Having had the fortune to travel internationally recently means I have met with individuals from all walks of life, and interacted with numerous organisations small and large.
And in being reminded by my recent travel journeys on how exciting and diverse the world really is, I’ve also realised how easy it can be to challenge our own relevance and that in finding our path, we can sometimes lose sight of ourselves in the enormity of it all.
However, my experiences and my role – leading Small Business for NAB and advocating for this diverse community of business owners – has left me more confident than ever that the role each of these individuals plays in this great global ecosystem is an important one.
And so as I come to land home in Australia, looking from the cabin window at the sunshine streaming over millions of people going about their daily business, I recall one of my favourite recent quotes.
What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all. (Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic)
The contribution each of makes does matter enormously, to the lives of those around us and as a vital cog in the complex working wheel. And sometimes it will feel too big and too hard. And when that happens it doesn’t matter at all; resilience and confidence in our place are the skills that mean we will continue to make an impact, to matter enormously.
Each of us makes an impact every day. The individuals I will remember from this trip are not those that made the grandiose gestures. It’s the hotel receptionist who patiently dealt with numerous requests for printing – proudly confiding in me that she only started five weeks earlier and this was her first role of trust with her employer. Or, the woman in the regional airport who stopped to say she liked an outfit – unprompted kindness bringing a smile to my face in a dark terminal waiting for a late night flight. Making kindness is an everyday thing.
Our own contribution counts. Meeting individuals with passion and drive is inspiring. And it doesn’t matter what that passion and drive is- put to use it will create opportunity and build skills and economies and goodwill. For example, the barista in his newly opened cafe with huge pride in his product, still seeking to learn from our exacting Australian standards. The world needs the many thousands of small businesses to exist with respect for fellow businesses, and with a desire to succeed and to sustain. Every small business owner, every individual, has the ability to inspire. Making your contribution with passion is an impactful thing.
The greatest gift is time. As I reflect on my many and varied conversations recently, I think about the time given by individuals with whom I had them. It is not the long conversations that will stick with me. Whilst there is, of course, an inherent generosity in those they are not the gift that meant the most. The time spent with real purpose, with a shared sense of curiosity, with individuals who were truly invested in the conversation (whatever its length) – these are the conversations I will remember. It allows me to ask myself, how we might support small business owners in giving customers their time? Making time with purpose is a gracious thing.
My conversations leave me feeling that there are times that each of us wonder if our contribution may not matter at all, and for the small business owner, those times can be deeply challenging.
And my belief is that every individual plays a vital role in this complex community we call life, and that by continuing to act with passion and impact and purpose the contribution, what each of us makes will matter enormously.