THEY SAID IT, I LEARNED FROM IT

“We need to make a mental note of that somewhere.”

Life is full of experiences. Too many of them pass us by without a second thought. Recording the good and the bad helps remind us of the problems we’ve solved and the roads we’ve traveled. Writing things down makes life a bit richer.

Photo by Jesse Martini on Unsplash

Bob Fisher is a human quote machine. When I first started keeping a book of things I heard people say, it quickly warranted its very own chapter devoted to Bob.

His friends and colleagues oftentimes call Bob by using the sobriquets Fish or Bruno. He quickly answers to both nicknames; however, it isn’t what others call him that’s important. Instead, it’s what they know about him.

They know him to be fiercely loyal, tirelessly hard-working, incredibly devoted to quality, unceasingly eager to help, and amazingly unselfish. If you have a chance to work with Bruno, you’ll never forget it. I had the good fortune of having him as my first boss at what was then Martin Marietta. Through the years, the work experiences we had together would likely not be believed by anyone who wasn’t there to encounter them with us.

We spent a good deal of time during our time as colleagues trying to solve problems. Some years ago, during a late-night meeting, ideas and suggestions were being bandied about at breakneck speed. In the midst of many less than groundbreaking solutions, Bruno heard something that rang true to him. It was a thought he deemed worthy of discussion at some later point in time.

Bruno immediately recognized the importance of the concept just enumerated and proclaimed:

“We need to make a mental note of that somewhere.”

Now, your first read of this quote will likely not engender much of a reaction. When you read it again and focus on the suggestion of where the “mental note” should be made, you just might laugh out loud. All of us say similar things.

Everyone in the room during Bruno’s pronouncement somehow understood his real message: Pay attention. An important idea has just been shared that might solve our problem. Simultaneous to our realization, we also saw the humor in what he actually said. When the laughter subsided, more than just “a mental note somewhere” was recorded. In fact, meeting minutes captured the idea for follow-up and action.

It’s funny how the brain works (or doesn’t). Research reveals that most of what we hear and learn on any given day is forgotten. At other times, information that we’ve known for years is difficult to recall. Once, when Bruno and I had known each other for years, we came upon one of his acquaintances. As Bruno began to introduce me to his associate, his words came out like this: “I’d like to introduce you to my good friend… (blank stare).”

The mental note where he had stored my name for all those years couldn’t be accessed. It was yet another comical moment with the Fish-man. I still rib him about the introduction that wasn’t.

All of us are fond of making mental notes. It’s easy to do. Our intention is to make a particular effort to pay attention to something so that we can remember it later. We subconsciously elect to catalog that “something” somewhere for recall sometime.

But what happens when we make a mental note somewhere?

You know the answer. We’ve all experienced it. The place and the time and the recall never seem to arrive. Mental notes are thus forever lost in the next flurry of ideas or meetings or conversations.

Designs, concepts, potential solutions, intuitions, feelings, brainstorms, dreams, and aspirations are all worthy of formal inscription. Write them down. The beauty of something inscribed is that it is conspicuous. That is precisely why I decided years ago to start capturing the things I heard people say.

If I hadn’t written down my experiences with Bruno, I wouldn’t be opining about mental notes right now. I also wouldn’t be able to place myself with him in Columbus, Indiana, in the year 2000 at the headquarters building of Cummins. Cummins was conducting a large outsourcing deal for all of their global information technology operations. I was the capture executive responsible for winning the $150 million deal and Bruno directed the financial aspects of the agreement.

Cummins Headquarters, Columbus, IN

We delivered our proposal in person while the other two finalists mailed their offerings. I felt like we should use the occasion to spend some time with Chip Gulden, the Cummins executive leading the project on their end.

The proposal was voluminous. Bruno carried the box of 8 or 9 five-inch binders from the reception area all the way to Chip’s office while Chip and I made small talk. We covered, it seems, almost all of the 200,000 square feet of the building in our jaunt. The look on Bruno’s face as he finally set the box down was memorable. Chip asked if he was okay.

Bruno deadpanned, “Yes, but I did go into anaerobic respiration about a quarter-mile back.”

Experiences like this are too precious to lose. I’m glad I wrote it down on the flight back from Indianapolis to Baltimore.

Had I not done so, I would have been left with the mental notes recorded “somewhere” in my brain…and who could expect to find anything there?

Written by Craig Halsey

They said it, I learned from it is a compilation of lessons learned from the things I’ve heard people say over the course of my lifetime. It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. Watch for They Said it, I learned from it every Friday in The Weekly Hodl. It’s perfect reading while you enjoy your second breakfast. Sign up today.

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