This past week, my husband’s job took him to Park City where he spent the better part of each day dealing with the AV and other technological needs of a group of Anesthesiologists. This was their annual gathering where doctors from around the world came to listen in on the most recent updates in the anesthesia world. Pretty prestigious if you ask me. I took some time and joined my husband for a few of the last days of the conference. I took advantage of the luxurious amenities at the resort while he worked. Sans kids, it was wonderful!
On the last evening of the conference we attended a very nice dinner party. What follows is what I learned from that evening:
By passing the valet, we walked into an elegant, yet rustic club house. We were greeted kindly by a gentleman who knew my name, shook hands and exchanged thank you’s as we meandered into the dining area. As the doctors milled in with their dates and cocktails, I became keenly aware of the insecurity that wells up when you don’t know anyone in the room but your spouse. My deep introverted tendencies came flooding to the surface, (what? you’ve never seen me be inverted or insecure? its there- I assure you!), and I found myself clinging to the corner of the room where a few other people were waiting around. Part of me said that perhaps I’d feel more comfortable with a wine glass in my hand, while the other part of me felt okay with chilling in the background. But I knew I was missing out on something.
I followed my husband around the room while talking to a few people, making awkward conversation, and then finally we decided to sit down with a group of people he worked closely with every day in the office: two very pleasant gals and a gentleman. We made small talk, joked about how my husband really dislikes desserts and then the conversation died down. We were left to chat with each other quietly under the loud roar of the other tables gregarious with laughter and gestures. Maybe it was all of the alcohol.
My husband and I looked around and started doing some tallying. It seemed that the average income level at the other tables was between $350,000 and $500,000 (maybe more?) annually, while our little table probably averaged out at about $40,000. Hmm. Now, I do not mean to make this sound shallow and only about money. This isn’t about money. But there was a point in our quiet conversation where we stopped and asked each other, why did we sit here? There were about 5 other tables that we could have sat down at and had the opportunity to mingle with new people, from different places, about different topics that we had never explored before. It would have been perhaps a little uncomfortable, a little strange engaging in unknown conversations, but it would have been challenging in a positive way. I think that learning to be a little uncomfortable is important in the growing process on the way to successfully developing and trying yourself.
Naturally, we took the easy way out and sat with familiar people, familiar, mundane conversation (which, admittedly, was just as much OUR fault as anyone’s!) and the comfort of not having to stretch ourselves socially. We missed out. First, because I didn’t stretch myself and bring up topics of conversation to engage us all. I was lazy. And secondly, we missed out because I was scared to talk to people who I felt were beyond my social status reach. I missed out on rubbing shoulders with “successful” people that evening. I missed out on making new authentic connections. And I did them the disservice also, by not letting them peer into me for an evening.
The money factor was staring us in the face and since that evening, I have thought about what large amounts of money mean to me. To me, when I meet someone who has done well for themselves, I am automatically full of respect for them. I see their ability to work hard, and smart. I see business-sense, networking and social intelligence. I see someone who is cultured and well-rounded. And I realize that it was not the MONEY that brought those attributes, but it was those wonderful characteristics that helped them expand their earning potential.
These are the people I want to surround my life with. Whether there are large amounts of money involved or not, it is the people who are strong of character, passion, confidence and social finesse that I want to know. For you become most like those you associate with. To me being a successful person is a package deal. It is being able to start and maintain meaningful conversation with a complete stranger. It is helping someone feel comfortable and positive. Success is realizing your talents and utilizing them for the betterment of yourself, others and for the building of a community where you are respected and admired. It is making money with these skills and creating value with that money.
I realize that success is a very subjective term. And I certainly don’t mean to say that the people we mingled with that evening were not successful. I’m sure they have done very well for themselves in many ways. In all actuality, they were just like us. But if we always associate with people who are just like us, how can we grow?
After that evening, my husband and I made a promise to each other that in future social settings we will do our best to reach out to others around us. We will sit at the table with the highest average “salary” (perhaps literally, perhaps figuratively) and we will do our part to boost the average. We will sit with prestige, so that we will be just that.