Before I left for South Africa last week, I went to the bank to get cash. There is nothing in South Africa for which I needed cash. But I have been to the country before, and I have witnessed a poverty unrecognizable to those of us in the United States—and most of the Western world.
I don’t know what percent of the people there live in abject poverty, but it is very, very high. South Africa also has the greatest disparity between rich and poor on Earth.
One of the first nights I was there, I wanted something to eat. So I called the hotel kitchen, and they volunteered to send someone to my room with a menu. I ordered what I wanted, and the gentlemen who served me took care of everything. When he returned, I tipped him 400% of the very small bill I received from the hotel (one US dollar is worth 12 Rand, meaning the exchange rate is insanely high). I tipped him in US dollars. He was elated. I was elated because this gentleman was so happy.
The next afternoon, as I walked into the hotel, the gentleman who took care of me the prior evening approached me. He said, “I am Juba, and I am your waiter,” and then he smiled. I said, “That’s right, Juba, you are my waiter as long as I am here, and no one else can take care of me like you can. Can you bring me all the things I need tonight?” He smiled at me. We had negotiated an agreement.
Juba understood that I had money in my pocket, that I needed things. He knew that if he were proactive, he could help me lighten my wallet. So he checked on me multiple times a day. I proactively made up things I needed to keep Juba busy until I changed hotels.
I repeated this process with Mishuk, who knocked on my door at the new hotel to tell me that he was my “fruit man.” When I asked him what a “fruit man” was, he said, “I am the man who brings your fruit. You need vitamins.” I have never before had my own fruit man, and I didn’t need more fruit. So I expanded Mishuk’s role quite a bit, and he ended up being my big tube of toothpaste man. We reached an agreement very much like the one I had with Juba.
Mishuk called twice the next day to see if I had more work, but because I was on a call, I couldn’t answer. When I didn’t answer, he showed up at my door. A hustler doesn’t go away because you are difficult to reach. They just show up. I let him in and whispered to him a list of things I needed, including my dry-cleaning.
Poverty and politics are complicated. It’s very difficult to make as big a difference as you would want to make. But you can make a difference for the people you come in contact with, and even helping one person is worth the effort. No one benefitted more from the interactions I wrote about here more than I did.
If you were born in an advanced Western society, the circumstance of your birth provided you with a tremendous head start. If you were born in the United States, you received a winning lottery ticket. It may not be the same as winning the PowerBall, but it at least a high-value prize from a scratch card. You have opportunities that others will never know. And you are free from challenges that you wouldn’t recognize. But it’s up to you do something with what you have been given.
Spend this week taking advantage of whatever gifts you have been given. Do good work, and I’ll see you here next week.
On September 1st at 10:00 AM ET, I will be joining the Social Selling Summit with a bunch of my friends, like Jill Konrath, Koka Sexton, Lori Richardson, Matt Heinz, and Jim Keenan. This is an online event, and it is recorded, so if you can’t make it, you’ll still be able to see all the recorded content.
Almost all of my speaking engagements and workshops are private events. But on November 13th, I am speaking at a public workshop in Washington, DC. It’s called the Customer Acquisition Summit. I’ll be there with Mark Hunter, John Spence, Mike Weinberg, Miles Austin, and Jeb Blount. We’ll all be there, and you can hang with all of us. Click here to join us!