The Five Second Lifetime Impression" by Prof Gerald August

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In 1985, I attended the annual convention of the National Speakers Association. I had recently joined the organization, and was trying to learn how to become a professional speaker. One of the general session speakers was a man named Gene, who had won three Emmys writing for a famous television comedian.

After he finished speaking, there was a break before the smaller group sessions began. I was thinking of becoming a humorous speaker, so I approached him and was having a conversation about how to pursue that goal. At one point, a friend of Gene's came up and started talking to him.

I figured my time with Gene had ended. I was grateful for the three-minutes, and began to turn to walk away. But out of the corner of his eye he saw me turning, and he waved with his hand that I should stay. After talking to his friend, Gene turned back and continued our conversation for another few minutes. I do not remember our conversation. But 26 years later, I still see the wave.

In 1966, I was in the yeshiva of Ner Yisrael in Baltimore. One day, Rabbi Shneur Kotler, the head of the world-renowned Lakewood yeshiva, visited our yeshiva. To understand the full impact of what happened next, you need context. The head of a yeshiva is treated with extreme respect. When he walks into a room, everyone rises. You talk to him in third person. For example," Would the head of the yeshiva like a cup of coffee?" So, when I was introduced to him, I was startled when he slightly bowed to me. I later learned that his respect for people was on a very high level, and this behavior was not unusual. Forty five years later, I still see the bow.

In 1962, I was a freshman at Yeshiva University. My parents, my uncle and I drove to New York from my hometown. While my father was finding a parking space, my uncle and I walked into the dormitory to find my room assignment. Gary, an upperclassman who was in the lobby, opened his arms wide, smiled a big smile, and in a greeting that came from the tip of his toes to the top of his head, said, "Shalom aleichem". That was the most genuine, welcoming shalom aleichem I have ever heard.

Whenever I went back home during the year, I would visit my uncle. His first words were not, "How are you, Gerald?" His first words were, "How is that shalom aleichem guy?" Forty nine years later, that shalom aleichem greeting still brings a smile to my face.

There is also the negative five second impact. Twenty two years ago, I was at a fundraiser for a politician in New York. A senator from another state had come to attend the event. I walked up to the man and said, "It is nice to meet you, Senator." He replied, "Who are you?" I answered, "My name is Gerald August". He turned and walked away. I still feel the insult.

In five seconds, we can create a lifetime memory. It can be a positive or a negative one. But even in such a short time, we can do or say something that will forever define us in someone's mind. It doesn't take a long time to make a lifetime impression.

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The Five Second Lifetime Impression" by Prof Gerald August

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This article was published on 2011/05/23
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