Beyond Walter’s Story: How One Person Can Change the Way We Live and Lead

WHAT A WILD RIDE…

By now, it’s likely you’ve heard the story of Walter Carr. It was picked up by more than 1,900 news outlets (like CNN, The Washington Post, ABC, CBS, and Inside EditionBuzzfeed, Huffington Post, and also People…) and reached millions of people. Since all of the press focused on what happened leading up to the moment Walter received his car, I’m going to focus on what happened afterward.

As my team and I drove home, we were all really pleased with how the day had gone, and would have been satisfied if that was the end of the story. Walter is as virtuous as advertised, and it was so rewarding to have been in a position to help him. We believed that some news outlets would cover what happened, but we had no real expectation the story would travel outside of Birmingham. And, honestly, we didn’t really care.

Three Birmingham bellhops (Walter, Hunter, and Toney) at lunch with me and Cam Coile after giving Walter his new car.

But then we saw the AL.com post go from 5,000 shares, to 50,000 shares, to 250,000 shares. Word was getting out.


The AL.com article that began the tidal wave. When all was said and done, it had more than 647,000 shares!

Over the next two days, we spoke with the media almost every minute. There were some very touching moments, but nothing beat when Charles Payne shed a small tear after Walter retold the story of his first move with us.

On TV with some amazing reporters from Fox Business, Fox & Friends, CNN, HLN. Yes, I only have one blue, non-patterned shirt.

The story became a national headline. Then, on Thursday, something even more unexpected happened — I started to receive emails, texts, and LinkedIn messages from people across the globe. The story had reached an international audience!

The front page of an Italian magazine a friend from Milan forwarded to me.

The moment when I knew Walter’s story had truly gone viral was when I received a phone call from my 92-year-old, still VERY analog grandmother. She called to say how proud she was of me. Love you, grandma.

NOW THAT THE 15 MINUTES OF FAME IS OVER…

In the end, Walter’s story of determination, perseverance, and heart captured the world’s attention. For a moment, Walter became a superhero to millions of people. However, the press cycle moves on and what matters is what you have learned from the experience. Here are my takeaways from the past two weeks:

  • The sky’s the limit: One of the primary reasons that I believe the story went viral is because it is so relatable. People understand what a 20-mile walk is (insanely far) and can apply that to obstacles in their own lives. As an entrepreneur and CEO, I have lots of 20-mile journeys. They range from having to put together a plan to solve a chronic problem to not being completely candid with employees out of fear of hurt feelings. Going forward, each week I’m going to ask myself what 20-mile walk I am hesitating to make — and I encourage you to do the same. To quote Walter himself, “My message to people is don’t give up. No matter what the issue is, you can pull through.”
  • “You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.” — Aaron Tippin. One of the most common questions I received was, “How did you decide to give Walter your car? Wouldn’t a bike have worked?” My answer is that grit and service are fundamental values at Bellhops. Our values do not exist as plaques on a wall, but as a mind-set that we seek to enact every day. Providing Walter with a reliable form of transportation was the best way we could serve him, and it felt like the right thing to do. I knew I could easily Uber to work, and that my car would go to much better use with Walter. In addition, his story is going to serve as the hallmark of grit in our culture for years to come. It was an easy decision.
  • The world needs more Walters: I received several thousand messages all saying the same thing — Walter’s dedication is really rare in today’s workforce and political environment. It was clear that people are ready to celebrate those who possess that kind of drive. It won’t always result in a car. However, it will eventually get recognized. I now feel a strong push to show the same level of commitment to my employees as Walter showed to Bellhops. To all of us, Walter’s story highlighted what’s missing in the world today, and, more importantly, how we’re all given opportunities to demonstrate determination and fortitude in a way that can inspire others.

What about Walter? He has a good job, wheels, and a GoFundMe with more than $90,000 in it (of which he’s graciously planned to donate a portion to the Birmingham Education Foundation). He has the attention of many colleges, who are offering him scholarships.

In a moment, his life has been changed. We are so tremendously happy for this outcome, and to have played a small part in it. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems a pretty fitting outcome for a person whose story has moved us all.