“The older I get,” wrote television legend Fred Rogers, “the more convinced I am that the space between people who are trying their best to understand each other is hallowed ground.”
I did not grow up in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, but in a way, I vicariously walked into that space when our three children were young. Every afternoon, they would be glued to the television as Mr. Rogers sang his way into and out of 30 minutes of wonder, learning, and love. In this season of unhinged incivility and negative rhetoric, we long for such a voice now silenced 15 years ago when he died.
What is this “hallowed ground” between two people who are laboring to understand each other? What does this metaphor say to advisors who, through calls and visits, connect with the people we serve or would like to serve? Is such “hallowed ground” language even appropriate in business? Some would say it’s not. But if it is, what would such sacred turf look and feel like in 2019?
From the advisory neighborhood in which I work, engagements with clients that are transformational, life-changing, dare I say business-building have this hallowed ground factor in play. You may suddenly feel lush, grassy turf under your feet when another shares a story of failure and triumph, disappointment and renewal. Times are, you look down and see you are standing in what appears to be a barren, brown, lifeless patch of dusty dirt. A client reveals how the loss of a parent has immobilized the estate-settling process. They look up and see your face and you know, somewhere in your soul, that you are standing on sacred ground.
Such awareness of life’s holy places does not come without our own times spent there. Some among us choose to live or fall into being “professional” and “together” unaware of those tender places in their stories that changed who they are. But some choose another way. Some prefer to name pain and loss, fear and helplessness, failure and recovery knowing that being more self-aware is the first step to being more others aware. I contend that advisors who choose to stand in their own hallowed places more readily perceive those places in others.
Here at the beginning of another year, what if you chose to re-visit your own story looking for the hallowed ground on which you have stood? Was it a magical season when you met your spouse, that first “real” job when you connected with a trusted mentor, the birth of your first child? Keep looking. Find those difficult, rocky, lonely places when death visited, a career took a setback, a relationship died, or money was in short supply. Who was there? What did you learn? What did life shape in you and bring from you that is now sacred memory become hallowed ground?
Most of all, choose to stay dialed into understanding others, listening to stories, putting a finger on your joy and pain pressure points aware of those places in others. Such labors may find you feel the earth move, your life changed, and your business transformed.