moments this week.

And today, thanks to several someones that NEVER met me before, I have this incredible story to share.

Tom Ziglar, yeah, the son of internationally acclaimed speaker Zig Ziglar is on twitter (@tomziglar).

When I saw that Zig was coming to town, I tried to finagle a personal meet & greet through Tom on twitter. He was gracious, and said that it wasn’t possible for a meet & greet, but how would I like 4 free VIP tickets to the event?

Um, well, only if you twist my arm a bit.

So the tickets arrived. I took my 12 year old son, and a couple that have been family friends for years – they really wanted to see Dr. Robert Schuller and Zig share their wit and wisdom, so I was able to invite them along on the good graces of a guy who’s never met me before.

It was truly an event not to be missed. From a marketing perspective there was MUCH to learn about how to make a nearly free event pay for itself a thousand times over – even after giving away a flat screen TV, a Disney Vacation (which my son nearly won in an on-stage dance-off) and $10,000 cash.

But not in this article. This article is about what happened when an arena of nearly 5,000 people became MY personal fan club for a whole 30 seconds.

Sometime after lunch, one of the speakers, Bob, pulls out a $5 bill and says to one end of the arena, “This $5 bill is on sale for $1 for the next 10 seconds.”

Before he can finish the countdown, the guy that won the Disney trip whips out a $1 bill ans swaps him for the $5, much to my kid’s chagrin.

He then turns to face another side of the “in-the-round” arena and pull sout a $20 bill. This time, it’s on sale for $10, but only for 10 seconds.

I think it was snapped up in 4.

He then turns to our side of the arena, and pulls out a crisp $100 bill. He says, “I know what you’re thinking… and I’m not stupid!” He then pockets the $100 bill and proceeds to share his motivational story.

And as we’re approaching the middle of his talk he says “who here really needs to be cheered up today?” And, Godly enough (as my friend would say), he picks my hand out of a crowd of people all within spitting distance of the stage. Yes, Tom, we had GREAT seats, to boot.

So he calls me up on the stage. And he invites the entire arena of some nearly 5,000 people to get up on their feet and give me a standing O. “The kind of loud, thunderous applause that makes people outside wonder ‘who’s the famous person in there they’re clapping for?”

And he counted to three.

And what happened next was truly breathtaking.

I froze for about 7 seconds. All I could do was count in my head. Slowly I’m turning, seeing all these people – my kid, my friends, and THUSANDS of other people that don’t know me from Joe, on their feet, yelling, screaming, stamping, hooting, hollering, and cheering for me.

Yeah, I started crying. But only a little.

It was a copletely unexpected, very NEEDED moment in my life. One of those defining moments when you know, you’re going to look back and say “this changed me, shaped me, made me who I am today.”

I was having a poopy week. And yes, it was only Tuesday.

But I try not to compain much, keep my chin up, and keep doin the work I believe God put me here to do. And I do my best to be consistent, because the only alternative is to be less than who I am. I’m not perfect, and don’t pretend to be.

But in that moment, when thousands of people were screaming my name, cheering for me, and making me feel like a million bucks, two things happened.

I’ll tell you about the other in a minute, but the first thing that happened, was the thought that everyone should be able to feel like this at least once in their life. The fear, the gratitude and the overwhelming sense of being loved, accepted and appreciated for who I was – warts and all – by a room of nearly complete and total strangers was one of the most transformative experiences I could ever have. I’ll probably be sharng this story with the great grandkids in my days of senility and “old timer’s” when I keep recounting the same stories over and over.

And I wish I could have given every one a small piece of the feeling I’m still carrying with me right now.

But then, Bob came back up on the stage. He put his arm around me, reached into his pocket and pulled out that $100 bill, handed it to me and told me thank-you.

Thanked me for taking his money? Um, sure, no problem, just doing my job, sir!

I cried a little more, gave him a huge hug, which I think knocked his lapel mic, and I went back to my seat, amid continued applause and the people in my section giving me kudos. Yeah, the money was a nice surprise, but I would have gladly given it back to him for another 30 seconds of applause like that.

And as the afternoon continued – and on our way back to the car, people were calling out to me, offering hugs, asking me if I would buy dinner, and just generally acknowledging me. Not because I’m a business coach, or a singer, or a speaker or anything out of the ordinary. But because I was me – and grateful.

Now I could stop there, and it would be a pretty good story – might even jerk a few tears out of you like it does me writing it.

But what you don’t know, is that for nearly 30 years, it has been one of the top 10 line items on my bucket list – before there was such a name – to appear in an arena of thousands and recieve a standing ovation from the entire crowd.

So some guy I never met that never really knew me (Tom) gave me a gift that may have seemed insignificant to him as part of his father’s legacy to help people get what they want. And as the ripples went out, some other guy I’ve never met before not only gave me $100 cash, but helped me achieve one of my life-long ambitions -right in front of my kid – not because he wanted a story to tell – I’m sure he does this at EVERY one of thse seminars – but because he wanted to genuinely help someone.

And in return, I got one of the greatest blessings of all. I benefitted from the huge generosity of others. And it didn’t cost me a dime – nor did it cost anyone in that crowd any more than it would if they’d just stayed seated.

But if I had listened to my kid, who was whining about listening to “old folks” for three more hours, and gone home early, all the blessings would have been lost – at least for me and mine.

Someone else might have been fortunate enough to appreciate that applause and take that $100 bill home with them, and the blessings might have been theirs.

But I try not to compain much, keep my chin up, and keep doing the work I believe God put me here to do. And I do my best to be consistent, because the only alternative is to be less than who I am. I’m not perfect, and don’t pretend to be.

So we stayed the course, received the blessing, and can now pass it on to others.
And of course, my son wants to be blessed with a new pair of shoes.

And just now as I sit writing this, I wonder if this is what Jesus might have felt feeding the multitude. I’m not trying to get preachy here, but it dawns on me now that the Bible says something about 5000 not including the women and children that were fed that day. I hardly think of myself in any God-like fashion. I do wonder, though if that is why Jesus was so compelled to serve us. When a throng of people embraces you as I was embraced today – as a total and complete stranger – you develop a compassion that extends to each and every one of them. You must be defective if you walk away without being changed and wanting to do for those that embraced you.

Doing good and being good doesn’t require perfection, just consistency. In business and life you need to develop a compassion for your audience that is genuine. Helping others not just because it’s good PR, but because it’s the right thing to do.

THAT’S when the REAL blessings come.

I’m still thinking about those shoes…