Wearing Your Character on Your Sleeve

Column by Michael Norton


You know what we say when we see someone who is overly emotional or very transparent with their feelings: We say they are wearing their heart on their sleeve.

So while I was on a business trip, I found myself in an extremely long security line. There were no special lines for frequent flyers so everyone was assembled in the same long line. The challenge was the airport did not schedule enough TSA security staff to run multiple lanes at this terminal at this particular time. This poor planning created tremendous anxiety and stress for everyone in line that day; the wait was more than 75 minutes and people were concerned about missing their flights.

As the passengers griped and complained, argued with airport personnel and among themselves, the foul language was flowing pretty freely and loudly. As I sat there quietly observing the scene, a woman looked over at me and asked how I could possibly stand there so calmly. Then she looked at the shirt I was wearing and it had my company logo on the sleeve, Zig Ziglar Corp. She noticed that and said, "Oh, now I get it, you have to act calmly and in control, you work for Mr. Ziglar."

She went on and said something to the effect of that she believed if I wasn't wearing my Zig Ziglar shirt, I would have been just as upset and angry as everyone else. So I explained to her that I was indeed upset, and that I was angry and frustrated, and that I was more than likely going to miss my flight, too. But I also reminded her that there was not one thing I could do at that moment to get to the front of the line, open up more security lanes or change what was happening at that moment for my benefit or the benefit of anyone else.

I travel quite a bit and I people watch a lot. It is always amazing to me when I see people yelling at their spouse or their child in public over the simplest of things. Or watch as a person who is not getting their way will over react and make a silly scene at a store, in line, in their vehicle. I just have to believe that they feel so embarrassed by their actions once they have a chance to think about the behavior they just displayed.

Now what about us, do we ever stop and think about the name on our shirt, hat or jacket and who we represent? Even if we are not wearing anything that could give us away, do we ever stop to think that someone might just know who we are? And even if some of us don't care what other people think, or so we say, what about the way most of us might feel afterward, feelings of shame, embarrassment, and I'll bet just plain awful.

We live and work in a small community, what if we all acted as if we had a name tag on, as if we were wearing a logoed shirt, hat, or jacket and instead of wearing our heart on our sleeve we were to wear our character on our sleeve. We all just might behave a little differently wouldn't we? And when we start consistently acting or behaving in a manner that we would be proud of no matter where we find ourselves, we will create the character traits that we truly desire to have and model for other people.

How about you, do you ever find yourself wearing your character on your sleeve? I would love to hear all about it at gotonorton@gmail.com and together let's make this a better than good week.



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