Two men in an Uber
I use Uber a lot. Multiple times a week, sometimes many times in a single day.
I go from office to meeting, from meeting to meeting and back again. Without sounding like an ad for Uber, it suits me quite well.
I love the conversations I have with the drivers and the fact that I jump in and jump out is quite convenient.
Over the last year, I met two drivers who left me in a mild state of awe after I was dropped off.
They helped me realise what should be most important to me in life, and how to put the things that keep me up at night into perspective.
These experiences helped put my job, my career and my own life into an even clearer perspective. This is a different slant on the weekly articles I write and I hope you can see the relevance, meaning and profound impact these experiences had on me.
I hope the stories here help you achieve some balance in your own work and life.
As usual, I'm standing out the front of our office, waiting for the car to arrive and dash me into the CBD for a quick client meeting.
I rarely check the make of car when ordering an Uber. The drivers usually spot me as they approach, and I don't really give a shit about cars enough, to know the difference between a Hyundai i90 and a Toyota Yaris.
Either way, I notice this car.
It's a slick, black Mercedes Benz and it pulls up to a stop and a handsome, smiling brown-skinned man says, "Hello Dimitri!"
Pearly whites. Crisp white shirt. Handsome. Happy.
I realise he must know me well as he knows my real (Greek) name. I sit inside and I instantly recognise The Doctor. We've met before and swapped stories during a long airport ride very early one morning.
He updates me on his work, his part-time Ubering and his daughter who is completing the International Bacherloreatte. He's excited, proud and a little tired.
I then tell him how proud I am to know him.
You see, on my first ride with The Doctor, I learned that his wife, the love of his life, sadly passed away during childbirth. He single-handedly raised his daughter here in Melbourne, providing for her, guiding her, lifting her up for her highs, comforting her during the difficult times and nursing her during the sad.
He now drives Uber in between shifts to pay for holidays the two of them can take each year.
His daughter is 19 and about to score grades good enough to follow in her fathers medical footsteps.
This man, a father, blew me away with his courage and his ultimate focus on what is truly important.
The Lebanese Soccer Player
Do you know the feeling when you first meet someone and you instantly feel like you've been friends forever?
That's how I felt when I got into the car and met Hassan, a local suburban soccer player who was wearing my high school uniform. Adidas track pants, Metallica t-shirt and a bag full of sports gear in the back seat.
He smiled at me and I thought I was looking at an old high school buddy. Needless to say, we got along like a house on fire.
We laughed out loud at a few things we had in common and shared some personal stories as well.
I'm always interested in people's stories, and I do see Uber as an opportunity to practice my skills in developing empathy. An important skill in the human-centred design methods we use at Tank.
During the conversation he told me that his wife passed away a few weeks ago and was now working Uber to keep his cashflow up as he had four children to raise.
"I have to keep going. I need to keep going."
That's right. Four children.
He cried as he was telling me this.
I cried as I listened to him and in that moment we went from driver/passenger to two men sharing a life experience with one another.
He hugged me and thanked me before I got out.
I haven't seen these two men since but I do hope our paths cross again soon.
I realised through my career that we spend so much time trying to hone a skill, meet the right people, work long hours and please our clients — when in fact, there are other things that are far more important.
For me, my three children are the reason I do everything. I don't feel a need to please anyone but them. I don't feel a need to conform to anything other than my own drive to create a life for them.
These two men showed me that in the face of adversity, bad luck and the terrible sadness of losing someone you love — you just have to stay focussed on the important things in life, put the least important things aside and never stop moving forward.
You have to keep going. You need to keep moving forward.