Life is a Multiple-Choice Test

It takes 14+ hours to get from Columbus, OH, to Hilton Head Island, SC. My neighbors say it can be done in 10 hours, but I’m not sure I believe them. Then again, I don’t put it past some of them to break the speed limit at NASCAR levels.

On our recent spring break, we left our house around 7:30am and drove through Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. We crossed rivers and wove our way through mountains — even experienced a tunnel or two — before finally arriving on the island at 10pm. Needless to say, we were low on gas, energy, and good cheer.

Hilton Head likes to pretend it’s a gated community which is why they put guard shacks on almost every street. Our hotel lay somewhere beyond the guard shack we were approaching after our long, long journey.

I rolled the window down as Carlos, the guard at this particular gate, beamed an electric smile at me that completely lit up the night.

“WELCOME TO HILTON HEAD ISLAND! (Yes, he spoke this in all caps) How may I assist you?” Happy, friendly, eager to serve. I immediately suspected mood enhancing drugs or a serious amount of Red Bull had been consumed inside that shack.

Matching about 2% of his enthusiasm, I replied, “We’re looking for the Hilton Oceanfront Resort.” Tired, sleepy, borderline coherent. But he’d seen enough of our kind to know exactly what we needed.

Oh, the HILTON!” he exclaimed in a voice that indicated we had been very wise in our selection of accommodations. You’d have thought I said we were staying with the Queen. “Oh, BUCKINGHAM PALACE!” Same treatment.

He continued on with similar verve, “Continue straight down the very same path you are on and you will arrive at the Hilton in exactly 56 seconds. It will appear on your left.

I glanced at the wife and the kids. All were grinning from ear to ear, moments away from an all out giggle-fest.

You will have such a wonderful stay at the Hilton that you’re never gonna want to leave. Enjoy your vacation.” All the while, that big, happy, genuine smile stayed put right there on his face. He then waved us on as if he was pointing Cinderella toward the ballroom and he already knew the end of the story.

The moment we moved forward, our previously groggy, slightly cranky, almost lifeless vehicle exploded in energy, laughter, and rapid fire conversation.

That was AWESOME.”
I’ve never seen anybody so happy at 10pm.
Dad, why did he say we’d be there in 56 seconds?
Are you counting the seconds, dad?
That almost makes up for 14 hours in the car.”
You HAVE to write about this in your newsletter!

It was the single best greeting I’ve ever received anywhere in my entire life. We experienced that greeting for one reason:

Carlos chose the right answer.

You see, life is a multiple-choice test. Every day, several times a day in fact, we are presented with multiple-choice scenarios.

Imagine you’re Carlos and today you’ve been assigned the night shift at the guard shack. What will you do?

A. Complain to your wife, your friends, your co-workers, and maybe even your customers about your sucky night job.

B. Clock in, do your job, grumble quietly to yourself, clock out, go back home.

C. Pleasantly go about your work, show a bit of interest in your customers and co-workers, and do a pretty good job overall.

D. Decide to be really, really amazing at your job and do everything you can to use your positive skills, delight your customers, and improve your company through your contribution.

Notice there is no “all of the above” option on this test. There’s no mixing and matching. And, most importantly, there MUST be an answer. If you don’t choose your answer, you will default to one. And I promise you, it won’t be answer D. At best, you’ll default to answer B or C, depending on how you feel and whether you’re having a good hair day or not.

To achieve answer D you have to consciously choose it. You have to work at it a bit. I’ll bet even Carlos has to work at it when those car windows roll down and release the pent-up smell of Doritos and body odor from a carful of ornery and demanding vacationers.

The answers to every multiple-choice scenario may vary in specifics, but you always have a range of responses to choose from — from extremely negative to extremely positive, from selfishness to service, from underwhelming to extraordinary.

I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes fail a multiple-choice test, and I often don’t score as high as I could. But, thankfully, there is always another test just minutes away. I can change my grade anytime I choose by choosing a better answer on the next test.

Most people don’t ever choose the “D” type of answer. Most people shoot for average and that’s exactly what they deliver. We drove by that guard shack at least a dozen times after that first memorable night. Each time we secretly hoped another guard might give Carlos a run for his money. Some were pleasant enough. A few even smiled at us. But nobody even came close to replicating Carlos’ magnificent mojo.

You are likely just a few minutes away from your next multiple-choice test. As with any test, it helps to prepare at least a little bit ahead of time. So, got an idea of what your answer is going to be?

I hope you ace it.


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