Bob was well-mannered, well-groomed, spoke eloquently and always had a bright smile on his face. He also had a penchant for singing Broadway tunes while working. And they weren’t particularly popular Broadway tunes either. For instance, I could really get behind lyrics like “When you’re a Jet, you’re a Jet!” from West Side Story. But Bob preferred tunes from The Pirates of Penzance. Seriously.
Until one particular bright, summer afternoon I really didn’t pay much attention to Bob. It wasn’t that I didn’t like him – he was actually a pleasure to work with; it’s just that I could take him or leave him.
He and I were stocking supplies in the freezer one afternoon when he stopped abruptly, looked at me and asked, “What do you want to be after you graduate, Judith?”
I was a bit taken aback. He and I didn’t usually discuss these types of things (or anything at all for that matter). Still, I wanted to be polite.
“Uh, I want to be a singer, Bob!” I said proudly.
“That’s a good goal for you. You’re a good singer,” Bob said as if to validate my dreams.
Out of courtesy I asked, “What do you want to be, Bob?” – clearly expecting some off-the-wall-answer like, “A singing priest,” or something else that no ‘cool’ kid would ever dream of.
“I want to be President of the United States,” he said without skipping a beat.
I chuckled…until I saw the seriousness on his face.
Seeing the look of astonishment on my face, Bob chimed in, “Judith, the higher you aim the higher you reach. I figure if I don’t make President, I’ll at least be a senator.” Then he went even further and said, “And you should say ‘I’m going to win a Grammy!’ that way you’ll at least be a worthy singer! The higher you aim the higher you reach!”
It’s been years since I’ve seen Bob. In fact, I can’t even remember his last name. But I’ll never forget that conversation and the motivation that he gave me to move forward with my own goals. I figured if Bob could proudly tell me that he wanted to be President, I should be proud of my dreams, too.
I think about that line now and again: When I’ve reached another milestone, when I reflect back to some seemingly small comment someone might have said to change my course. I’ve done so for 30 years. It’s served me well.
Today I don’t know where Bob might be, where he might have landed. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s the CEO of a Fortune 500 corporation. On the other hand, he could also be a speechwriter on staff at the White House, or even more impressive – the world’s best father.
Whatever it is Bob’s doing, he’s likely a huge success at it since aiming high was his creed.
And the higher you aim the higher you reach.