Uber Drivers are NOT all Created Equal

On the way to the Seattle airport, I had a lucky draw with Saam, my Uber driver. Saam is from Somalia and has lived here for many years. Saam is industrious; he has ideas.

He asked me a few questions, then paused, looked in the rearview mirror and asked me if there was something that I really liked. I shared with him that I enjoy wine. He proceeded, very animatedly, to tell me how I could begin a new business; dress up nicely, have a nice glass of wine, and share what I know about the wine in a video. “People want to know about wine. You know about wine. You share what you know. You make a business.” Within five minutes he had me connecting with wine salesmen, becoming a distributor to my growing video followers, and making a nice margin as the ‘middle man’ with very little investment required. He was very enthusiastic about my new business.

“Saam,” I said, “I’d like to hear your ideas about the business I already have.” I shared with him that I am a leadership coach, and work with leaders to help them grow and become better leaders.

I was not disappointed, because Saam had a lot to say.

He shared that he has been a personal driver, driving businesspeople, for many years. “CEOs, COOs, acronym soup people. Very busy people. They are so busy, too busy; they say they do not know why they are so busy. But I know why they are so busy.” Then he paused, looking at me in the mirror again. “They do too much.”

Yes, Saam, you might be right; they do too much.

He went on to tell a story about a businessman that he drove for a long time. “This man, he was not happy. He always wanted something more. He gets a Mercedes; he wants a new Mercedes. He gets a 60” TV; he wants an 80” TV. Never enough. He works all the time; he likes fancy dinners. He eats $100 steak dinners. And he is not happy. Me, I live. I eat $10 steak. It is not the same steak, but it makes me happy. And I enjoy eating it. And I live happier than this man and his $1000 suits and his $100 steaks, who is too busy to enjoy living.” More words of wisdom from Saam.

He then realized he’d been talking for a while, and his attention jumps back to me; his eyes wide in the mirror.” I break eye contact and look forward, making sure one of us is watching the road. Saam chuckled and looked back at the road.

He glanced at me again and asked, “Do you know what is most important to you?” I said, “safe driving,” and he laughed, a deep, infectious and beautiful sound that filled the car. “I will keep you safe.” And I believed he would.

He said, “no, really, what is important to you?” I told him that his question is a really important part of my work. I shared why I was in Seattle, that our team just finished working with a group of women in a leadership program and we worked with them to explore and clarify their values. He said, “that is good, and yet you haven’t told me what is important to you.” I said, “are you sure you aren’t a coach?” and I was treated to his laughter once again. Then in an unusual moment, with a complete stranger, I shared what I value most, and enjoyed a moment of deep connection with Saam. He looked back into my eyes through the rearview mirror and nodded. “That is good. That is very good. And you are happy.”

He asked me if I help them (clients) “get it right at home, to have a happy heart”. I said that we are business coaches, and always start focused on the business; but often clients will do really deep work, and that’s always about their whole self, not just their work.”

He then said, “any manager that isn’t right in his heart will not be a good manager to people. Period. You get the heart right, and you can lead people. You have to be happy in your heart. You have to know what is important and be happy in your heart.”

As we pulled up to the terminal he said, “ah, but you know this, I should have been learning from you.”

I said, “No, my friend, I think you have it all figured out”.


Written by Dawn Rowley