Leadership Lessons from the Mall
The hordes of shoppers. Some striding with purpose while others aimlessly lollygag. Children lining up to see Santa. Holiday decorations more elaborate than the year before.
It’s that time of the year.
This year, more than ever, you don’t need to venture out to the stores. The online giants are delighted to offer an alternative. A few clicks replace endlessly circling in search of a parking spot and standing most of the day in lines.
I’ve never been one for shopping, malls, crowds, or any of it. It’s far better to avoid it all. I can rewind my own internal tapes and hear my dialogue: grumbling about the parking, the crowds, the waiting, the hassle.
But this year I suppose I feel somewhat nostalgic for it all. So, I do something unexpected and head to the mall.
Decide in Advance
I decide to enjoy it: the parking, the bitter wind as I leave the car for the store, the mall.
Inside, it’s warm, inviting. The first person I see is there to assist. He’s an older gentleman, kind, not intrusive and with equal doses of friendliness and helpfulness. We talk about his family and his plans to go home for the holidays. Like the song says, “I’ll be home for Christmas!” he says, laughing as much to himself as to me. He’s had some health problems, I learn, and they are behind him now. He’s glad to be back at work.
Classical music is playing and it’s live. I venture over to the piano and, eyeing a chair, slide into it and close my eyes. It’s a medley from the Sound of Music, which conjures up my childhood when we would all gather around for the yearly show on television. I must be getting old, I think, to be sitting here in a mall, listening to music, and not rushing in the least. Opening my eyes, I watch a young mom pushing a stroller. Her baby’s laugh seems to be part of the Sound of Music track.
I get up and walk through the mall, enjoying the decorations and the energy of the crowd.
The Santa display is more elaborate than I remember, likely increased as an enticement to visit. It seems to be working as I see the families jostling for a position in the queue.
The coffee stand is also busy, and I get in line. I strike up a conversation with the couple in front of me, newly engaged, and she smiles and shows me her ring. “It’s my second time,” she volunteers, “and this time it’s right.”
“How can you be so sure?” I ask, with a smile, “It can’t be his choice of teams.” I point to his University of Michigan sweatshirt. We’re standing in a mall just outside of Columbus, and she has an Ohio Buckeyes cap on her head.
“Well, that is the one drawback!” she responds, poking him in the side. “I love him despite his obvious bad choice.”
Getting my coffee, I sip the cup and look around.
What am I doing here? I’m not quite sure.
A few visits into some other stores and I’m circling back to where I started. I smile at the pianist, receive a nod, and drop back into the comfortable chair next to the piano. He’s playing a song to remind us all that Christmas is about a baby, about Bethlehem, about love and hope. It’s a beautiful rendition.
It’s Christmas. And somehow the sounds and sights of this shopping mall help pull me into the season. It’s the time of year for giving, joy, family, faith, and love.
Today, I somehow overcame my distain for holiday shopping and managed to learn a few things along the way.
Learn the Lesson of Choice
It seems that the lesson of choice was with me throughout the afternoon:
My positive attitude was a choice before I left my house.
The salesman I met had faced down his fears, overcome his health challenges, and was enjoying the job he once took for granted. All by choice.
The newly engaged couple chose to overlook faults and chose love.
Belief is a choice.
Most of us think about the big choices in life carefully: spouses, jobs, big purchases, etc.
But what seems insignificant is likely the biggest choice of all: our attitude. The hour-by-hour choice of attitude may just be the key to enjoying your holiday—and enjoying all the days that follow.