Greatest Influencers: With Thanks to The Dinner Lady

When people talk about influential people they often talk about people such as Mandela, Celebrities of some kind or business leaders. Last night as I worked late into the night pushing myself to just a little bit more and a bit more and a bit more I found myself thinking of a lady who has had a great impact on my life.

I don’t know her name, I can’t even remember what she looked like – I just remember her as the dinner lady. The other person aside from my mum that had a knack for ensuring I ate all the food on my plate.

My mum would say, “waste not, want not” and would go on to tell me how fortunate I am. Till today I’m still know for hating waste.

The Dinner lady on her own part would come round to me when I put my hand up to say I’d finished my food and look at my almost full plate. “Are you full” she would sympathetically ask. “Yes” I’d nod. She’d then divide the food in plate into two portions. “Okay, try and eat that bit and leave the other bit” she’d say. So I’d go ahead and eat half, proudly putting my hand up again ready to leave the table. “Oh, you’ve finished” she’d say, beaming at me. She’d go on to divide the food up again. “Why don’t you try and eat that bit” she’d say. I would oblige. The process continued until somehow I ended up with an empty plate.

The funny thing is this happened on numerous occasions and I always fell  for it. I’m not sure whether it was that she was very cunning or that I was simply naïve. That’s not the most important thing. The key is, it’s a strategy that I apply to different aspects of my life.

So I break a long journey down into ‘portions’: part one, from my house to airport parking; two, to the airport; three, 6 hour flight; four, connecting flight; five, taxi from the airport.

I do it with work, with things that seem insurmountable to achieve – it helps me to be appreciative of the little things. When a friend told me of how much homework her son had to do, I told her the story of the dinner lady and we divided his homework into ‘portions’ of what needed to be done by when with breaks in between. When she realised how well it worked she started applying to different aspects of life for her whole family.

I’ve probably used the strategy with various young people that I’ve worked with or even possibly you.

So thanks to the dinner lady when I was working late last night feeling quite tired I pushed myself to do that little bit more and that little bit more until eventually I’d done quite a lot.


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

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