The Guy in the Orange Hat

Have you ever had a moment where you wanted to do the right thing but ended up coming up short? Me too!

That’s why I think you’ll relate to today’s post. It’s about another Inner Game Hero of mine: “The Guy in the Orange Hat.”



  • A great story of a classic “Inner Game Moment.”
  • How “Inner Gravity” keeps you from being your best self.
  • One thing you definitely don’t want to do.
  • Why you need to “Own Your Impact.”
  • Watch/listen to get the full message.


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[ transcript ]

Hey it’s David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game. Co-author of QBQ The Question Behind the Question. Founder of Raise Your Inner Game Academy.

I want to tell you about another Inner Game hero today. Last time we talked about Diane, the artist. This time, I don’t know his name. I think of him as The Guy in the Orange Hat. 

He is someone I see when I go for a run. I’ve been running in the morning lately, pretty much the same time every day, 7-ish in the morning. And almost every time I go out, I will see him out there walking.

To give you a visual, he looks sort of like an old-school lumberjack but retired and in miniature. He is an older guy, on the short side. I’d guess 5-6, 5-7. Grey hair and beard. Looks like he’s in good shape for his age. Trim. Obviously walks regularly, and at a good pace. Tends to wear a plaid shirt tucked in to docker-looking pants. Solid looking walking shoes. So the general impression you get is of muted colors. The one exception being his bright orange hat. He wears this neon orange hunting hat with Elmer Fudd ear flaps. Sort of stands out, which I guess is the point. Don’t want to get shot. But the road we’re on is on the edge of town, so I’m not sure how much danger there is of that. But you know, what do I know. 

Anyway, this hat, because it’s so out of place makes me wonder about the guy a little bit. You know? Everything okay there? Wonder what’s going on?

So, one morning, I’m running along. Off in the distance I see Orange Hat Guy. Couple blocks ahead. Same basic look. Muted colors. Neon hat. But today, in his hand he’s got what looks like a blue-white box, about the size of a six-pack of beer. So now I have this funny image in my mind of him, taking a healthy morning stroll carrying a 6-pack in his hand. I don’t really think that’s what’s going on, but it looks like it. So I’m chuckling to myself about that. 

But when I get close enough to see what’s really going on I realize that he’s not carrying beer, it’s a piece of trash he’s picked up from the side of the road and he’s taking home to throw it out. That’s cool. And quite different from what I imagined. Gives you some insight into my petty little brain. 

Anyway, I run on past, I get to my turn-around point, I turn back, head home, as I catch up and get ready to pass by him again I notice that he now has two pieces of trash in his hand. So he’s cleaning up the road as he goes. 

As I run past I say “Hey, thanks for cleaning up” and he says, “Yep, out here every day.”

I love it. What a great illustration of the Inner Game and these moments where we face Gravity and hopefully overcome it and operate from Level 4. (If you haven’t read Raise Your Inner Game, Level 4 refers to us when we’re at our best.) 

Think about what’s going on in his head as he comes upon that trash. He’s walking along. Enjoying the morning. Sees the garbage in the ditch. What’s the inner dialogue? 

His first impulse, I’m sure is, Hey, I should pick that up. Because that’s what we think. The first thing that pops into our minds in a situation like this is usually to do the right thing. It’s trash. It doesn’t belong there. It looks bad. I should pick it up. Make things better.

But then Gravity kicks in and the arguments start, What? Why? You didn’t put it there. Look how far in there it is. You could slip, twist your ankle. Probably ticks in that tall grass. You don’t need to do that. And on its goes. It’s a classic Inner Game moment. And it actually reminds me a lot of the basketball in the street story from Raise Your Inner Game. And in fact, it’s the same street, which is kind of fun. Our little town. 

Anyway, in any moment like this, there is a ton of pull against doing the right thing. He could have easily given in to that and walked on by. 

But instead, he said, Nope, I’m picking it up. Not only that, I’m picking up the next one, too. 

I love that so much. And that’s why The Guy in the Orange Hat is an Inner Game Hero. I want to be just like that. Do the right thing in spite of the Gravity. And he actually inspired me to be better about this a short time later. 

Just last week, we were walking along the river walk in Chicago. First time there. Beautiful area. There was a nasty banana peel on the steps. I was like, I don’t want that there. So—I picked it up. Threw it out. Grossed out the kids. But it felt good. Later, in the bathroom at a restaurant, there were a bunch of paper towels left out on the counter. All soggy. Gross. Same thing. I thought, I don’t like that. So I cleaned it up. Took 3 seconds. No big thing. 

And I’m not trying to hold myself up as anything special here. Those were self-serving choices. Right? They really were. That was the way I wanted the space to be. But it also makes you feel better when you do things like that. And that’s the big point. And here now I’m speaking to whoever left the trash there in the first place. Don’t do that. It’s nasty. It’s selfish. It takes the beauty out of the space for everyone. But the biggest damage it does is to yourself. 

Everyone, in their heart, knows we need to own our impact. Meaning, we need to take responsibility for the effect we have on other people. It’s innate. It’s evolution. You make a mess, you clean it up. You offend, you apologize, you make it right. That is human nature. So when we let Gravity cause us to break from that, it hurts us at a very deep level. Every little act. It’s like death by a thousand cuts.

But the opposite is also true. When you can resist Gravity in these moments and do the right thing, it picks you up. And up. And up again. It’s like heaven by a thousand Lifts.

That’s why I want to be like The Guy in the Orange Hat. He is happier for making those choices. And it’s better for all of us. It’s the ultimate win win. You Raise Your Inner Game. You Own Your Impact. You make a real difference for yourself, for the people in your life, for your work, and for the world. 

All right, that’s it for this week. The news is that the podcast, The David Levin Show, is officially available now. You can find it on the iTunes store, search for the David Levin Show. Subscribe there. Would love to have you join me for that.

If you are hearing this somewhere other than my site, come on over— Grab the free download there—3 things you can do right now to love your work and life again. That’s a good piece. Put your name on my newsletter list, so I can let you know about new posts and offers when they come out. 

You might also want to think about grabbing a copy of Raise Your Inner Game if you haven’t already. If you are into personal development, you will love this book. You really will. And it is perfect for just what we were talking about here—developing the self-control to do the right thing in spite of the pull against it so you can be happier and make a bigger difference. There’s a special offer for the book on my site too. 

Otherwise, thank you. Keep up the good work. I’ll talk to you next time.

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