As interesting as it is to people-watch at airports, striking up a convo with that stranger next to you can really be eye-opening. Over the years I’ve met people from all walks of life. Some of the most memorable have been a pro surfer, a woman who started a non profit to save animals, a childhood friend of Brett Favre, and now, Pat Williams, who taught me some pretty important life lessons that day.
We were boarding the flight back from our Miami trip when Pat sat next to me. He was probably in his late 50’s/early 60’s, with a large hat on and a friendly face. I said hi to him, then immediately warned him of my fear of flying. I reassured him that I wouldn’t throw up or anything, but he may notice claw marks on my husband’s arm. He asked what scares me, and I told him how I can’t wrap my mind around how something can go up in the air 30,000ft and land exactly where it’s supposed to. My fear of flying (like everything else it seems!) has been getting worse with age, and I haven’t been able to kick the thoughts of OH SHIT THIS PLANE IS GOING DOWN every time we take off.
Pat is one of those people who are upbeat and instantly inspiring, and told me he had a severe health problem and used his faith to get through it. He had me interested, so I asked what happened to him, if he didn’t mind sharing. Turns out, he had a liver transplant a few years ago because of cirrhosis of the liver, but never was a heavy drinker! (Did you know that approximately 15% of those who have liver cirrhosis get it without cause?) He described what it was like to be on that waiting list for an organ for years, not knowing if the disease would take his life before he’d have his shot at a transplant. I apologized to him for going through something so difficult. He just said, “Hey I’m glad it happened. It made me a better person than I was before. And for that I’m thankful.”
As we talked more, I learned of his previous background in building materials and sales. I brought up something to him I don’t always talk about in my career, something I struggle with. I love interior design, but I also fight a internal conflict with it from time to time, finding it hard to personally justify all of the overly expensive things I put into client’s homes. For instance, if some pillows are like $2000, I think, Wow we could have fed like how many children in Africa with this money!? If you know me at all, you know I have a huge problem with letting things go to waste or blowing money on stupid shit, so it can make me feel guilty sometimes.
Pat’s response was that these people come to me because they want advice on how to spend their money, and it’s my job to guide them through the process. It doesn’t make me a bad person because I’m selecting a $50K appliance package for their home. He encouraged me to find a way to give back, whether it’s some extra money I make on a job to a charity, my time volunteering, or share resources I have with others.
We talked about all kinds of things and it made the flight go by super quick. We said our goodbyes and I really felt like meeting him was a powerful and inspiring experience for my life and career.
These were main take-aways from our convo. It’s such valuable advice for a young designer like myself, but really could be helpful to almost anyone in creative or sales positions:
Remember: You are the best thing that ever happened to your client. You are an expert in your field, so if I client comes to you for expertise it’s because they believe in you.
Stand behind your work, and never apologize for the work you do. (Unless you screw something up, then apologize.)
Don’t do business with anyone you don’t like. You will almost always lose money. And if you don’t lose money, you’ll lose time. It’s okay to fire a client if things are not working out.
Glad I could share some of this insight with you! Enjoy the weekend ahead!
I’ll be back on a plane in less than 24 hours, heading back up to the Mitten…. who knows who I’ll meet! Have you ever met anyone interesting while traveling? Or has someone you barely knew been able to provide you with helpful advice?
Hey, Natalie! I used to think about the consumerism aspect of our career choice as well. I now think about it as a redistribution of wealth. So I make a conscience choice of where pillows, etc. are made. The more local and independent, the better.
Now, about the flying… My Dad was an aeronautical engineering professor, so he taught us about “lift” and “drag” and how the plane can actually stay flying when it is so heavy. Trust the design engineers, like your clients trust you. Have a great day, girl!
Very true! I’m all about keeping it local and sustainable, so that’s a good way to look at it :). It’s an interesting concept – how planes can be so heavy and yet just seem to glide through the air. Flying is way safer than driving so really I shouldn’t have much to worry about. Have a wonderful weekend! 🙂