Archive for November, 2019
A couple of days ago, I learned that a phone number I had called a few times in the past week wasn’t that of a prospect I wanted to reach, but instead, that of an angry garbage truck driver.
When he picked up my call, I could hear the anger and hostility in his voice. He was mad that I had been calling his number, and although I apologized and tried to explain myself, he continued berating me. When I had enough, I hung up. Things should have ended there, but they didn’t. He tried calling me back, but I let the call go to voicemail. He didn’t leave a message, but called again a few minutes later. Not wanting to antagonize what I feared was a deranged person, I picked up that call.
He insisted that I had called him many times over many months. I hadn’t. I asked him what he wanted, and he said that he wanted to never speak to me again. Though seething inside, as calmly as I could, I assured him that I wanted the same thing.
I’m pretty sure that this guy wasn’t a garbage truck driver, but he reminded me of The Law of the Garbage Truck, which is pasted below.
One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!
The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, ‘Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!’ This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, ‘The Law of the Garbage Truck.’
He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it! Sometimes they’ll dump it on you. Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.
The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.
I wasn’t thinking as clearly as I wanted, so it took me a few minutes to remember and apply the lesson behind this law. After I hung up, I paced. I fumed. I wanted to lash out at the injustice of being chastised for a simple, common mistake that could have been corrected in a polite conversation. I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to pick up the phone and call someone else, until I realized that I had a choice to make. I could let this chance encounter ruin the rest of my day or I could shrug it off as an inconsequential misfortune.
In my line of work, it’s absolutely necessary to maintain a positive attitude. I would severely limit my effectiveness if I approached my professional interactions with negativity. Even if I tried to mask negativity, most people can pick it up, even subconsciously. Unless I was ready to throw in the towel on the rest of the day, I had to get my attitude right.
That’s where The Law of the Garbage Truck has value. When we encounter unpleasant people or find ourselves in unpleasant situations, we have to maintain context and not let negativity squash all of the positivity surrounding us. Whatever garbage is dumped on us, we need to brush it off and do our best not to spread it.