‘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 giving him 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, you never really stop to think about the impact you make. You should…
When you first start up in business, the focus is on what your USP is or how you can differentiate yourself from competitors. For it to be meaningful, you have to make a commitment; honour what you stand for and be true to yourself.
Sometimes life presents you with a ‘George Bailey’ moment – that stops you in your tracks and takes you down to earth. The moment catches you off guard, takes your breath away and changes 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 and just absorb the lesson. 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 a punctuation weakness, her style was smothered in originality and depth.
Despite my protests, she remained in that class, surrounded by others who either didn’t want to learn or found it incredibly difficult to.
I was fortunate to be able to see this young person through her GCSEs, and knew that once I’d taught her class for the last time, something very special would leave me. When I saw her ‘A’ grade result, it was a proud moment…
Even though she’d been labelled as an under-performing student, she rose above it and proved everybody wrong. For that, she earned my admiration and respect – which time hasn’t stolen.
I thought of her many times over the years and secretly hoped 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 decided to live mine.
Why am I sharing this now? This girl means nothing to you. She’s a part of my life, my memories, my education.
It has something to do with the fact that after 10 years, she decided to look for me online. It’s to do with the fact that she emailed asking for advice. It’s to do with the fact that she explained I’d made such an impact on her all those years ago, she now wanted to live her dream and write…
It was a moving moment, knowing she was still out there and that she had been inspired to change her life. It felt good to know that my words had meant something to her. Perhaps the difference was that I believed in her at a time when she didn’t believe in herself.
Think of the difference you make to others’ lives. Think of how special those heart-felt testimonials from clients are … or how your colleagues rely on you for insight. Look at how you solve your customers’ problems. When you unwrap the layers, you see that you are really selling peace of mind, time, reassurance, freedom, escapism – to name but a few.
Running a business is sometimes fraught with drama, stress and uncertainty. Perhaps the next time you feel the pressure of it all or you’re frustrated by situations, try to look at it from a positive angle.
Focus on what you can do; strive to solve problems rather than be beaten by them. Above all, realise the power you have to influence change.
What difference do you make? And does it make a difference to you?