Earlier this week, I had the privilege of hearing, for a second time, the author of the book, “The Richest Man in Town”. He had offered the talk to students in grades 5-12 from our high school earlier in the afternoon and the evening session was for our entire community. Just as he did 5 years ago when I heard him before, VJ Smith reminded me of a few key principles in life that somehow have become even more relevant than they were when he first wrote the book.
In his book, VJ shares the story of an incredible older man who is a cashier at the local Walmart in the author’s hometown. The profound impact this man had not only on the author himself, but everyone he came into contact with, was astounding. Those interactions and many interviews with other people are what prompted the writing of the book. Now, I don’t intend to spoil it for you; it’s a super quick read and I highly suggest you get it, but I’d like to share the takeaways that he shared with us during his talk.
1. Say Thank You.
Ideally, say it in handwritten form. It truly is a lost art. I know that when I receive a handwritten thank you note in the mail, I feel special. I feel valued. I feel “thanked”. Oh, and while an email and/or text are nice, it doesn’t hold the same weight.
This is also really critical for those that work in customer service. Saying, “Have a good one”, “There you go”, “Take it easy” or any variation of these things is not the same as thanking a customer for shopping. You are there because of them. Oh, and if you’ve received truly excellent service somewhere along the line, send them and their boss a letter. People don’t receive the unsolicited appreciation as often as they should.
2. You Get What You Give.
I know how overrated this statement is, but seriously, with EVERYTHING in life, you get out what you put in. Marriage. Raising kids. Work. Friendships. All of it is based on what you put out to the world and it’s also the easiest way to really impact others. Marty from the book was genuinely happy. He wasn’t rich in the traditional sense but he was rich in spirit and rich in attitude.
3. You Hold the Power To Change Your World
Happiness exists only in the mind. The choices we make are what determine our overall satisfaction with our lives. It’s not what happens to us, it’s what we choose to do about it. This man made an incredible impact on thousands of people. He was a cashier at Walmart. He lived in a trailer park. But those things didn’t define him. He was proud of his accomplishments. He loved his family and he loved his life. He nurtured his friends and he took the time to really focus on the people he cared about. The author said when he was in Marty’s checkout line, you felt like you were the only person in the entire world. And he did this all from behind, and more often than not, from around the corner of, a counter at a local Walmart in South Dakota.
So, it is with us. Are you practicing gratitude for even the little things in your life? If you feel it, are you saying thank you? Are you nurturing the relationships in your life and making the most out of every moment? Read the book. It will inspire you to be better. It certainly did me.