Bear with me while I introduce today’s topic, but meanwhile remember this. Everybody on the planet has an invisible red flashing sign on their chest that says, “Make me feel special!”

In late March my wife and I, with another couple of besties, traveled to extreme southwest Georgia, to the hamlet of Colquitt. It’s not the end of the world but you can see it from there. The population is about 2,000 in a county of 6,000. Our journey took us to Cotton Hall for our second visit to Swamp Gravy.

Swamp Gravy is Georgia’s official folk-life play, where stories about family, community, and life and death are portrayed. 2019 is the 26th season for over 100 everyday folks from the surrounding area to dress in period costumes and entertain all comers. For two hours per show a converted cotton barn becomes a playhouse, and the bragging rights for this rural community. Each show is repeated eight times over two weekends, and then the players return to the drawing board to prepare and practice for six weeks for the next production.

To clarify, swamp gravy really is a thing. It is a stew-like dish made from “fish drippings,” left after frying fish. You add tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and whatever else you might have left over. It’s served to family and guests with the fried fish, cornbread, and of course, sweet tea to wash it down.

Before I continue I really need to comment about the first time my crew and I journeyed 1½ hours to Colquitt for a play. Although there are constantly dozens of men, women and children performing, my friend and I, both septuagenarian grandfathers, immediately noticed a young girl, maybe 10 years old, performing in the cast. She was precious and reminded us both of one of our granddaughters. She didn’t have a leading role, nor a supporting role. Because she didn’t have any lines I can’t even describe her as a bit player. I guess she would have to be called an extra, although that in no way does her performance justice. Her smile, her moves and hand gestures, and her mastery of every word during group singing was simply electric. She totally dominated our conversation during the intermission and captured lots of our attention during the second half of the show.

Fast forward a year to this current Swamp Gravy production. As the four of us found our seats and waited for the play to begin, my friend leaned over and said, “I wonder if that cute little girl from last time will be in this play.” Up until that point I hadn’t really thought about her, but I shrugged my shoulders to him, and immediately started surveying the playhouse.

As the play began there she was, in a blue dress with her hair in pig tails, singing her heart out. Although this was a completely different play from the first one we attended, she was again an extra. Call her what you like, she was in her element. I am no thespian but she is good! At her age and stage in life, I know she must spend the lion’s share of her time at school, with family, friends and just being a kid. In spite of all that, she executed her role in this play flawlessly, as if she focused on the songs, movements, interactions, and facial expressions for 12 hours every day. As crazy as it may sound, I found myself watching her in each scene more often than the speaking actors who headlined the production.

Now for you sales manager subscribers to this newsletter, here comes the point you need to snag and internalize. Immediately when the play ended, I worked my way down to the floor of Cotton Hall in search of that girl. I approached her and said, “Excuse me,” and she turned and looked up at me, immediately sticking out her hand to shake mine, as she had probably been instructed to do. I didn’t shake her hand but rather put both my hands on her shoulders. I looked her in the eyes and this is what I said.

“This is the second time I have come here from Albany to see a play. I remember you from a year ago and was very impressed. This time I am even more amazed. This may sound goofy but you are my favorite character out of all 100 people in the production. I can tell that you absolutely love doing this. I REALLY see that you love it. I believe one day you will be an actor.” I then hugged her and she incredulously looked up at me smiling and said, “Thank you.” I walked away and headed for the parking lot.

I “Rocked the Recognition” for two reasons. First, selfishly it feels awesome when I lift up someone else and attempt to make them feel special. Second I wanted her to know that somebody absolutely noticed and admired her performance, and that her hard work is paying off. I would never want her to get exasperated and frustrated and give up before she eventually reaches her personal objectives.

But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded – 2 Chronicles 15:7. 

This entire time I didn’t know this girl’s name or anything about her. My wife received a playbill from an usher but I never looked at it. After I got home that night I sat down and took time to look through it. Inside were photos of each participant along with a mini-bio. Here is what was written about this little gal I’ve been gushing over.

“Harlieanne Williams is an outgoing 11 year old who loves dancing and acting. This is her 5th Swamp Gravy production. Harlieanne hopes to be on Broadway one day.”

When I read that I was so glad I spoke to her and gave recognition about two things that happened to be important to her. I told her twice I could see that “she loved it.” I also shared that I believed she would grow up to become an actor. BTW, is Harlieanne a great name or what?

You Sales Managers out there; divide and conquer… and recognize!

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The contents of Doug’s book are exactly what every sales person needs. He knows face-to-face selling from being out there doing it for many years. You should get a copy of Sell is NOT a Four Letter Word. Peyton Willis, Comfort Consultant, Cooper’s Heating & Air

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