I met Keith Baldwin at a (SHRM) Society of HR Management holiday meeting where I was speaking about my journey of first time experiences. It was December 2020 before the pandemic.
It was truly a joyful event with no hint of the virus that was almost upon us. Everyone was singing, wearing reindeer antlers and the crowd was laughing and having fun when I asked, “who wants to share their dare?”
Keith said “I do!” He stood up and told everyone he was going to take a flying lesson. The crowd cheered.
Well, not only did Keith take a flying lesson; this owner of Spike’s Trophies and Awards started his own year of first time experiences starting January 2021.
He slept on the streets of Philadelphia to experience what it might be like to be homeless. He tried on his wife’s heels. He went to a mosque. Every day he said yes to a new experience.
But on March 20, 2020, he had to say yes to something he never could imagine doing. He had to tell all 50 of his employees they didn’t have a job anymore and he wasn’t sure if or when he could hire them back. The state was telling all non essential businesses they had to close up due to the pandemic.
To say it was devastating is an understatement.
The employees he was letting go were much more than that; they were friends, extended family, people he’d worked with for decades.
And then, a little miracle happened. Two hours after laying off all of his workers, Keith got a call asking if he had employees that might want to work together as a call center. The state of New Jersey needed a virtual COVID testing call center manned.
Keith said YES.
He convinced all his employees to work from home and take the temporary call center jobs under his management until things turned around. It was something to keep them all afloat.
I showed a video of Keith and told his story at the Philly SHRM Symposium.
Meanwhile, throughout the pandemic Keith continued on his journey of daily firsts, but now many of them were related to saving his company and helping employees.
He realized this steady diet of new experiences made him more creative,
more willing to take risks, say yes, see challenges as opportunities and become more courageous.
In fact in the middle of the pandemic he decided since no one was buying trophies and awards, that perhaps he needed another big first. His company should make something else: PPE, personal protective equipment, gloves, masks, face shields.
He said yes, to that pivot and orders started coming in; big orders.
Again, he says first time experiences gave him the courage to put himself out there in new ways.
He even started helping other company owners save their businesses and employees.
Today, Keith’s starting to hire his employees back to start making trophies again and is telling his story of first time experiences to inspire others.
I can’t tell you that miracles will happen if you go on your own journey of firsts. I will tell you Keith’s story is not unique. I’ve heard from people all over the world about how new experiences have changed their lives. And saying Yes is a big part of it.
Nothing new happens when you say no.
A big thank you to Keith for sharing his story and pictures with me.
Have a first time experience story to share? Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.