“I’ve stopped trying to read three newspapers before sunrise. And yet, I somehow feel more knowledgeable. Perhaps because I’ve finally awakened to the world around me and all it was trying to offer.”

-Erica Hill

A few months ago, I stopped by my favorite sushi joint to grab some dinner. A few dinners, actually. My husband was out of town. I was going home to my sick children with a giant pile of work to get done. I knew it was going to be a looooooong night. And if it was going to be a loooooooong night, I was going to have sushi to get me through, damn it.

The hostess knows my husband and I because we’re… um… frequent customers (by which I mean they have trouble getting rid of us some times). And she asked where he was. I explained that he was out of town and that I was getting rations for a long night of sick kids and work. Then, after hemming and hawing between an old favorite and a special roll (the special won) – I settled in at the counter to pour over some files and ignore the rest of the world. In the process, I nearly dumped out half of my bag and stabbed myself in the eye with a ballpoint pen. It was so very, very much not my day.

When my sushi came, there was an extra roll – the old favorite I’d debate ordering: a fiery tuna-filled beast called “The Valley Volcano”  that totally lived up to it’s name.

“Oh, you gave me an extra roll! I didn’t order this,” I said.

They knew. The sushi chef had remembered that it was one of my favorites and made it anyway. He’d overheard what I said to the hostess. He knew that I was stressed out, he knew that my husband was out of town, and he knew that I was going to be up aaaallll night trying to meet some deadlines while juggling sick kids. So he did something to help. It wasn’t anything epic, but it was magic I tell you. MAGIC.  They wouldn’t let me pay for it, so I dropped an extra tip in the jar and went home with my magic, happy-making sushi. I have since raved about them to even more people than normal, and my friends have begged me to take them to eat at “Mer’s magic sushi place.”

Here’s the thing, my friends. We spend a lot of time being busy. Busy is not a virtue. No one hires a lawyer or tutor or engineer and says “She’s the best. I know because she’s always SOO busy and frantic and running around like a maniac!”

The magic isn’t in being busy. It’s in noticing what’s going on around you, and thinking about how your expertise and skills relate to everyone around you. It’s noticing their needs, and thinking of ways you can fill them. I loved that sushi place before — the service is great, the prices are low, and the sushi is nomnomnomnomnom good. But I have a relationship with them now, because I know them – and I know that they know me. I know that they see me as a person, not just a check or a good tipper. I am more loyal and more devoted to their restaurant than ever before, because the chef took a minute to stop being busy, notice my need, and go above-and-beyond to delight me.

What are you doing right now that’s keeping you from noticing the needs around you — and the opportunities to delight your customers and co-workers? When you ask someone how their day is going, are you really listening? Do you notice when something is different, and do you ask them about it? Building a relationship with your customers is that easy — just notice things about them and ask questions. Those needs are the difference between that customer loving you and passionately proselyting for you.

It’s not about balance; it’s about integration... really focus on making sure you’re integrating all four aspects of your work, your family, your community and yourself… that make us up as a whole human being.” – Padmasree Warrior

A physicist by trade, author by choice, a born teacher, a retired veteran, and an adamant problem solver, Frank has helped the White House, federal agencies, military offices, historical museums, manufacturers, and over 250 technology startups get stuff done, communicate effectively, and find practical solutions that work for them. In his spare time, he makes sawdust and watches Godzilla movies.