The Genius Next Door

Genius Next Door

Who knows who you’ll find under here? Maybe a genius.

Wayne Dyer, whom I disagreed with on almost everything important, talked about engaging with even the boring and boorish people around you. He found that when he took a real interest in people that they would unfold to him as fascinating and interesting. There’s no magic here and no special tools are needed. People just like to be heard. To feel a little bit special. To get a word in edgewise. This has always been interesting to me.

I thought about this today when I was talking with someone about getting their car worked on. I knew a guy once, he’s long passed away now, who rebuilt my car’s engine in a weekend as a neighborly gesture. He was just a guy down the street.  I don’t even know what he did for a living. But most nights you could see his garage lit up and glowing with moths flying about. He would putter and make a small racket until bedtime. One Friday, my car started to act up. “Act up” is pretty much the sum total of my mechanical expertise. I thought, “What the heck. I’ll go talk to Joe.” So I walked down the street and, sure enough, he was in his garage. We chatted for a minute and I told him about the sinister gurgle emanating from my car’s engine. He guessed that my problem was more mechanical than demonic and was sure he could help. “Let’s go have a look,” he said.

We wandered down to my place and I started the car. He laughed and shook his head. “Turn it off,” he yelled. “It’s your cam bearing.”

Or something of the sort. I never really knew. “Ugh.” I was smart enough to know that this was bad. “So I have to take it to the garage? Sounds bad.”

“Nah,” he said. “You need to drive it down to my place. We’ll take the engine out tonight and then tear it down and replace the bearing tomorrow. We can put it back together on Sunday.” I’m sure that I looked like I was talking to a crazy person. “Really,” he said. “Nothing to it.”

And that’s exactly what we did. He was completely nonplussed about it as if it was what any neighbor would do. I was amazed through most of the weekend. What I saw as confusing and complex was simple to him. He just worked methodically step by step to pull the engine and make the repair and then did the same thing in reverse to put it all back together. I supplied an extra pair of hands and a few rounds of the Champagne of Beers.  It really did look easy when he did it. The car was up and running by the time Sunday football came on. He refused to take any money and said that I could help him with something one day but I truly doubted that I had any skill he would be interested in.

So. Talk to the people around you. Ask them about their story. More times than not you’ll find that you are surrounded with interesting people.