Lessons from Operation Smile

Have you heard of Operation Smile? I just heard a lecture from the co-founder and CEO of the organization, Bill Magee. What they have done during their approximately 30 years of existence is perform facial surgery on over 150,000 children in 60 countries, absolutely free. He showed before and after pictures and they were amazing. The vast majority of these children were so deformed facially that they would never have the opportunity to do what you and I take for granted, smile. A typical surgery lasts about 45 minutes and while most of the surgical teams travel to the countries where the children are, sometimes the children are brought to the US.

While Bill’s message was surely impressive and moving, he used the opportunity to ask the room full of professional speakers he was talking to a very profound question: what’s the difference you can make in the life of another in 45 minutes? Think about that. Here’s what came to me as I thought about his message long after his talk was over.

First, if you’re reading this, can you see how blessed you are and how much you take that for granted? Yes, many of us have challenges and that’s a part of life. But mostly, the challenges we face pale in comparison to those faced by people in third world countries.

Second, for far too many people, life is about our success, our happiness, our accomplishments, our desires, our goals, ….have I made my point? It’s my assertion that the vast majority of people, taking everything we have for granted, spend most of our time thinking about how we can get more of the blessed life we already have.

Now I’m not suggesting that there’s anything wrong with being successful, having a great life, and having all of the things you want. The only problem is that if that’s your focus, I guarantee you you will never achieve the level of fulfillment that’s available to you. I learned a long time ago, and hear me clearly, you will never experience doing for yourself the joy that is available in helping someone else get what they want for them.

Which brings me back to Operation Smile. Every one of you reading this has a gift to give. If you run a company, you likely have many gifts to give, same if you manage people. I invite you to look and see what you can do for another in 45 minutes. Maybe it’s going around and smiling at people or saying hello. Maybe it’s asking someone what you can do for them. You decide. In any event, I invite you to set aside 45 minutes every day to focus on contributing something that you have to give to one or more people. I promise that if you’re not in the habit of doing this and you do, you will discover something profound about life.