crown-keyHow present are you, day to day, with family members, colleagues, and customers?

Most of us humans live in our “own worlds” some of the time, focused on our experiences, our concerns, our needs, and our desires.

When we’re in our own world, we don’t notice others. In that mindset, we’re unable to respond nimbly to others or to respond to opportunities around us.

When we’re not present, the message we send to others is “you are not important.”

Sometimes when we’re not present, we put lives in danger. Let me offer an example.

Years ago I was a school bus driver. The picture above is of a “Crown key,” which opened the storage compartments on the 91-passenger Crown buses I typically drove.

Safe operation was a primary concern. I was well-trained to conduct safety inspections of my bus before every route.

On this particular trip, I was transporting fifty high schoolers to a student government conference, an eight-hour drive away.

I’d been doing this trip for years. We loaded the students on Thursday at 5pm so we could arrive at the state capital hotel by 2am. The conference began at 9am the following morning.

I settled in to the routine of driving. Most of the students were asleep. Traffic on the highway was light, typical at 11pm.

I hit an unexpected bump – unusual for a big loaded rig. The bus was handling fine, so I thought nothing of it.

A moment later, one of the students walked up the aisle to me and said, “I think I just saw something fly past my window outside when we hit that bump.” I told him thanks, I’ll handle it, and to return to his seat.

Within a few minutes, two semi-trailer trucks pulled alongside my bus and honked their air horns. I looked and waved – and kept driving. These two rigs honked again and again. I kept driving.

The trucks then maneuvered in front of me to slow me down. Lights flashing, the trucks carefully guided me and my bus to the side of the road.

Confused, I got out and asked what was wrong. The drivers walked me to my left rear axle and shined a flashlight on the inner dual rim. The tire had burst, leaving just the sidewalls on the rim. That was the bump I felt. And, it was the torn away tire that the student had seen flying past the window.

The rim was aglow with the heat generated by the shredded tire. If I’d have kept driving, the heat would have caused a fire, putting the lives of those students at risk.

The trucks guided my bus slowly to an all-night truck stop where the tire was replaced. The rest of the trip was uneventful.

I spent the whole weekend chastising myself for not paying attention – for “going through the motions” when my responsibilities required me to be fully present.

I am still, today, grateful for the truck drivers’ attention and service to help a young bus driver who should have known better.

Show up, every day. Be observant. Be present. Don’t just be ready to engage – engage!

When are you fully present? When do you “go through the motions”? What practices and prompts help you to “show up” every day with family, peers, & customers? Share your thoughts about this post/podcast in the comments section below.

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Photo © 2013 Chris Edmonds. All rights reserved.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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Reader Interactions


  1. AvatarLyn Boyer says

    Chris, What a great story. I thought of another insight from it. As a former high school principal, I thought about the interaction with the student and how easy it is to discount suggestions and concerns of people who are not experts because of their age or inexperience or our mindset that we are in charge of a situation. We remain in that mindset until someone with authority or expertise comes along and disavows us of our mistaken beliefs. In your case it was two large trucks. Thanks for all you do.

    • S. Chris EdmondsS. Chris Edmonds says

      Thanks, Lyn – you’re absolutely right! If we’re not fully present (sometimes even when we ARE), we can discount others who “can’t be experts” in our eyes!

      Discounting anyone’s ideas or expertise is an example of us sending yet another “you are not important” message.



  2. AvatarJoe Scherrer says

    Really related to this especially given the executive and career coaching that I do. As a coach, you really have to be there with your clients. This requires focus and internal monitoring so that you don’t drift out of the conversation. In fact, I’ve found that the overall quality of my conversations and relationships has gone up since I’ve learned the skills of coaching.

    Appreciate your story.

  3. AvatarDS says

    Fantastic illustration about merely showing up in “normal mode.” My wife has had a driving conversation with me about my exiting of the highway near our home – when I’m in “auto” I’ll drive right past our exit as if completing my commute.

    I try to remind myself that I may never have this moment again, so I better show up and be present.

  4. AvatarTravis Waits says

    Great message & reminder Chris! I appreciate where you said, “Show up, every day. Be observant. Be present. Don’t just be ready to engage – engage!” It is so easy to stay head-down in building/driving/hustling mode in our business’ and leadership. We benefit, as do others when we “show up!”

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