The People’s Bus Driver: The Road to Unusual Success

IMG_0062There are many different definitions of ‘cool’; here are a few:

Cool (Webster’s Dictionary slang): Fashionable; Hip.

Cool ( slang): sophisticated or elegant, esp. in an unruffled way.

Cool (according to hipsters): person who wears chucks, skinny jeans, scarves, hats, and eyeglasses, esp. if they don’t need eyeglasses; person who was listening to indie pop music before it was popular, esp. Mumford and Sons.

My definition of ‘cool’ changes day to day as I meet new people and am exposed to different ways of thinking, but there is one type of person who will always be cool in my book—the kind of person who gets to know strangers for who they are and genuinely cares about them.

Alvaro Valencia is 62 years old and has been driving Metro buses for 26 years which is approximately 50,000 hours. He is also ex-navy, ex-army, and an amazing son and grandfather, but what strikes me most about Alvaro is his relationship with the passengers that ride his bus.

Last Thursday I had the privilege of riding with Alvaro on his final day driving this big orange bus through Los Angeles before he entered retirement. It was incredible what I observed.

Alvaro spending his break talking to the local high school students.

Alvaro spending his break talking to the local high school students.

Alvaro knew half his passengers, and when I say knew, I mean really knew. This girl lives with her dad and is a senior in high school and I keep telling her she needs to go to college (she’s currently considering community colleges to save money). This woman owns a thrift store up the street and is really devoted to her Mormon faith. This woman always brings me something to drink (that day it was a Sprite).  The man walking his dog who waved as we passed was in a terrible accident and damaged his brain…

There are too many stories that Alvaro told me as we drove along route 665 to share with you here, but I’m sure he could fill a book with them. These people’s stories were fascinating, sad, and hopeful, and through them all, I could tell that Alvaro genuinely cared about these people. If his passengers had a need, he’d look into it. If he saw something that reminded him of a passenger, he bought it and brought it the next day. Unlike the bus driver who drove my friend, Jiwoo, today who stopped at subway for a sandwich while confused passengers waited, Alvaro strove to be timely because he knew that being behind schedule could mean someone missing their train.

Dani Johnson, multi-millionaire, says that if you know more about people than you do your product or business, you will be unusually successful. While knowing how to drive a large bus is crucial to being a successful bus driver, knowing his passengers led to unusual success. Alvaro Valencia wasn’t just any bus driver, he was a favorite. He made people’s days and cared about people’s kids. His presence will, without a shadow of a doubt, be missed.

In many ways, Alvaro was “the people’s” bus driver and this is why he is cool.

No matter what occupation you have, if you learn more about your customers and the people you work with, you will be unusually successful. So what can you do to show the people you work with you care? And is your definition of ‘cool’ what it should be?