My biggest fear as a third grader was going to fourth grade. Do you want to know why? That meant I would have Mrs. Mueller (Hi Mrs. Mueller! Don’t worry this wont be bad, I promise). Mrs. Mueller was not scary at all, but she had high expectationss. The only one I remember: CURSIVE! Who still uses cursive? Not me, I know that for sure - that’s a lie, I sign my name in cursive, but that barely counts! Most of my friends had this same deep fear of cursive, mostly because we thought it was a whole new language. To this day I remember the border of her classroom lined with the cursive letters and the countless hours we spent practicing our penminship on large notebook paper. Now, this was a difficult task for me to begin with. For anyone who knows me well enough to have seen me write, they know that I can barely read my own hand writing. I am kinda like a doctor, except without the medical training and only pharmacists can read my handwriting. This proved a significant challenge for my teachers throughout the years, especially when coupled with my poor punctuation habits (Sorry, Mrs. Ramsey!) and adding cursive to the mix was not helping. We were told that we would use cursive as adults. I still maintain that I was lied to - about cursive - but not about writing.
This was an important year. I think it was that summer when I started using the internet for real, with a 56K modem that would be overpowered by the phone everytime it rang and kick you off AOL. AOL was in their hayday back then – mailing us magical CD’s that had hours of internet on them and drawing us in so we could hear “You’ve Got Mail!” We all remember our first email. Ok, maybe not the first one, but we remember the feeling of hearing that phrase. I don’t know about you, but I recall logging in, clicking on the little mailbox that had envelopes hanging out the door and attentively reading whatever automated or personal messages were there. I would respond quickly and then call my friend on the other side and say – “Hey, I got your email. I sent you one too, write back.” Those were the days! We could cut through all the junk mail (like those AOL CD’s) that we got in our real mailboxes and get the real messages we wanted from friends, loved ones, and the occasional online coupon for our neighborhood store. I remember being able to log into email just once a day, usually in the evening, after finishing my homework and eating dinner with family. Maybe talk for a few minutes with friends online, send a couple emails and, and forward something funny that we got in mass, usually an internet meme like the one below:
Doesn’t that take you back to 1996! Just before we would log off we would hit refresh hoping for more email. One day when I have children, I will tell him this story of internet as if I was walking uphill both ways to school – they won’t believe me.
It is 2012, what do we do now? Turn off the internet, block our chat messages and try to answer all the emails we have. I spent most of the day today transfering files to a new computer from an old one and using the time as an opportunity to clear out old files and emails. I must have deleted thousands. I still have a surprising amount of emails archived between my five email addresses. Ok, first of all – why do I need five – that’s kind of redundant, they all come to the same iPhone anyways. We are straying from the point, what was it again? Oh yeah! Email we love it! Right?! WRONG. It has become the bain of our existance. We have to either schedule time to bring down our inbox count or spend our entire day inside email cause somehow that is where “work” gets done. Don’t get me wrong, email is efficient, it is fast, it is easy to organize and it has catalogued a legacy that we can leave behind. But who would want to go through all that mess anyways. It is easier to just hit CTRL + A + DELETE.
Do you want to know what I have enjoyed rediscovering over the past few years – no not cursive – but regular mail. I enjoy the walk to the mailbox to see what I get, not the bills, the ads, or even the magazines – but the notes. Whether it be a thank you note, holiday card, or just a note to say hello. I tear into that envelope like it is full of candy and read it before I get back to the door. Here is the thing, you do too. Why? Because it is so personal, so real, so amazing because “You’ve Got Mail!” Below is one of my favorite @TEDTalks by @LakshmiPratury– it isn’t one of the most popular on the site, it really isn’t that ground breaking. It is refreshing, a reminder of the legacy we leave when we actually pick up a pen and paper and send a real message to another person.
We all know how refreshing it is to receive a hand written note. I’ll tell you what – I save every one. They are in a bundle in one of my drawers and from time to time I read through them. At the corner of my desk I have a stack of legal pads and a box of personalized stationary. When I have some down time I will grab a piece and write a quick note or a letter to a friend, colleague or someone I am desiring to meet. I affix a stamp and send it on its way. I don’t expect responses, but I often receive them.
I also send notes to people I don’t know all that well, but met in passing for a brief moment. I tell them how great it was to meet them at the given time and place and how much I enjoyed a specific part of our conversation or their contribution to a cause I was supporting and close with an open ended opportunity to engage. More often than not, I will connect with that person again, sometimes it is years in the future, but I’ll tell you what – they remember me, they remember that note, and more importantly – they remember how it made them feel – important. That’s exactly how I feel when I get a note. Important enough to matter to the person who sent it. Show people that they matter to you again, it is refreshing. Write a note, get in the habit of it, be personal, authentic, and real. I don’t care if you write it to a friend, a client, a colleague, a family member, or someone who you hope to meet. It really doesn’t matter all that much what you say, or how you say it, just say it yourself. Send a note, send a letter, write it yourself, in cursive if you know how, and make a real relationship – not just a connection.
In the end, every interaction you have with someone should be one that makes them come away feeling loved, lisetened to, and important. There is a reason I have a depth in the relationships I do, they are purposeful, personal, and genuine – not just a handshake – a hug. Give people something to look forward to, everytime they engage with you – I promise you that you will create a real legacy with others.
Ok, back to email - (click) Refresh.