I have been blessed with having a developmentally delayed daughter, but I have to say it didn’t always feel like a blessing. You see, my daughter Elisa can’t talk like you and I can. Most of the time she speaks, people don’t understand her. But because she has been with me all of her life, I usually have a pretty good sense of what she is trying to say. But sometimes, I don’t.
When she speaks and I don’t understand, she yells. If that doesn’t work, she tantrums. That can be in a restaurant, a store, driving in a car, or over a friend’s house. And when she tantrums and I don’t understand her, she attacks me by trying to rip my shirt or bite me. This went on for a long time, with incidents like this happening sometimes 5,10 or even 15 times a day.
Finally, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore and in the midst of her increasing rage, I said to her, “Elisa, I want so badly to understand what you are saying, but I cannot understand your words. Can you please find a way to tell me what you are saying without using words?” From the midst of her rage, a smile came over her face, the kind of smile that melts you right down to your heart, and she looked at me and said in perfect English, “I am, Daddy.”
I was dumbfounded. When I asked her how she was doing that, she pointed to the side of head and I understood from her gesture that she was putting thoughts into my head. Immediately I realized, I had felt her doing that, but never trusted my instincts and now instead of her rage, both of us started laughing uncontrollably. That was about 4 years ago, from that moment on, she has never yelled, tantrum or attacked again.
Here is the amazing lesson she taught me that day. I realized that everyone I work with, be they CEO’s of companies or employees, leaders in government or the people they govern over, teachers or students, family and/or community leaders; everyone does the same thing. When they speak and they aren’t heard, they yell, when they yell and they aren’t heard they create a scene and when that doesn’t work they try to destroy something. They shoot people in a shopping mall or blow up a building; attack someone’s reputation or destroy a marriage. And when I look at each situation and retrofit it, I realize, just like my daughter these people don’t feel heard.
I have had the opportunity to be with some of the richest people in the world, to sit with them around the dinner table, to meet their kids and their parents and to have conversations with them about the things going on in our lives, and I have had the amazing opportunity to sit with the poorest of the poor on street corners and have those same conversations.
One of those conversations was with Cory, a homeless man. We had been speaking for hours when I looked at him and asked, “Cory, you sit here and watch people all day long, is there something you would suggest people do to make the world a better place?” He didn’t even have to think about it for a moment, he knew his answer. “I would invite people to find someone they don’t know and ask them how they are doing and then spend 10 minutes listening, really listening to their answer.”
I asked him, “Of all the things you could ask for, why would you ask that?” His answer told me.
He said, “Danny, 3 months ago, I was having a really bad day. I was just sitting here but as people walked by, they spit on me, punched me, kicked me and cursed at me. I thought to myself, ‘what am I doing here? I am only making people more unhappy and so I decided that day, that when evening came, I would go around the corner to a street where it was dark and just take my life, thinking no one would even miss me. Two minutes after I had that thought, a man came out of nowhere and put his hand on my should and asked me, Brother, how are you doing? Tears started to pour from my eyes and I told him I wasn’t doing well and without missing a beat, he sat down next to me and said, I am here for you if you want someone to listen.”
Danny, do you know, it took only about 10 minutes and when he left, I realized I could no longer kill myself, because somebody cared enough about me to listen to me for 10 minutes. That man has no idea that he saved my life that day.”
Here is another interesting result of this story, it is called The Butterfly Effect. where one small action, like the flapping of a butterfly’s wings get multiplied by others doing the same and over time the flapping of their wings creates a hurricane in another part of the world. Just like that man had no idea he saved Cory’s life, Cory has no idea the impact his story had on me. He doesn’t know I tell his story on every TV, radio and/or podcast I am interviewed on and how much that one story touches others. It has also inspired me to travel around the world, doing just what Cory suggested, to sit with people for 10 minutes and listen to their stories. It is my hope to one day create a documentary that will allow us to hear the voices of the voiceless. We have no idea the impact listening to these stories might have. Who knows where the next great idea will come from?
Become part of the 10 minute solution. Ask the people in your business how they are doing and then just listen to them for 10 minutes. Ask everyone, the ones who clean your floors and run your marketing department; those who restock your inventory and ship your products as well as those who design and create those products? And more than that, why not take time to run your latest idea by these people and ask for their feedback? Who knows where the next great idea will come from?
In my book, The Mosaic, the protagonist sets out to find heaven, but the people he meets along his journey are not the holy people he expects, but common ordinary people, like the trashman, the beggar, the blind woman, the gardener and the street artist. But when he listens to each of them tell their story, he realizes the person he now sees is entirely different than the person he first saw. And he wonders, what would he see if he could see what he doesn’t see. In this change of perception, he finds the heaven he was seeking.
Why not practice the 10 minute solution with everyone in your life; your spouse, your kids or your mother in law and as Cory suggests with someone you have never met before?
Levin is rare blend of businessman and mystic who sees what others do not see. It has been this one quality more than any other that has thrown him into some of the most exclusive boardrooms to help companies innovate new ways of finding solutions when the old ways stop working.