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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Learning Life Lessons from the Masters of the Universe

This is a post about learning from people who are Masters of their Lives or at least Masters of some aspects of their Lives.

It's hard for most of us little people to ever get in contact with these "Masters of the Universe".

They run the gamut of  "importance" of effect on the World from running large corporations, a state, a country, a foundation to loving and managing their family or just themselves.

As I have alluded to in many posts, I am a Life Observer, Student and Plageurizer.

I look for those people who are better than me at things, characteristics, outlooks, perspectives or actions that I view critical components of Life.

I consider it an essential element of Life to look up and not down, i.e. I spend more time and attention being around people who are su-peer-ior vs peer-ior to me.  There's that Outback Willy Wordsmithing again.

And let me say, at this point in Life, I have yet to find a single person who has all their Life Shit together in one pile.

But I've seen a few that come pretty close.

And I'm not talking about the Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Blah Blah Blah Motivational Speakers with the 15 step program to worldly bliss.

I'm talking about brick and mortar people that have created their own lifestyles and don't advertise it or market it.  They just live it and in so doing, touch and positively influence those they come in contact with.

In this world of labels, some may call them Mentors.  I don't think that's the same thing I'm talking about.

Mentor is one of those "power" words describing someone you associate yourself with to teach you how to get ahead.

Not the same thing.

A "Master of the Universe" rarely takes on the formal role of Mentor.

They simply live their life in your presence and you take notes and are better for the experience.

So let's look at 3 examples of My Masters of the Universe and the Life Takeaways from my association with them.

I'll just call the first one Fred Flintstone.

He was a guy I worked for over 25 years ago.

First off, Fred was one of the smartest guys I have ever met about a lot of things.  He could quote the concept, the theory, the natural laws of Man and Nature and then break those complex subjects into simple speak that punctuated how well he knew and understood the subject matter and then apply that knowledge in the field of practical engineering with the foresight, ease, elegance and genius of an artist in front of an easel.

And that is a Key Learning in Life.  There are a lot of smart people in this world, but very few who can communicate that intelligence to you in an actionable and understandable way and not make you feel stupid in the process.

Second, Fred was a people person.  Everyone that worked for Fred loved Fred because he was Fair and Fun. The people who didn't like Fred were the people he worked for because Fred was not a corporate guy in manner or appearance.  Imagine an Engineer Santa Claus entering the building you worked in.  You could hear Fred come in the door - loud, jovial, laughing, cracking jokes.  And he looked the part - heavy of belly and flush of face from too much of 2 of his many passions which was eating and drinking. And he was almost always the smartest guy in the room and most of his upwardly seeking self serving managers didn't like that.

This man and his wife put on a Christmas Food and Spirits party that he would take off 3 days prior to prepare for.  I went to it twice and swear he must've spent $10000 on it and, again this was 25 years ago.

In a word, Fred was a Hedonist.  He crashed the Party of Life everyday and out thought, out ate, out drank, out joked and out worked all of us.

Fred was a Force of Nature and he made you want to do great things.  I remember one of my greatest fears / concerns when I worked for Fred is that I would disappoint him - as a worker or as a person.  He was the kind of guy that motivated you through example.  You wanted to be great because he was great and you wanted his approval and recognition.

He was a supervisor of mine for about 3 years at a petrochemical plant and I remember 2 examples of how Fred did things and thought that influenced me to this day.

In the first example, he had come to my office to discuss an issue that we had disagreed on several times.  I don't even remember what it was but I was kinda being a prick about it and was being insubordinate and obstinate like I used to be and just basically told Fred.....

"I ain't gonna do that."

I remember Fred's face turned 4 kinds of deep red and purple and he rared back and slapped his hand down so hard on my desk that the papers and binders I had on the top of it flew up 3" off the desk top.  I swear he should've broke his hand.  When the thunder that must've resounded through the building from the desk bitch slap administered from Fred receded, he stepped back and said....

"You damn sure are gonna do it and have it to me first thing in the morning".

Even in that day and age, that was just something you didn't do but it was exactly what I needed and the right way to handle me and that's another thing Fred was good at.

He could be whatever he needed to be to touch and make an impression on each individual that they would respond positively to.

In another conversation, Fred revealed one of the great difficulties in life when he said.....

"William - if all we had to do was make chemicals, this job would be easy.  It's the dealing with people that makes this job hard".

True that to the exclamation point of Life.

The second example is a guy I've worked with or for on and off for years as a Contractor Turnaround Manager or an Independent Contractor.

I'll just call him R&R.

Here are some of the major learnings I've gleaned from this guy over the years.

First off, there's no substitute for hard work and this is probably the hardest working, most productive and efficient guy I've ever met.  He sleeps little and stays on top of everything all the time.  He runs a pretty significant specialty service company with a skeleton staff of less than 10 people and knows and understands every person's job better than they do.

He can fly at the 70000' level as a general commanding the battlefield or drop down into the trenches and fight with the troops.

And that's unusual.  There are so many great company managers that don't have a fucking clue what their company actually does or makes or what services they provide and wouldn't have a clue how to do anything at the field level.

This guy knows it all from top to bottom.

Second, he is very organized with his time, his company and all of the components and the physical persona of his company.

He practices a concept I have called "The Disney Effect" for years.

It has been written about frequently, but I got my first experience with it in my first visit to Disney World in 1998.  Being an engineer, I was fascinated with how so complex and vast an industrial production as a theme park could function so smoothly, easily and CLEANLY.

I remember sitting in one of the parks - I think it was Epcot - and looking down a long street that probably had more than 1000 people on it and seeing CLEAN and EMPTY garbage cans every 50' or so for as far as the eye could see.

And multiple uniformed cleaning people with floor sweeper brooms and pick-up bins scattered down the street.

Nowhere you sat were you more than a short stride from an empty garbage can.

And there wasn't a single lunch sack, hamburger bag or gum wrapper or piece of debris in site.

The street, sidewalks, everything was immaculate.  There wasn't a single light bulb out or a dirty window to be seen.

I finished a hamburger and gathered up the remaining paper in a wad and walked over to a garbage can 15' away and disposed of it.

I sat back down and watched another guy who was just finishing his meal on a bench opposite me.

He got up and started to leave without throwing his trash away.

I swear - I watched the guy get up, take a step or two, look around like he was surmising how clean the place was, do an about face, pick up his trash and go put it in the nearby garbage can.

There was no doubt his normally sloppy behavior had been modified by the immaculate environment he found himself in.

It is a concept I learned and emphasized in my life from that day on.

My quality of work had always been great.  I made it better.

I had always presented my deliverables in an organized way.  They looked good.  I made them look better.

I put together Turnaround Packages with all pictures printed in color on card stock paper with printed tab labels and customized binder spines and faces.

The packages were detailed and beautiful and every Contractor that came in contact with them from the Contractor Company Owners to the lowest echelon field workers were required to review and use every element of the packages that related to their work or field of expertise.

I was told over and over again by the people that worked for me and with me that they knew they were in a different type of place when they came to the Turnarounds I managed simply by the work and effort that was evident in the preparation for the Turnaround as embodied in the Content and Beauty of the Turnaround Packages.

And because of that, their work was better and the Turnarounds were better.

The department I went to work for as the only Contractor (not Employee) Turnaround Manager for Dow Chemical globally went from worst to FIRST in one year based on their Global Turnaround Performance Scoring System because of this philosophy.

The Disney Effect in practice.

R&R runs his Company that same way.

His Work and Construction Packages are Clean, Detailed, Organized and Beautiful and always Exceed the Minimum Bid Specifications. Questions are answered before they are asked.  Contingencies are planned for before they happen.

Every piece of equipment he uses is the highest quality and is always meticulously maintained and cleaned prior to going on a job site.

His warehouses, where the company equipment and materials reside, look like a well-organized Master Bedroom Walk-in closet.  Everything has its place and a proper label. He pays a Warehouse Manager and a competent crew to keep it that way.

And he hires the best people and is willing to pay for them because he knows a job done right the first time pays off many times over in the long run.

He creates a sense of trust and loyalty for and with his employees by treating them fairly and with humanity.

In return, he expects the best and settles for nothing less.

And most importantly, he knows enough about everything he is involved with so as to assess competence and recognize deceit - oh so important in the World of Business and the Game of Life.

Be your own Expert has always been a Life Theme of mine and one I share with R&R.

In a recent discussion about an underperforming contractor that was working for him that was giving him misleading and false information about the completion of a specific action item, he related a Life Theme idea to me, something I had known about him for a long time.

"Don't they know I already know the answer before I ask the question?"

A hard, simple but necessary characteristic that effectively separates the Wheat from the Chaffe and identifies those you can trust and those you must shun.

And finally, a Life Lesson from a most recent acquaintance with a Mistress of the Universe.

Let's just call her Truth.

Have you ever met someone that when entering a room, is given the attention, respect, deference and even envy of those in that room?

Somewhat that projects and embodies Joy and Truth and Light.

That Walks the Talk of Goodness, Fairness, Trust, Integrity, Wisdom, Judgment and Discernment.

I watch this individual and how she interacts with the World around her and the People in it and am amazed at the magnetic attraction that close friends, casual acquaintances and even total strangers have with her.

It is as with the Blind Man who believed that if he could just touch Jesus, he would be able to see again and was rewarded by his faith.

People are drawn to Truth as though to seek her blessed touch and receive the positive healing and restorative energy that covers her like a Shroud of Enlightenment and envelops her like a God Bubble.

As a former Devoted and Diehard Pessimist who slowly transitioned over the last few years to a mere and only slightly less Cynical Pragmatist, I initially looked at this Oasis in the Desert of Life with the same cynicism as a dying man crawling in the desert sand who had seen many of these mirages before and, with disappointed repetition, dipped his hand in another pool of sand.

But as I crawled closer to the deep and bright green pools of water and saw my reflection in them, I realized that these were the Eyes of Truth.

Windows to the Soul of Someone who Lives the Truth.

And my Thirst of Life was quenched and my....

Search for Truth had ended.

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