Sunday, May 31, 2009

One Man's Trash....

I came across a strange little story in today's New York Post ( It is about music-memorabilia dealer Howard Fischer and the fact that he has found many valuable music albums, old comedy recordings, and even famous speeches by Winston Churchill, all in his neighbor's trash.

"The recordings are on 7- and 10-inch plastic discs, in brown paper sleeves with handwritten labels. They were made in the mid-'40s, but it's not clear which radio shows, or even which stations, the devoted listener recorded. Fischer thinks his unknowing benefactor must have recorded the shows with some primitive device he made himself. "

Now even the Library of Congress is interested in getting its hands on these recordings.

I suppose the appropriateness of what Fischer is doing can be debated, but I can't stop thinking about the person who threw the recordings away. The person who made the originals obviously knew how unique the records are and how difficult they were to make. I suspect the person who threw them away was not the original owner and probably someone who didn't know or care about their value. Maybe it was a relative who thought, "Let's get rid of this trash." Or, "it can't be valuable if one of our family members owned it." Little did that person know the value of the "trash" right there in that apartment.

In our book, "Ordinary Greatness," we write about leaders tendencies to do this same de-valuing, but instead of music recordings, they tend to underestimate the people they lead. There are several blinders that get in the leader's way -- personal bias, preconceived notions, busyness, compartmentalization, and external focus. Any of them could be at play here.

As you interact with those you lead this week, watch out for these blinders, and remember -- there is valuable treasure right were you are. Don't throw it away!

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