Sunday, April 6, 2008

Learning to Work Again

I just wrote an email to someone a few minutes ago. I talked about history and tradition. The timing was perfect because this person went to UCLA and I just walked past a newsstand and saw where they lost.

People talk of history and tradition. Do they really understand it? I wrote alot about history and tradition in my early blogs and how it saved my life.

I wrote an old Harvard School class mate of mine a few days ago. He was on the basketball team with me. I practically lived at his house in Bel Air. I would go through the Bel Air gates ten times a day at times. My friend was a UCLA basketball fanatic. Who wasnn't who grew up during the time John Wooden coached.

We would go to the practices and watch them. Sometimes the seats at Pauley Pavillion had more people in them during the basketball practices than most schools had during their games.

We went to those practices for years.

That WAS the history and the tradition. THE PRACTICES. The games were anticlimatic.
The practices is where you learned how to focus. It is where you learned that nothing was important except the goals of the team. The team could not accomplish their goals unless each individual had their brain clear. Each had to focus. No one could worry about a paper. NO one could rush to practice to get there on time. That would mess up the energy flow.

I watched how he taught the different layers of the pyramid of success. You build it step by step. Before that each level must build a strong horizontal platform upon which to build the next. each block of that platform identified certain characteristics and disciplines that HAD TO BE MASTERED in order to succsesfully advance to the next level.

I have been building my life. It started at few years ago.
I am at a new level. I started working again. I have worked for three weeks.
I would give myself a c+ or B-.

The employers may give me a B. However, I am factoring in areas that they do not see but I know are inside of me like attitude and the discipline of that attitude.

Ah, and there are different categories where one must monitor the flavor of attitude that must be tasted and absorbed in order to have the complete pallete of attitude mixed into the success formula.

Those are some of the things that you learn when you watch a John Wooden practice.

In Skid Row most people do not get past a certain point because they have no teachers to get to that next level. Most people fall back after a year or so because the pressure is too great. The feeling of freedom at the new level is so foreign to them they can not see that they are doing things to fall backwards on treadmill.

I might have mentioned all of this before. There are so few people with whom one can
speak about the INTERNAL CHALLENGES, the areas where attitude surfaces, the areas where flaws in attitudes will manifest themselves in failure of lack of productivity.

In Skid Row, organizations hire those who are from the area. It is a way of having employees that can relate to the indigenous population and it is a way to let those get a start. Some stay. Some dont. Some self destruct.

These organizations take a risk hiring people from the population because the attrition rate is so high. The give some one a chance and they risk a lack of productivity in the machinery. Efficiency decreases each time someone fails to perform.

I thought I knew what performance required. I have been on championship teams. I have experienced a certain amount of success. However, I have experienced a certain amount of failure as well. That is where I will find my success, in understanding the failures.

I did not have the 100 percent focus. I did not have the 100 percent selfless attitude to be a total team member. In some cases I performed without thinking or without commitment. However, when things get tough, that is where commitment, preparation and the understanding of both of those shows.

Few people in the Skid Row area can tell someone what it feels like to be clean for a long time if they have done drugs in the past. Few will be able to tell a person the paths that will be taken and what is required in those paths to succeed. Some know just because they may have heard what it felt like to experience certain things from someone who told them about it. They were told about it because the person relapsed and was back in a shelter. He listened to the person talk while sitting next to them on the bed.

There are fewer people who can tell someone about what it takes to WORK. I was a broker for most of my career so that is done on an independent basis. even if you team up with someone, it is a rare occurrence when a whole office works together on a project, if at all.

Wesley, my friend, has led the way for me since I ran into him here. He told me what to expect and what to do as I navigated my way through the "building life"

He told me I needed to focus 100 percent on the team business. Dont assume. Ask questions. Have nothing on my mind accept the goals of the team. Don't work on my goals and my employer's goals at the same time.

I know these things. I have been socialized to know these things. However, I have not FELT those concepts and thought about them deeply until the past week when Wesley joined me at my work location. I am glad he is there.

I wondered for a couple of weeks what was the next step. What did I have to focus in on? What do I need to do to progress?

Be efficient? Be effective? Find ways to become more organized at the job even though there is little that requires refinement. If I cant find anything to refine at the job, then refine myself more. Be more organized at home. Be more organized in my preparation to go to work. Make sure my personal appearance is at a level that reflects organization, confidence and the ability to be trusted on various levels.

Wesley, came in and was so efficient that one of my responsibilites is finished each day before I get to work. I have known this man for over 20 years. I have seen him go through different stages and I see a transformation in him when he is at work.

Sure I have worked with many people in my various careers and yes when we stepped out of the elevator and they would go to their cubicle, they would immediately focus in on their respective deals or tasks at hand.

What is different? Perhaps my level of appreciation for that level of commitment, to maintain that level of commitment and concentration and the desire to experience the success that comes with it on an ongoing and uninterrupted basis.

I would always get so far and then I would slack off. I would get satified and then decrease my intensity.

Yes. I am lucky that Wesley arrived. When the student is ready, the teacher arrives. What he said to me echoes in my dreams at night. I think about increased productivity. Sure, I know all about the graphs and the productivity concepts they taught me while at Penn. I listened to many
lectures about productivity, economics of scale, efficiencies, marginal utility and so on. I know the theories.

For some reason I am feeling the effects of those theories in application. Or from thinking about these concepts so much I see the multiplier effect of success and/or failure if the successful application is not exercised and practiced on a daily basis. I see how I would fail or stagnate personally and how an organization will fail on a larger scale.

I had a girl friend for many years. She is very successful. I have been blessed with the opportunity of having relationships with overachievers. My male friends would come up to me and ask me how to deal with it. I would chuckle.

It all goes to my philosophpy on male /female relationships. They are a lot smarter than we are. Marvel at them and appreciate them. They will teach you what you need to know. Support them.

This one girfriend just stepped down from running three international airports. One day we were going to an affair and I did not have a tuxedo. I left my old one in Philadelphia and I refused to rent one. I told her to grab her coat.
We jumped in my car and walked into Saks Fifth Ave. I had been a loyal customer for decades. My mother was an elevator operator with them in New York before Adam Clayton Powell married her and my father and she flew off to Europe with the USO.
She always had a Saks card and I always had one. When I started working on Wall Street in New York that was the first card I acquired. My own Saks Card.

We walked into Saks and Lydia did not believe that I could get a tuxedo fitted and tailored within an hour or two. At this time, Lydia was running her own development and architecture firm. She was also a member of a planning commission.

I walked in and saw the salesman who had known me for quite some time. I quickly told him what I needed and handed him my Saks Card. Lydia kept looking at her watch.
I picked out a tuxedo, was measured and was told to come back in 45 minutes. Lydia and I went to the cafeteria where we had apple pie and ice cream.

Forty five minutes later we walked back into the men's department where my tuxedo was ready for me to take out. After signing my charge account slip, I grabbed my suit bag which had my tux in it, grabbed Lydia's arm and walked to the elevator.

Lydia just kept looking at me with this expression of disbelief. "Walter, when you get some money you sure will know how to handle things." I laughed but I knew what she meant. I had grown up around money and power and some things you learn through osmosis.

However, before one can be an executive, one must learn how to do the grunt work.
I knew the how to enjoy the executive suite but I was lax in exercising the discipline to get there. That is my point about the tradition and history of the John Wooden program and the schools where I went as well as the corporations where I worked. We all can enjoy the trophies and the champayne. It is the everyday grunt work and understanding all aspects of that grunt work that make the difference in one's development.

These organizations in Skid Row give people a chance to get back on their feet with employment. As I said they take a risk in doing so but I now appreciate the courage that goes into those decisions. They never know who will show up. They never know who will handle a situation with clients in a manner that can escalate into a problem.

These organizations should be commended for doing what they do in giving employment to those who are striving to better their lives. I am grateful for my job. I have the opportunity to understand the fine points of development now that I have rejoined the labor force. Even if someone has to think of me for one minute instead of what they are trying to get done, then that is one minute too long.

Sure, a great deal of people on Skid Row have not had the education that I have had.
It is one thing to have it and another thing to use it, understand it, appreciate it
and be productive with it.

This is what this phase of development is about. How can I become more efficient and effective in every area of my work and by doing so, I experience an aspect of life that I have never experienced before. Just an easy flow of things.
Whenever I got to this point, I became lax or something would happen.
Wesley reminded me of some habits of mine that would spring up when I became lax.

Make no mistake here. I am doing my job. But this is not about doing my job. This is about personal development. It is about understanding the application of the theories that I learned in college. It is about becoming more focus so I can see things and separate things.

I just came from court this morning. Yes, the court is on my side. However it has to go slowly and yet, it is going as fast as it can. The judge wants me to not get rattled because of the delay. It is easy for me to do that now as there are many things that occupy my mind: work, physical fitness, etc.

I need to work on getting better at everything that I felt I have improved upon since coming down here to Skid Row. This is the time where I review and improve upon every thing that the Jose Egurbides, Don Garzas, Mike Goldsteins, Kevin Royces,
Jeff Pages, Rory Cornwells, STeven Van Ziles,Paul Freese's, Dave Daniels, Neidy Portillos, Sue Pervatts, Anita Nelsons, Joe Cornishes,downtownchicks and LA Woman have taught me. This time is crucial. I am moving forward but there is a subset of requirements that must be fulfilled to really maximize this phase. I intend to do just that.

Yes, I am thankful for the organization that hired me so that I can challenge myself further in many ways. I must also thank them for hiring others and taking on the risk of giving people the chance to develop and fulfill their potential.

I was lucky to develop relationships with people who felt I was worthy of a chance.
I was lucky to have Wesley around to make me aware of the subtleties of development.

I will pick up my pay check now. In two weeks, I intend to give myself a B+ on my emmployee report card. This organization has allowed me to develop through a very unique independent study. I am learning how to work again. It feels great. I know that that is where all of my focus will be. Everything else will come from successful completion of this phase. They are giving me this chance. Few in Skid Row make it this far. If you make it this far you have few who can tell you where you are making mistakes. I am glad I have those that can tell me what I need to hear. Time to go. Time to go do my part in being a part of a team and being an effective part of that time.

Few organizations take the leap that this one has with regard of having faith in people. That is such a rare thing. I hope other organizations follow their lead.

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