Friday, September 25, 2009
You Don't Know Jack
Some of the people we learn the most from in our lives are not the ones that we will necessarily like the most. As the saying goes, “the truth hurts” and most of the time, those who deliver us the truth are not our favorite people. Although this story is a little long, it’s one of my favorites and drives home the point.
While in my early 20’s, I worked for a man named Jack Stewart (Greatest teacher). He was rarely one to praise and always pushed me for more. He called me into his office one day to send me on what he himself described as a waste of time. It was an important client that wanted to renegotiate their contract. They had never signed in the past but someone still had to go. As I left to meet with the client I remember Jack telling me that I would never get a new contract. His exact words were, “This client is a tire kicker, they’re not interested in buying.” I went to the meeting and was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. The client signed a new contract with me and I raced back to give Jack the good news. I entered his office and proudly placed the contract on his desk. He didn’t even bother to lift his head and recognize that I was in the room. “Hey Jack, do you see what’s on your desk”, I asked? Without looking up he responded, “Very nice.” To which I responded, “It’s signed, in case you didn’t notice”. “Yeah, I noticed” he said, as if it was expected. At this point I was completely frustrated with his lack of enthusiasm and appreciation for what I had accomplished. I went on a five minute tirade on how appreciative he should be, about the fact that I was able to accomplish what he himself had labeled, an impossible task. He finally looked up at me from what he was doing and calmly said, “That’s what I pay you for.” Of course that brought no comfort to me and now I was even more upset. I went on to explain to him that life is not all about money, people like to be praised for their efforts. I told him that people like a good pat on the back for their extra efforts. Suddenly the expression on his face changed and what I was saying seemed to have finally seeped in. He asked me to sit down, he leaned back, and yelled out “Susie, come into my office.” Susie was the company’s bookkeeper. My heart started racing with the thought of the raise he would be instructing Susie to give me. I knew Jack had finally come to his senses. Susie entered the office and Jack looked her dead in the eye and sarcastically said, “From now on Fridays, don’t give Alex a paycheck, he’s gonna come in here and I am going to give him a pat on the back instead.” (Feel free to laugh here, everyone does.)
Needless to say, I was, embarrassed and stormed out of the office. Later and I mean much later, I remember him telling me to make sure you ask for what you want in life. Don’t beat around the bush, don’t be sly or clever, be a straight shooter. “A straight shooter conserves bullets and always hits his target.” I hated him at times in my life but when I look back, he was by far my greatest teacher and friend.
You don’t know Jack but I’m sure you have met his family.