‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ I’m not ashamed to admit, is one of my favourite films of all time. This timeless classic follows the life of George Bailey, a frustrated businessman who contemplates suicide believing he’d be worth more dead than alive.
James Stewart’s poignant portrayal of Bailey captures universal questions that we all ask ourselves at some point: What do I mean to others? And, what difference do I make?
For George Bailey, he learns his true value after a series of flashbacks offer a glimpse into how life would have been if he’d never been born. He realises what a role model he is, how he touches others’ lives and what a remarkable difference he makes to his community.
In running your own business or leading a busy life juggling several responsibilities, do you stop and think about the impact you make?
In business, it’s critical to differentiate yourself from competitors, to offer something of true value… What is yours? Do you know? It’s often hard to see it … at first.
What’s your George Bailey moment?
Sometimes life offers you a ‘George Bailey’ moment – where the truth dawns on you. Often catching you off guard, it can take your breath away and change something inside.
I was an English teacher in a previous life, responsible for guiding young people through their often anxious teenage years. Oh … and for teaching them the wonders of English! Although I taught over 3000 students, some were unforgettable.
One student possessed a wisdom and intelligence I rarely saw in a 14 year old. She would sit in the corner, absorbing the lesson.
In truth, she was an old soul on young shoulders – much like myself at her age. We clicked straight away!
Officially in the bottom stream or lowest set, I expected her to have several literacy problems. Yet as soon as I read her writing, I couldn’t understand why she was in the group. Apart from punctuation issues, her style was smothered in originality and depth.
The girl had talent! But as a square peg in a round hole, she didn’t really slot into school life. And though she remained in the lower set, surrounded by those who either didn’t want to learn or found it incredibly hard to, I praised her quietly – never giving up on her.
Despite being labelled as a ‘learning support’ student, she rose above this tag – later proving everyone wrong.
Seeing her exam grades in black and white – yet blurred by tears – was a proud moment. A for English and an A* in English Literature.
An incredible achievement for a student who refused to give up. For this, she earned my admiration and respect – which time hasn’t stolen.
Through the following years, I thought of her many times – secretly hoping she’d use her writing gift in some way. Yet when I looked at my own life, I knew it wasn’t easy to follow a dream. It took several life-changing events before I could live mine.
Why am I sharing this now? This girl means nothing to you. She’s a part of my life, my memories.
Well, after 10 years of leaving school she decided to find me online to ask advice. She explained I’d made such an impact on her all those years ago, that she now wanted to live her dream and write…
It was a moving moment, knowing she was still out there and that I’d somehow made a difference – inspired her to want more. Perhaps the difference was that I believed in her at a time when she didn’t believe in herself?
How about you?
What difference do you make? Think how special those heart-felt testimonials from clients are. Perhaps your colleagues rely on you for insight? Perhaps you are the go-to person in a niche market?
If struggling to see your true worth, look at how you solve your customers’ problems. What gift does your service or product give?
Unwrap the layers to see what you are really selling. Peace of mind, time, luxury, reassurance, freedom, escapism – to name but a few. All priceless…
Running a business is sometimes fraught with drama, stress and uncertainty. Perhaps the next time you feel the pressure of it all or hit a marketing wall, look at yourself from a different angle.
Focus on how you change someone’s world; look at how you solve a problem. Above all, realise the power to influence change is in you.
Now consider what difference you make. You might be surprised… I’d love to hear your George Bailey moment.