Anyone who knows me well knows I am a huge Disney fan – I own all the movies, I have boxes filled with collectibles (they would be proudly displayed all around the house where they BELONG, but – my wife…) and I would put serious money on the fact that I could beat you at a Disney trivia quiz any day of the week, and twice on Sundays.
So – it’s not an exaggeration to say I was beyond excited to spend a day at Disney World last year while I was in Florida attending a conference.
I got there bright and early – but when the gates opened and everyone else headed straight to Space Mountain, I ran (yes – literally ran) to the Winnie The Pooh Ride. Why? Because I had a plan! I’d spent time researching “How To Do Disney World In A Day” and I had a strict program to follow. Granted – I did feel a little foolish sitting on a ride that was clearly designed for six-year-olds, and then following that up with ‘The Little Mermaid’ which was clearly designed for six-year-old girls, but whenever anyone gave me the suspicious “Why is a single guy in his 30’s on this ride?” look, I responded with my innocent “I’m not dodgy, I’m following the ‘How To Do Disney World In A Day’ plan” – look.
Everything was going so well – and then something weird started to happen.
About mid-morning as I was queuing up for the ‘Toy Story’ ride (not worth doing twice), the attendant pointed at my top and said with a smile; “Cool T-shirt.” I had no idea what I was even wearing, I’d just chucked a T-shirt on when I got up in the morning – but I looked down and saw it had Super Mario on the front, and I guess it was kind of cool (but no one had ever commented on it before). I mumbled a “Thank you” as I hopped into the car and that was that.
An hour later, on a different ride with a different attendant; the same thing happened. “I like your T-shirt.” He said. This time I was at least aware of what I was wearing; “Thanks. It’s Super Mario.” I replied. Two compliments in one day?! Unheard of.
But an hour later it happened again. Different ride, different attendant – same compliment; “That is a cool T-shirt.” I actually laughed out loud, said “thanks” and jumped on the ride.
It happened twice more for a total of five times. Five times different people complimented me on my T-shirt. I couldn’t believe it. That had never happened before in my life – and it’s never happened since.
It had such a profound effect on me that when I rang my wife at the end of the day and she asked how it had gone, the first words out of my mouth weren’t about the rides, the atmosphere, the characters, the wonder of everything that is Disney World – no, my first words were: “I got five compliments on my T-shirt!!”
What does that tell us?
It tells us that a simple, genuine compliment has incredible power, particularly when it’s unexpected.
I wonder how many people are walking around totally unaware that they carry that power within them? Totally unaware that they could significantly impact the life of someone they don’t even know simply by saying something kind today. To the girl at the supermarket checkout, to the guy at the gas station, to the very next person they meet – regardless of who they are.
I mean – if it’s become the overwhelming memory of my day in Disney World – a day that I had been dreaming about for years; just imagine how much impact you could have on someone’s ordinary, regular Thursday?
“Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly and most underrated agent of human change.” – Bob Kerry