Are You As Engaged At Work as the School Bus Driver?

“I love you!” Kari called out to our boys as they got on the school bus recently.

“I love you too!” Shelly, the bus driver, yelled back.

She was being funny, but Shelly meant it…about every family that puts kids on her bus. She responds to kid’s curiosities, educates around holidays, protects around bullies, anticipates when we’re running late, smiles, sings, wears school colors on game days, and remembers details. Shelly doesn’t do her job; she transcends it.

school bus

Transcend: To be or go beyond the range or limits (typically a conceptual field or division). That’s the dictionary definition. And that’s Shelly.

The question is, why don’t we have more Shelly’s in the world? Why do we limit the way we think about our jobs? What’s keeping us from transcending?

I’ve been thinking about this topic lately—and why it matters. Here’s what occurs to me:

We have limits because we’re guarding our walls. From IBM closing its operating system in the nineties to today’s pharma executives protecting their jobs by growing through acquisition rather than through R&D, we’re hiding because of our fears of change.

Why do we have limits? As I posted recently, it’s because we don’t think we’re safe.

We stay within our limits because we get used to them. I know from my own experience, operating in my inbox and on my checklist often becomes a whirlwind of limit-producing short-sightedness. But then suddenly there I’ll be, pushing hard to get more done when a colleague unexpectedly sends me an encouraging text and it changes everything.

Transcendent experiences—whether inspiring text messages, conversations, movies, speeches, books, music or other events—wake me to the awareness that life is so much bigger than my limits.

It matters because we need more of Shelly. Our community, our companies and our families need more people going well beyond traditional limits and expectations. Living beyond our self-imposed limits of fear and comfort will generate energy, commitment, new ideas and cross-limit partnerships.

And finally, but maybe most importantly, while it may feel disruptive or uncomfortable at the time, living beyond them is what really makes us come alive.

As Brenda Ueland once said, “And when you begin to work… work with all your intelligence and love.”

Why do you think the Shelly’s of the world matter? And what’s holding you back from joining them?



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  • Rick Kaufman
    May 28, 2014 at 8:45 pm

    Timely post Matt as I’m reading a great book on this very topic that is applicable in a couple of ways – being positive and riding the bus :-). Check out for a bunch of practical tips on becoming more like Shelly. We certainly all need to be like that as the world (and us as individuals) benefit.

  • Erik Beckler
    May 29, 2014 at 5:53 pm

    Matt, great post. I’ve had a philosophy of doing this with my basketball coaching. I’ve gone passed what is traditionally expected and helped give the boys other lessons. Unfortunately, I’ve run into parents that have not taken to those activities as you have taken to Shelly’s. Fear of getting struck down by others (bosses or those of influence that can make things difficult for you) is a limiting factor. I believe there are more people that want to be like Shelly, but fear the possibility of rejection or roadblocks.

    • normanblogger
      May 29, 2014 at 9:34 pm

      Interesting point Erik – thank you. It’s too bad that doing good work and caring for people can be viewed as intimidating or unwanted. Perhaps some feel safer when everyone stays within their expected role.