Ordinary Things Become Extraordinary

Accountability Growth mindset Organizational culture


Key Point: Finding the learning in ordinary things can provide us with a passageway for taking on the bigger things. I want to share how this belief is reinforced during an event I facilitate for new hires. We often have more than 80 rookie team members in attendance at our company orientation. During this session, I reinforce our enterprise purpose, values, and specify desired ways of thinking and working at our company. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) several ideas I often reinforce in this this blog: Embracing change by seeking heat and making ourselves uncomfortable as a vehicle for learning. 

Just before the session begins, as people have settled into a table spot, we ask people to get up and move. It is interesting to see people’s reactions; the entire continuum from pouting to chill. As the same session formally begins, I invite people to practice the Zulu tradition (Sikhona /Sawubona) where people have to look each other in the eye, each exchanging the following greeting: One person states, “l am here to be seen…” The other responds, “I see you.” This process clearly puts many people at the edge of their comfort area. 

These ordinary experiences begin a conversation and provide a reference for the bigger concepts. Being self-aware around how we respond to a little change, like moving table seating, becomes a gateway to discuss our readiness to embrace on-going personal transformation. Many of the same principles related to acceptance and resistance exist in the little things. The Sawubona exercise is an avenue for exploring what learning stems out of the idea of getting out of our daily comfort zone. And trust me, a lot of people find the idea of looking someone in the eye during the greeting exchange unnerving.

When we wake up every morning looking for the learning in the ordinary, we can establish frameworks for extraordinary things. If you think networking is important, strike up a conversation with someone in an elevator. Or, watch what happens as you go for lunch. You see an entire delivery system at work when you observe the greeting process, order taking system, delivery and after order care. Want to know how respectful and present people are? See who holds the door open for others in the office building or watch who cleans up their personal space after a snack. Perhaps, take a different route to work to see things from another angle. Eat a different ethnic food to learn how others eat and celebrate culture. Etc, etc. Embrace the learning available to us everyday in the ordinary things. 

Character Moves:

1. Become an expert at learning from the ordinary things every day. 

2. Collect these ordinary moments and use them to build principles guiding your personal learning and ongoing transformation. 

3. Sharpen your self-awareness everyday. What learning are you accelerating within your ordinary routine or challenging outside of it?

Ordinarily extraordinary in the Triangle,


One Millennial View: Some of the best lessons I’ve ever learned stemmed from starting out in a comfortable position, then getting knocked unexpectedly into an unnerving situation with a new problem to figure out. When you emerge unharmed and accomplished, the feeling is hard to beat. I think we naturally attempt to avoid this, but when those rookie team members were situated at their new tables and got over the unfamiliarity of a Zulu greeting, that’s an event they won’t soon forget and are better off for experiencing. 

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis.