I remember all of my school teachers from Kindergarten through the 6th grade. I remember some of my teachers beyond that point, but life started getting complicated at the 7th grade level when they began introducing me to multiple teachers, changing classrooms throughout the day and, (yes I noticed), reduced recess time! This is otherwise known as “growing up”, but I didn’t realize it at the time.
My Kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Thompson. I liked her. Beyond being tall, slim, and brunette, I don’t remember much about her, but there is one incident involving her that I will never forget. One day Mrs. Thompson gave each of us students a wax-coated Dixie cup ½ way filled with soil, and a lima bean the size of your thumbnail. She explained that we would all be growing our very own plants, which we could later take home, and she explained the whole process. What I vividly remember is that when we left school that day, there were some 20-odd little smudged Dixie cups sitting in a long row on the classroom window sill, and I could hardly wait to see the plants that Mrs. Thompson told us would surely spring forth from the probably over-watered soil.
I hardly slept that night. I was excited about what we would find as we arrived at school the next day, already visualizing a long row of little lima bean plants. In fact, that may very well have been the first and LAST time that I eagerly awaited the next school day for the rest of my life, and I owe that scar to dear Mrs. Thompson and the extreme disappointment that I was about to face when I rushed excitedly into the classroom the next day.
Mrs. Thompson lied to us. I was shocked! Never did it occur to me that this was even a possibility, and yet, there was the unmistakable evidence: 20+ Dixie cups sitting on the window sill, looking exactly like they had when we’d last seen them. And Mrs. Thompson showed no signs of guilt or remorse! Worse, she stuck to her story even though on days 2 and 3, the cups looked no different! You, of course, know how the story ends and how Mrs. Thompson’s credibility was restored. Long about day 4 or 5, little green lima bean plants began to sprout up from each of the cups and we all began to understand how that works. Referrals are like that, though I didn’t initially get the connection on that either. Later, in my business life, I became focused on growing my business through referrals. I was interested in warm, personal introductions to people who were in the market for my product or service. I was under the impression that if I were trustworthy, credible, reliable, and embodied a host of other “seed-like” qualities, people would immediately realize that and begin to refer me to their close friends, clients, relatives, etc. Instant, on-the-spot rewards! In time I learned, thank you, Mrs. Thompson, that trust is the foundation of effective referral generation, and I could neither rush nor bypass the process. The relationships that produced the referrals I was looking for took lots of cultivating (i.e. watering, fertilizing, weeding, etc.) to build the credibility and trust that resulted in success. I don’t like the waiting part of the process any more now than I liked waiting for that lima bean to finally sprout, but I did learn the lesson. Thank you, Mrs. Thompson, for planting that seed. And thank you to the many who came afterwards who nurtured and cultivated that seed. Now I get it.