Always Send Back The Elevator!

It is a cliché but one laced with truth – No man ever achieves success all by himself – At some point in our lives, we have all seen farther because we stood on the shoulders of others, seen clearer because others provided fresh eyes for us, and walked faster because we ran with more accomplished runners. Indeed, it is true that success doesn't come easy, but no one manages to make their dreams work without a combination of hard work and others opening and holding the door for them from time to time.

Sadly though, some press the ‘close door’ button on the elevator permanently as soon as they get to the peak of the building. They keep the elevator on their floor and never send it back. As you reach your goals and benefit from the opportunities others afforded you, don't forget to pass the good sentiment along and help those coming up behind you. The stories of a vast majority of Fortune 500 CEOs are underpinned by one constant – ‘someone took a chance on me’. In your journey of life, people will cut you some slack, believe in your dreams, give you a job even when you are not the most qualified and take a chance on you. Every one of us has a burden of responsibility to pass this on to others. It's only right for us to extend a helping hand back to the people who need it the most, especially when we're in a position to do so. Yet, while sending the elevator back is one thing, someone must be available at the right floor to get in once it arrives. Too many people complain with asperity about others not lending them a helping hand but the reality is that history is replenish with cases of misused opportunities. As they say, timing is everything.

However, even if no one sends you the elevator always remember that there is a twist in this metaphor. The actual point is good, but the subject takes a slant and pales in thorough logic. The elevator sends itself back down when its needed, so in the best case you're just making something that was already going to happen slightly faster and in the worst case you're making it slower for someone who wasn't where you expected them to be. The point here is that people will not always be gracious to send back the elevator, but ‘time and chance’ has a way of sending it back to us. The big question is are we always there to get in? Do we hear the beep when it arrives?

In the final analysis, no one gets to where they are on their own. We all owe our success, in part, to someone who gave us our first opportunity, believed in us enough to put us in a role that was a stretch, or pushed us to speak up when we would have preferred to stay comfortably quiet. What’s the best way to thank those advocates? By following their lead, paying it forward, and lifting others up as we climb. As Kevin Spacey once said “If you’re lucky enough to do well, it’s your responsibility to send the elevator back down.”


  1. Insightful! And I know someone that has made it a point of duty to send the elevator down: Sammie. I believe I've been privileged enough to be riding in the elevator he sent down, and all I want to do is send it down, too.


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