Watch the Walk

Employers spend a lot of money screening potential job applicants to see if they are ambitious and have a sense of purpose, but these qualities are difficult to quantify.  If the employer does not personally know the applicant there is a lot of room for error.  As a parent you want your children to choose friends who are forward-looking and have a bright future.  You don’t want them hanging around with kids who are going nowhere.  Adults also need to be careful in choosing friends.  Having positive, encouraging friends can make a big difference in life.  It doesn’t make a lot of sense to spend your time with people who “drag you down.”

How to we determine which people are the “good” ones and which are the “bad” ones?  I’ve found that there is an unbelievably simple way to distinguish forward-looking people with a bright future from those who are just “getting by” in life.  I call it the “walking” test.

I was in Chicago the other day and was waiting for a bus.  It was an opportune time to do some “people-watching.”  On one side of the street there was a young man, about twenty years old.  He was walking briskly in a straight line, clearly going from A to B.  You could tell by the way he walked that he knew exactly where he was going.  On the other side of the street were a couple of other guys, about the same age.  They were meandering slowly, from side to side, sloppily making their way down the street.  Watching them I got the impression that they didn’t know where the heck they were heading and were in no hurry to get there.  The “walk” told it all.  One guy had a mission; he was walking with purpose.  He was the kind of guy that I would like to hire or have as my friend.  The other two had no such direction or purpose; they were people who should be avoided.

Age must be considered, as most seventy-year old persons aren’t going to walk as fast as a twenty-year old.  However, the speed of the walk is not so important as the “straight line” direction of the walk.  The straight-line direction, coupled with a steady pace, indicates purposefulness.  Posture is also part of the equation and often indicates a person’s mental state.  Unless it is the result of a physical impairment, slumping is a sign of a defeated (perhaps depressed) person.  It is as if life has beaten them down.  They are having a hard time “standing up”, both physically and mentally.

In my hometown of Winona, Minnesota my wife and I went to a fast-food restaurant yesterday.  It is an establishment where you place your order at the desk and they bring the food to your table.  The young guy who brought the food was walking so slow that I thought the wind was blowing him around!  Furthermore, his face had a solemn, expressionless look.  We got our meal, but this is a kid that didn’t want to be at work and everyone at the restaurant knew it.  I wanted to take him aside and say, “Hey, man.  I know you’re not particularly excited about this job, but make the best of it.  You’re going to be judged all of your days by the attitude you bring to your job, your friends, and your life.  You’re starting out on the wrong track.”

If you really care about your spouse, your children, your parents, or your grandchildren, watch their “walk”.  It is an extremely simple, but important tool.

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