Life Lessons Learned from the Back of a Taxi

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 By Jemma Lee (Senior Account Director at Liquid Ideas) and Jennifer Bailey (Account Manager at Liquid Ideas)

At Liquid Ideas, we have this philosophy that we have in creds decks and write on walls and say in presentations – have your eyes up and your ears open. Our inspiration comes from the hospitality world… the intuitive sommelier, warm customer service and your favourite waiter at the local Italian joint. And last week, we had an experience that reminded us why having your eyes up and your ears open can get you far more than a good tip.

It was a cold, overcast Friday morning, we’re standing on O’Riordan Street trying to hail a cab. It takes an unusually long time. Plenty drive by, none stop. We’re getting a bit pissed off. A taxi finally slows. We exchange quips about it being the most banged-up taxi to drive past yet. We get in. And shit, are we glad we did. With our ears open, this guy changed our day and enlightened us more about life and people in that 25 minutes than had happened in probably the entire year. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true.

“How’s your day going?” we ask. Taxi etiquette. “I never have bad days,” he replied. Right. “How’s yours?”

“Not bad I guess. Had training this morning. Now just at work.”

“Training hey? So you pump some iron. But have you been doing your character pushups?”

I’m sorry – what? Character pushups? WTF?

It’s exactly that. Working on your character. “Six packs disappear,” he said. “Your character doesn’t.”

We are both inquisitive, interested types, and we perked up then. Some small talk was exchanged initially and then before we knew it, we were completely absorbed in what was the most philosophical and provocative conversation we’d had in a long time.

The man had a vocabulary that rivalled William Blake and poetic rhythm to his soliloquies – everything came in threes or fours – lulling us into backseat awe. And so for no other reason than wanting to capture the enormity and eloquence of his wisdom so as to not let it fade, we wrote down what we could remember from this fascinating man.

Have a fertile mind

He said he had an opinion on everything, but that he never wanted to stop learning – that his opinion could always be changed, altered, built upon. A ‘fertile mind’ – that’s what he called it.

Strive not to be loved, but to love

True fulfillment is loving someone, not being loved. As humans, we spend our lives wanting someone to love us but in truth, happiness and fulfillment comes only from giving our love to someone else, unconditionally.

Stand for something

Stay true to what you believe in, whatever that is. If you believe in nothing, you defend nothing. Navigate by your own star. Be the master of your own fate, the emperor of your own freedom. If you are the captain of the freedom of your mind, no one can ever take that away from you. For at the end of it all, all we have is our principles. No material things, no companions, just the principles which we choose to live by.

Lamenting the absence of seminal

There are almost no seminal thoughts anymore, he said. Four million people go home on a Monday night and sit on their couch watching a chicken get roasted on TV or watch an 18 year old sing Hallelujah to have someone cry for the fortieth time – “A Star is born!”. Is this living?

Four words to live by

Avuncular, didactic, acrobatic and elastic. That’s what you should strive to be. Be an avuncular and didactic human, with acrobatic and elastic thoughts and feelings.

He left us with this – “The bigger the island of knowledge, the wider the shores of wonder.”

And that was that. We paid our fare, stepped out of the cab onto the busy CBD footpath and were immediately swept back up into our world of client meetings, phone calls, planning, excel sheets and deadlines.

How incredibly lucky we were to have spent 25 minutes of our day being enlightened and encouraged by this complete stranger. And all we can think is how many people get in his taxi and miss out on all of that.

Eyes up ears open people, you never know when Gregory David Roberts* is driving your cab.

*at least, we’re 99% sure it was him…