Hills Worth Dying For; the Work Edition

In the interest of full disclosure, one should know that while I am not old, I am what most would by definition consider “old school”.  I’m even a little put off by the term because it at once classifies me and labels the current and sub-current generations of working men. Depending on your perspective, a compliment to me and an indictment of the latter.  It should be noted that the converse could also be the case.

I grew up a milkman’s kid and so accordingly I worked the route with my Dad in the summer time and got a free education on work ethic, square dealing, taking care of people in general not just because they are your customer and flirting with every woman every place we went regardless of how pretty (or not) she was.  These things were and still are of great value to me in my daily life. Especially flirting with women.

From all of that education I developed a sense of responsibility to those who employed me.  I work for them and a pay check but there is a sense of honor and dignity that drives me to make their business better and to protect it from any danger, including from within, sometimes it’s own ownership.

Now before you think I’m patting myself on the back or singing my praises or before any of you start to pat me on the back or sing my praise, know that I see this as a blessing and not of myself. I will give all the praise that may come from this work “style” to God. I am fully aware that He has orchestrated my life and my life experiences to yield this vary trait and non of this is original to me. If I am a gifted vessel it is because He has made me so.  Nothing more.

My previous job was a hell on earth.  I ran operations for a furniture start up in another state for the better part of two yeasr.  Why would I do it if it was hell?  Well, like most things, it didn’t start out that way. It started out great and over time I was given more responsibility and asked to do more leadership in the company.  The trouble began when I saw issues coming up that needed to be addressed by ownership and key decisions made to further the company.  I spoke frankly but respectfully to ownership about it and was continually told, “We appreciate all that you are doing for us and we understand what you need.  Just hang in there with us a little longer and we’ll get there.”  Problem was these were promises that would not be kept.  The ownership team had a difference of opinions on how the company should be set up, which business plan we would follow, how we should buy product, and many more minor issues but all of it added up to a dysfunctional vision for where the company was going and I was tasked with making all of it run as smoothly as possible.  If it had four legs and someone could sit on it or two legs and worked in the place, I was responsible for it. This included the physical buildings as well. To say that it was frustrating to be held responsible but be completely unheard when I showed them clearly and plainly what the issues were and how to resolve them, would be a gross understatement.  Add to that the fact that my family were still living in another state some 500 miles away and I was able to see them, at best, every other weekend.

The tragedy was that I let it all get to me. It turned me into a person I hated, was ashamed off and I took a few really good people down with me. I was able to part ways with the company reasonably but the damage was done.

I managed to get back home with the family and was fortunate to find a job quickly (at less than half what I was making) that was pretty much the exact opposite of the stress level I was under in the previous job.  It was about this time that I discovered hammocks and rediscovered camping and this was a great benefit in the healing process. It’s a small company but definitely a leader in their market and I have been able to bring a lot of experience and productive processes to the table to help them grow and support the growth over the last three years.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago where I hit the wall so to speak.  I had been advising ownership for the better part of three years that they needed to get their personal “junk” out of the warehouse.  It was taking up valuable real estate and was not generating revenue for the business.  I had also been telling them for the better part of two years that the time was quickly approaching when the warehouse would be maxed out due to current levels of buying and greatly increased sales.  All, falling on deaf ears. It all came to a head when several weeks ago I’m literally stacking merchandise where I can, still factory wrapped, un-inspected because there is no where to put anything more in the warehouse. To further exacerbate the issue, we had a record January meaning we would have record receipts in February and there was no where to receive it.  I spoke politely but frankly to my boss and the owners and reminded them that I was being held responsible for all this but was not being given the assistance I needed and had asked for two years running.  I then reminded them that I quit a job that paid me more than double what I was making now for the same reason.

Was I really willing to quit because no one would listen to me? Yes, yes I was. Not out of spite or anger but out of an understanding that I had been in that same position just a few short years ago. Tasked with a particular responsibility and held accountable for the results but not given the tools to do it with or listened to when asking for help.  There will be some that would say I should have taken more control and just done what needed to be done.  Others will say I should have sucked it up and done the best I could.  Well, they may be right. The point is I’m old school. I’m willing to be accountable, to make the hard decisions and be held responsible if it all goes to, well, you know.  I take it seriously, perhaps too much so, and I don’t compromise on this.  I simply don’t know how to.  Too much milkman’s kid in me to do it any other way.

For me, to not become what I had seen myself become in that previous job (a grade A jerk), to not have to go through the pain and shame of what happened there, was a hill worth dying for. There are and will be others.  The thing is I can only recognize them by past experience and staying grounded in the word of God.  To know truth and what is good and holy and righteous and of good repute is only found by studying the genuine article.  When they train Treasury agents to spot counterfeits, they don’t use counterfeits, they use the genuine article. They study and know the real deal bill so completely, they can spot a fake a mile away.

I’m still doing the same job, but I’m working hard to make sure that I not only protect and prosper the company but also protect myself as well.  May God grant me the grace and wisdom to know which hills are worth dying for.

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