7 Life Lessons We Could All Learn From The Midwest

This week, Lance Pauker and I met some locals in Fargo, North Dakota while staying at an Airbnb. After spending time with our host — an exceptionally kind woman — we realized that the level of hospitality was like nothing we’d experienced. From trusting us to be left alone in her beautiful home, to giving us the company of her small, spunky poodle, she embodied kindness and generosity. It got us thinking of the other amazing people we’d met here, and how all of us, no matter where we live, can learn a thing or two from this often-forgotten part of the country.

1. Friendliness When You Have Nothing To Gain

You can always tell when someone is being nice because they want something. The laughs are just a little too long. The compliments are just a bit too over the top. It happens everywhere, but in the Midwest a stranger will have a conversation with you or say something nice with no ulterior motive. Lance and I were discussing where we should eat dinner. The people next to us at the bar overheard us and started giving us numerous recommendations of things we should try and experience. We ended up chatting with them for a while and they even bought us a round of “pops” they insisted we try. It’s not like we were investors carrying in large bags with dollar signs on them and this couple was a small business owner that had been praying for a miracle, (Did I just write a romantic comedy?) it was just two people helping out two other people. What a simple, but powerful concept that we should all try to emulate. If they didn’t help us out, then this moment of Lance dramatically eating sausage would’ve never happened:

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2. Listen, Don’t Just Wait For Your Turn To Talk

One of the most frustrating things is when you’re having a conversation with someone and you can tell that they have no clue what you’re talking about, nor are they interested in anything you have to say. Instead, they’re blankly staring at you and nodding, just waiting for your lips to stop moving so they can brag about something that vaguely fits into the conversation. The nice thing in the Midwest is that people listen when you’re talking. If someone asks you a question about yourself, it’s not a setup to talk about one of their accomplishments or just a bunch of empty words. If you ask a question, it’s because you genuinely want to know the answer.

3. Look For The Positive

A huge snowstorm hit on our first day in Fargo. The roads had piles of snow all over them and travel was nearly impossible. My first thought was that the day was ruined and now we won’t be able to go anywhere. The bartender that we had been chatting with suggested that it would be a perfect opportunity to take a picture standing in the middle of the road in downtown Fargo. How often can you take a picture standing in the middle of the road in what’s usually a busy area and not get struck by a vehicle? He was right. You’ll find that people in the Midwest have a great ability to find the silver lining and look for the positive when everything seems bleak. Sometimes we need a reminder that just because things don’t go the way we intended doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. Having a good attitude in a bad situation can make a huge difference. If it wasn’t for the snow storm, how would I have gotten this picture:


4. Trust

One of the homes we stayed in had a large family room with a huge DVD collection. Our host showed us the room and then told us that she was leaving and wouldn’t be back until late that night. She didn’t think for a second that we might take some of her movies. How would she possibly know? She didn’t, but there was a level of trust. Some may look at that as being naive, but being given that amount of trust by a stranger makes you feel a bit better about yourself. If you look at that as an opportunity to take advantage of someone, it says a lot more about you than it does the person who believed in you. I’m not saying to leave your house unlocked or leave your iPhone unattended, but take a chance and believe in someone.


5. You Work Hard, But Work Isn’t Life

It’s so easy to become obsessed with always wanting more. I need more room in my house. I need more money. I just need more things. But do you really need those things? In the Midwest, you don’t see as many people obsessed with work and neglecting relationships or personal life in order to gain more and more. In the Midwest you work hard, but work isn’t life. Work is what provides the means to spend time with loved ones or to enjoy yourself. Getting to the top at any cost isn’t the priority, and rightfully so, because there’ll always be someone that has a bigger house, or more money, or a bigger television. It’s not complacency, but it’s a feeling of being content with what you have.

6. If Someone Has A Problem, Do Whatever You Can To Help

The day we arrived in Fargo it started pouring snow. The roads hadn’t been cleared yet and so several drivers had either gotten stuck, or had swerved off the road. Before one of the drivers could even get out of his car, strangers had pulled over and began to push his cars out of the snow. They weren’t city employees or emergency workers. It was simply people that saw a need, had the ability to fix it, and jumped to action. Of course not everyone can push a car out of the snow, but we should all take a lesson from the Midwest and do whatever we can to help those who are in need.

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7. Hospitality Goes A Long Way

We stayed at an AirBnB that happened to be run by one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met. She had snacks for us, a family room that we were free to use, and a bottle of wine just for us (hollerrrr). She didn’t have to provide us with anything more than a room and a shower, but when we began to thank her for all of the extra accommodations, she almost seemed caught off guard. Going above and beyond in hospitality isn’t something you do on special occasions, it’s what you do for everyone. The whole house just had a relaxing and soothing feel, like when you go to visit your grandma and immediately feel like taking a nap. No one has it all figured out, but there are values that we could all adopt from the Midwest that would make our lives better. Also, I can’t speak for all of the animals in the Midwest, but even her dog wanted to make sure I was comfortable. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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Rob Fee

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