The Little Blue Card
David is my lifelong friend from childhood. He had it tough. One of a preacher’s nine kids, he always had to be perfect. David was never allowed to make decisions: they were always made for him. So when he grew up and left home, he made lousy decisions because he didn’t know how to make good ones.
David joined the army and was injured during training, hit on the head with the steel door of an army tank. He’s never been quite the same since. He also got mixed up in using drugs, and has been a real mess his whole adult life.
Years ago, David was admitted to a mental hospital in the beautiful and serene Napa Valley. I flew out to San Francisco, rented a car, and drove to Napa to visit David. This was one of the most powerful, yet upsetting and depressing weeks of my life.
If you’ve seen the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, that was the hospital. (If you haven’t, rent the movie and do a reality check on your life.) Visiting my lifelong friend in that place and seeing him with all of his new neighbors, was very difficult.
The first day, I filled out some paperwork and was given a little piece of blue cardboard that read “Visitor’s Pass“. I used that pass each day when visiting David.
Two months later, back home, I made an amazing discovery. Finding that little piece of blue cardboard in my wallet, I had an epiphany: that visitor’s pass was not my ticket in — it had been my ticket out! That little piece of blue cardboard had made me different: it was what allowed me to come and go as I pleased.
David and all his friends didn’t have a blue card. They could not come and go as they pleased. All decisions were made for them. They completely relied on others to take care of them. They were not self-sufficient.
A big part of what we do for business organizations is self-discovery: managers, employees, everyone. We help people learn more about themselves; not in judgment, but in comparison to everyone else. We all think we’re normal; we all think we know how others feel and think. But it is only through objective self-learning and increased personal awareness that we discover who we really are. That’s a very important and necessary part of succeeding in life. It helps you communicate more effectively; it helps you improve your interpersonal skills and strengthen your relationships; it helps you reduce stress in your life; and it helps you experience greater job satisfaction and career growth. And it drives the Team Covenant contract for individual accountability, improved collaboration, and increased trust.
Your “little blue card” is a metaphor for how well you know yourself. With a strong grip on your little blue card, you have a solid understanding of your personal strengths, biases, interests — and how you view the rest of us. The more objectively you understand yourself, the more you appreciate others, and the tighter grip you will have on your own little blue card.