One way to be remarkable is to look for what is missing and then provide it.

Five Red Apples… The painting is classy; it hangs near the elevators in a hotel in Washington, DC, and it is the first thing that grabs your eye. It’s got wonderful lighting and colors that draw you into the scene. It is simply a wonderful piece of art.

Then you notice the apples—the ones in the painting and the ones below it, on the table.

The five apples in the picture are brilliant red and randomly placed along the bottom of the scene. Below the painting sit five real apples—just as red and brilliant as the ones in the scene above them. They sit on a piece of flat glass that curves and flows like a stream across the mahogany table, which resides below the painting. And these five apples form a near-perfect mirror image of the ones above.

These real apples are wonderfully inviting. So, of course, you can imagine what happens. They disappear. Never mind that they have obviously been placed there to create a special display. They are just too good to pass up.

So occasionally there are only four apples on the table. But not for long; only until the next hotel employee happens by. When they do, they notice what is missing, open the top drawer on the table, and replace the apple.

And in that moment, they strengthen the hotel’s culture of looking for what needs attention and getting it handled.

What is missing around you? Live with this question for the next week and see what you notice. Keep a small notebook close by and record your observations. Remind yourself each morning and reflect back each evening.

Here are a few of my observations of late about what is missing in my world:

  • noticing and saying thank you for the little things Cindy does for me
  • saying hello to people I pass in the hall or on the street
  • asking questions that allow people to tell their stories
  • reaching out to people when I think of them in the moment rather than waiting and risk forgetting
  • being responsive rather than doing things when I feel like it

Typically when we want to improve situations, we ask two questions: What worked? and What didn’t work?

What is missing? is a completely different question. Play with this question for the next two weeks and see what you notice.

What is missing in your meetings; your relationships; your team; your health, etc. that would make a difference if you noticed and did something about it?