In the early 17th century, Spanish author, poet, and playwright Miguel de Cervantes introduced the world to knight-errant Don Quixote. Critics came to view Cervantes’s work as a tragedy because Don Quixote’s intrinsic idealism was viewed as insane and he was ultimately defeated and rendered useless by common reality.
However, it’s also safe to say that the character of Don Quixote survives to this day due to his innate ability to see the positive side of every situation and fight for his (albeit befuddled) belief system. Even if the delusional Don Quixote ultimately fought windmills he imagined were giants, you can’t say the guy didn’t have the guts to try.
In more modern times, a person known for “tilting at windmills” is considered a fool for trying to defeat an enemy which is not taken seriously by others.
You know, call me crazy—but I can relate as I’ve been battling a windmill or two of my own lately.
In launching my professional courtesy initiative, RediscoverCourtesy.org, my first national press release resulted in a shocking controversy—and I went into this project thinking nothing could be less controversial than promoting manners in the workplace. Alas, my friends at Gawker.com decided that my professional courtesy mission was worthy of lampooning and 20,000 page views later, I actually found myself extremely grateful for the hullabaloo that resulted.
And yes, a handful of Gawker readers thought I was nuts. Though a few were less than kind, it’s hard to get too worked up over comments made by people who disappear behind screen names like “BooBoo123” and “StallionManTX.” Say what you want about Gawker, but some of the comments proved to be extraordinarily insightful as well. Besides, let’s face it, controversy “sells.”
I have tested every reasonable maneuver possible to make my content (a mixture of serious and whimsical) and my videos (where I allow myself to play the fool) worthy of sharing on social media with mild results. Though there’s little doubt the social media landscape is flooded with way too much information, I have come to realize it may be easier to get republicans and democrats to agree on healthcare legislation than get meaningful content shared on social media if it doesn’t involve a talking baby, a wardrobe malfunction, or Kim Kardashian’s derriere.
I mean—how crazy is that?
A notable victory has been the Rediscover Courtesy LinkedIN Group where members thoughtfully guide each other with suggestions and comments intended to solve specific professional-courtesy dilemmas. This group has taught me so much and continues to challenge my thought process on a regular basis.
Take that, windmill!
Though I have certainly had wonderful supporters in the human resources field who have graciously shared my message with thousands of HR professionals, I have yet to receive a single comment from anyone in the human-capital focused community—a group I desperately need in my corner. Though it could be said I am “preaching to the choir” by targeting HR folks, I must confess it sure would be nice if some of them would sing along with me occasionally.
Most of my emails to colleagues and media representatives go unanswered with the notable exceptions of Public Radio’s Marketplace with Kai Ryssdal and CNBC.com whose support says much about the ethical standards of the producers and editors working for both of these organizations.
And finally, in a recent discussion with one of my mentors, sales and professional development guru, Jeffrey Gitomer, my plea for advice began with the following: “As a writer and speaker, you have an empire supporting you in Charlotte, North Carolina; as I writer and speaker, I have a laptop in Naples, Florida.” Gitomer certainly did not disappoint, as he never does, and provided me invaluable guidance for moving forward. To those of you who take the time to mentor others—thank you. There is no act of professional courtesy more powerful.
Before someone accuses me of “whining,” I am simply sharing the truth. If there is one thing I have learned throughout this process, there is an extremely precarious relationship between being truthful and being courteous. Don Quixote remained chivalrous by simply ignoring the truth thus elevating a simple pleasant girl to the position of high-born lady. Alas, in today’s complex business world, it ain’t that easy.
But, I suppose I am a “windmill tilter” by nature and a-tilting I will go into the foreseeable future. When total strangers share, “I was on the verge of becoming someone I didn’t want to be,” and “I’ve felt so alone for the last several years as I’ve seen professional courtesy fly out the window,” I know it’s all worthwhile—I can make a difference.
So, call me crazy if you want—but I honestly feel courtesy, creativity, and positive interactions are the only way to guarantee ongoing success. So while there are some folks who will continue to think the decline in professional courtesy is simply a windmill, I know it’s really a giant ready to devour our professional lives.
So armed with no outside funding, a laptop, a handful of bighearted advisors, and a professional desire to stand for something truly meaningful, I will fearlessly continue my quest – full tilt.
Marketing guru, business humorist, professional-courtesy advocate, branded-content writer, creative-development consultant, and entertaining motivational speaker Randall Kenneth Jones is the creator of RediscoverCourtesy.org and the president of MindZoo, a marketing communications firm in Naples, Florida.