Providing Meaning: The Real Bottom Line

The bottom line is: We all want to feel as if we matter to others. We want our lives to be meaningful, to have meaningful exchanges and relationships, and know that we are investing time into doing something that is bigger than ourselves. We want to connect and bond, because those things give us meaning. Gratitude is the way in which we tell others they are living lives that matter and it is the way in which we can practice living to remind us that every moment counts. Whether it’s in the form of a written thank-you card, a journal entry, a prayer or mantra, or giving public praise or private recognition, our gratitude serves as a lasting acknowledgment. But what we will find is that our lasting acknowledgment is met by gratitude, and usually in the form of loyalty and patronage.

Bill Taylor, founder of Fast Company, tells a fantastic story on HBR.com on how a Buick dealership helped his father feel like he mattered.22 For his father’s 75th birthday, Taylor offered to buy an all-American Cadillac. His father negotiated the price for a brand-new Lacrosse and realized he had a loyalty certificate at home that would afford him a discount of

$1,000. Unfortunately, the septuagenarian was a day late; the certificate expired at midnight the night before.

Despite this discovery, Taylor’s dad researched the Buick Lacrosse, and a week later, on a Friday afternoon, the Buick dealer was handing him the keys for a test drive. In fact, the dealer suggested that while he spent the weekend figuring out how to honor the expired Cadillac loyalty certificate, Taylor’s father should drive the car for a couple days to see if he liked it.

Come Monday morning, rather than him driving the car back to the dealer, Taylor’s father was rushed to the hospital for a medical emergency. Taylor called the dealer to explain the situation, and heard genuine concern in the man’s voice. “Please make the car the last thing you worry about,” the man told Taylor. “Just take care of your dad.”

The next day, a lovely bouquet of flowers was delivered to the hospital with a card from the Buick dealer. “We were about to send the police after you! Get well soon,” read the card. This remarkably compassionate gesture moved the entire family. And can you guess which car Taylor’s father bought? And which story he told for at least six months to anyone who would listen?

The Buick dealer went out of his way to connect on a human level by sending a message to a sick man that said you matter. More than a customer, more than a sale, the 75-year old’s existence mattered.

My biggest hope is that the salesman’s managers paid it forward by being grateful for such a dedicated member of their team, who, thanks to kindness, sent more clients and positive publicity their way.