Exceeding My Expectations

Going Above and Beyond to Create Beauty for Others


Ugh! Company was coming and the patio at The Grove still wasn’t finished. I still had a ton of dirt to move, but no one to help. Krista and I always say that ‘company is a good motivator’ for cleaning our home moments before guests arrive. I fondly call my wife the “relocation specialist.” She has the innate ability to hide unsightly stacks of papers, clothes dumped by teenage boys, and other sundry items into closets, drawers and nearby parked cars. But for me, there was no hiding. Two days before our Saturday event, by all counts, I still had about four tons of dirt to move…

For the past six months, I had slowly been working on creating a patio entertainment space at our avocado property for our one-day Grove retreats. We had built a five-foot high retaining wall with landscape bricks. Installed heavy railroad ties. Cleaned out and trimmed our pine tree that had years worth of dead pine needles. The goal was to level out a wide area of sloping ground for more picnic tables, chairs, and creative space for community art projects.

With the help of several friends, the space was slowly built out. But the main challenge was hauling tons of dirt with a tractor to level out the patio. Nicholas, our grove manager, was only available to help on the weekends. Depending on my schedule, I couldn’t get down there every weekend, so the project went in fits and starts.

Now that we had a date on the calendar for our Grove artist getaway retreat, for the previous month, I’d been running and gunning down to the property. An hours drive from my home in San Clemente.

A week before our Saturday event, Nicholas moved at least twenty tractor loads of dirt from other parts of our property. Dumping the tan decomposed granite soil into the patio space, a couple friends and I raked, shoveled and smoothed out the dirt as fast as we could.

I’m telling you: I have never shoveled so much dirt in my life.

At fifty-one years old, I shoveled more dirt in that one day than my previous fifty-one years combined.

You’ve heard of CrossFit? On our property, I call it GroveFit.

When people ask me why I do triathlons, I’m dead serious when I say, “It’s training for the grove.”

Exhausted, when I left that day, I knew I had a busy week ahead preparing for the retreat as well as final work yet to be completed on the property.

I had no idea how everything would get finished–the remaining dirt hauled in, the soil tamped down, the tables and chairs set in place–so I resigned myself to accepting the patio would look less than ideal for the twenty-three guests we had coming.

I simply couldn’t get all that work done by myself.

On Thursday night, I called Nicholas to see if he was available for a few hours of dirt-hauling tractor work on Friday afternoon. I told him I wanted to get as much dirt moved onto the patio as possible.

“Oh no Mr. Joey…”

Nicholas calls me ‘Mr. Joey’.

“I can’t help you tomorrow,” he went on. “I’m going to Tecate with my family.”

My heart sank.

Before I could offer some form of a heavy anti-Tecate  bribe, Nicholas piped up, “The patio is finished! Alicia worked on it Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It’s all done.”

“Wha-wha-what?” I wondered.

Nicholas went on to explain that he knew I needed it finished for Saturday’s retreat, so he and his wife worked extra hard to make sure it was complete.

When I arrived on the property the next morning, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The patio space was completely even with no slope. The dirt filled in nice and smooth. Our main road leading up to the patio space had been cut wider and several of the dirt ruts had been smoothed out. They had even taken out a couple large persimmon trees to make room for more parking.

Scanning the incredible completed work before me, I had an unbelievably happy moment.

Nicholas and his wife had created a space of beauty for all of our guests to enjoy.

When Nicholas arrived awhile later, I looked at him and said, “I’m so happy, I could kiss you right now!”

Not exactly the thing to say to a proud Hispanic man with no small amount of machismo.

I didn’t care. We both laughed and I could tell by the look on his face how proud he was of his hard work.

Giddy, I spent the rest of the day watering the soil, compacting and tamping it down. Finishing the final cleanup, I couldn’t remember a time I felt so tickled.

Nicholas exceeded my expectations. He made my world more beautiful.

It was now mine to share with the company we had coming.

Questions: Describe a time when someone exceeded your expectations. How did that create a beautiful moment and memory for you?

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PS: If you live in Southern California, I’d love to invite you down to The Grove property. 12 acres of organic lemons and avocados waiting for you to enjoy. Look for upcoming 2016 Grove Getaway retreats or just let me know if you’d like to come down some day for a picnic and fruit picking.

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