ubuntu |oǒ’boǒntoō|

Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others’. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are’.

In the middle of today’s seminar (for lack of a better word because these things are turning in to something else of which I cannot assign a simple description) Before giving a presentation Mr. C spoke up.  “You know why I’m here?” he asked the group.  “Years ago I studied accounting and I wanted to be an accountant.  But I looked around and decided that accounting was probably a place for blue-eyed and blond-haired types.  There weren’t any African-Americans in accounting so I moved on.  And now I’m here.”  This man is articulate, educated, well-spoken, passionate, matches his J’s to his t-shirt, and a wicked sense of humor.  He recently finished his college degree.  After that he gave a brilliant presentation.  His team applauded every smart idea and insight he shared.  There was a lot of applause.

Another friend shared his story: Mr. K was nervous about public speaking (death, taxes, public speaking).  He’d left high school in the 12th grade because his English teacher’s reputation was that of excessively critical and mean-spirited.  So he dropped out.  He earned his GED after his grandmother provided tutoring lessons.  He stood up, presented his ideas, and knocked it out of the park.

Immediately after that another gentleman, Mr. M, explained that his father had been a contractor and that things were “fat” in the summer and that they “starved” in the off seasons.  He’d promised himself to never follow that path–opting instead for stability and security.  His passion was palpable.  He’d lived the life.  He won a prize (Yeti cooler, very nice) for his organized insights.

These men–as well as their peers–did incredible things together.  Well outside of their comfort zones they worked together to find a common purpose, share ideas, and risk a little embarrassment.  They also found a whole lot of betterness.  Where you come from has nothing to do with where you’re going–especially when your friends rise up with you.

Lately I’m learning that my job, whatever that means, is insignificant in comparison to what happens when people defy their systems and reinvent themselves both individually and collectively.  Which is to say that they take chances, take risks, and take nascent steps forward toward the best within themselves.  Doing the work takes time and, in many cases, guts.  To each of the gentlemen I’ve referenced above: Good on ya.  It was a privilege to be a part of your work.

When I see people finding new types of inspiration and understandings there is something far more significant that “sales training” occurring.  Sales, at its core, is about being absolutely accountable to the best within one’s self.  It’s never about products.  It’s never about presentations.  Goodness knows it’s never about snappy one-liner Pinterest quotes.  Rather, there are deep currents in each of us that prove far more significant.  Something is happening…

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