The Source of Your Goodness

IMG_0715A few weeks ago I had one of the best phone calls of my life.

I had reached out to an organization holding the rights to a very special license that I’ve loved since I was a kid. I highly doubted I would hear back from them…but then I did. They called me. And they were genuinely interested in me making a board game with them. (No, I can’t say what the license is yet, because it’s not final.)

I got off the phone absolutely glowing. I paused for a few seconds to bask in what had just happened…and then I called my parents.

This is coming from someone who calls his parents exactly once a week every Sunday. I like staying in touch with them, but once a week is the right amount. So a random call out of the blue on a Thursday is highly uncharacteristic of me. But I simply had to tell them the good news.

It wasn’t until I watched a TED talk by Bob Chapman yesterday that I knew exactly why I had called my parents. But he nailed it near the end of a story he tells (it starts in the video here) about what employees do after they receive a big award at his company. It’s a reward that recognizes the goodness in people, as Chapman tells it.

Chapman has been giving this award for years, and he’s noticed a pattern. After receiving the reward, almost every person does the same thing: They call their mother.

Here is Chapman’s interpretation of this gesture: “There is an unbelievable need in each one of us…to tell the person who is the source of your goodness that you turned out okay.”

I love that. I absolutely love it. The first part is that the person we reach out to is the “source of our goodness.” I think that’s the best way of putting it, because that’s not always going to be your mother or father. In fact, I can think of several other people in my life that play a huge role in my moral compass. But my parents are a big part of that.

The second part is why you make the call–it’s to tell that person that you turned out okay. There is something profoundly human about this. We don’t make these special calls to brag or gloat or defend ourselves or prove anything.

We just want that person–the source of our goodness–to know that we turned out okay. It’s part reassurance, and part compliment.

I listened to that part of Chapman’s talk several times, because it so directly connected with the phone call I made to my parents. I knew there was something deeper going on, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I feel a little more complete now that I can put words to it.

Have you ever had this experience?