As we all settle into this world-consuming viral reality, I’ve found more time to reflect on my relationships with others.
For the past year, I’ve immersed myself in self-development podcasts like The Art of Charm or The Jordan Harbinger Show and felt the same messages bludgeon themselves into my mind. The most lasting lesson of all has been-
It’s a cringe-inducing lesson when I consider the man-boy I was in my early-20’s – especially how I interpreted the meaning of a “high-value individual.”
“You gotta talk about how awesome you are so everyone will think you’re awesome!”
“Nice guys finish last. You must release your inner-bully to garner respect.”
“You gotta stand out. Wear those bright-colored Snoopy socks.”
Okay, so wearing ornate socks isn’t a big deal. Some Korean teacher-trainees love donning some silly styles to showcase their personality – to the benefit of all.
But I recoil at how long it took me to learn the self-evident lesson that high-value people are valuable to others. How simple is that? How foolish was I?
I’ve felt my life transform since shifting my focus from impressive narcissistic self-presentation toward doing what I can to help others. It’s transformed my relationship with friends, with co-workers, and even with myself.
But recently I learned that living life in full-time “helper mode” is a twisted perversion of the meaning of “high-value”.
It all started on a snarly, windy Thursday night.
Cool darkness descended on sleepy Dolsan Island. I traipsed up the stairs in a drunken energetic jog after knocking back some brews at a nearby convenience store.
But after breaching my front door with a muscle-memory door code, my stomach fell as I failed to open the living room door to my right. I twisted the knob up – no dice. I twisted down – even less dice.
My bed, my clothes, my food – all trapped behind a two-inch-thick board of ash.
“Je ne pas bouger,” my door said in French for some reason.
“Non!,” I replied. “I will bust you open yet.”
My stubborn door had no lock. But it did struggle with a weak connection between the doorknob and the closing mechanism. Simply put, turning the knob did not retract the mechanism enough to allow the door to open.
Suddenly sober, I stalked off to a nearby supermarket to purchase a screwdriver – my weapon of choice.
But after reversing the screws around the doorknob in hopes that the mechanism would loosen and let me in, my door’s resolve would not crack.
Short of kicking in the door SWAT-style (landing the sole of my foot just to the right of the doorknob for maximum effectiveness), I was locked out. Fortunately, I thought better of such barbaric, violent entry.
What time was it? Just kidding. My phone was dead too.
“Well, at least the Institute is warm.”
As a dry, typhoon-like wind swirled through the streets, I approached my workplace’s side door. The lights were on. Like an infiltrator behind enemy lines, I leaned against the wall and rotated my head ever so slightly for a glimpse down the hallway.
A supervisor dutifully performed his newfound habit of power-walking up and down the L-shaped corridor in thick workout clothes redolent of motorcycling attire – his nose buried in a John Grisham novel.
He approached the end of the corridor. I turned my head away.
A few minutes later, he turned and resumed his walking like a dog pacing around the house waiting for his owner to return. I made my move.
After scanning my index finger and slipping into the hallway, I ducked into a bathroom and waited as my supervisor returned on his loop. I took this time to remove my squeaky foam-rubber moccasins.
After my walker-reader colleague turned the corner and descended down the hall, I crept to my classroom door, tickled the padlock apart, and slid the door open. My mind ignited.
“Huh, this classroom has no chairs. That’s strange.”
“Oh shit. This isn’t my classroom.”
“Close the door, he’s coming back.”
“Too late. He’s here.”
After securing my co-worker’s classroom once more, I stood face-to-face with my supervisor – drunk – late at night – at work.
“Hello, Ian,” he smiled and muttered without even breaking stride on his L-shaped laps.
Damn. He didn’t even bat an eye.
I felt a strange mix of relief over blending in and disappointment over the now-superfluous thrill that came from sneaking around my place of work like Sam Fisher breaking into the CIA.
I repeated the same unlocking rigmarole entered the correct classroom, smiling at the familiar posters and triplet groups of desks, and finessed a charging cable into my senescent iPhone 6. The fiery-white Apple screen signaled resuscitation.
My drunk ass couldn’t comprehend anything but sleep.
So I slept. I curled up on my smurf-designed classroom couch and I slept.