First Jobs…..How do we get them?

For my birthday this past year, my daughters purchased a membership for me in Story Worth. I currently write an article a week for the collection. Each week, I get a new question to write about and at the end of the year, Story Worth will bind and publish my responses in a book to be shared with my grandchildren. This week’s question was “How did I get my first job?” What follows is my response. I felt that I wanted it added to this collection as well.

The question here is whether we talk about my first job or my first career job. My first jobs were all part time in nature starting with my very first job as a busboy for an exclusive country club. I followed that up as the weekend car wash manager and from there, graduated to a combine operator for a canning company harvesting peas. My first life skill job was that of a rough carpenter on a house building crew. Over the next eleven plus years I would work for several different contractors building homes and apartments. This job provided me with skills that I applied throughout my life. All of these first jobs were landed through the connections my father had. Though he got me in the door, it was my willingness to do more and to learn everything I could that kept me employed and often promoted. I learned through my father to make connections, to always be networking, but also to go above and beyond the job expectations. Hard work does pay off but so too does ingenuity and initiative.

My first career job was in teaching and came immediately after graduation. Due to circumstances, I graduated in December and looking for a job in teaching meant my opportunities were limited. If I were to teach, I would have to accept a midterm assignment or offer myself up as a substitute teacher. The latter was not very attractive and the former meant I had to replace someone. I threw my application out statewide and even some out of state schools as well. My only opportunity, there was a glut in teachers due to the Vietnam War, came out of a tiny town in far northern Wisconsin.

A teacher was being let go for discipline reasons and I was granted an interview along with three other math educators. When I arrived for the interview, we were all in one room. Sitting across from me were three highly gifted math students. I knew they were sharp because they had been my competition through my degree program at the university. We had all just graduated from UW Oshkosh that December of 1973. How could I even compete for this position? Listening to them talk about how they were going to present themselves, I realized they were going to sell themselves based on skill and knowledge. I had to take a different tack. I decided I would root my answers in discipline and relationship. If I could maintain discipline in the classroom, I could develop a relationship with my students. I would inspire them with my passionate belief that learning was easier in a safe and relational environment.

                                          Loyal High School Logo

Twenty-five years of teaching later, spread across two different districts, I retired on my terms. In between I would make numerous presentations to multiple school districts, win a District Teacher of the Year award in my third year of teaching, and receive two nominations for State Teacher of the Year awards. I would develop educational games, create project based curriculum and write concept based curriculum for the district math department, K-12. My proudest achievement was that my students always knew why they did the math. On one occasion I was asked how I answer the question “why do we have to learn this?” My response was “I don’t know. I’ve never been asked.” As the saying goes now-a-days, mic drops!

I hope the take away from this piece is that who you know is important as long as there exists a relationship of trust. Networking is an important part of that relationship and will help open doors, but ingenuity and initiative will keep the doors open. Never stop growing, learn everything the job and the world have to offer. And one last piece of advice, and this too came from my dad.  Whenever I wanted to change jobs, he would look at me and ask why I wanted to do that and then he would follow it up with “whatever you decide, be the best at it.”  Wise words from a wise man.

Looking Great at 241

This statement is still true today and will always ring true as long as we respect what freedom truly means.

kenisms

Happy birthday USA.  You are 241 years old today and you don’t look a day over 200.  A little gray around the edges but that’s just because we haven’t been doing our best lately to keep you beautiful.  Some would say we need to make you great again but I for one don’t think you ever weren’t great.  You are the most recognized country in the world and a leader in every aspect.  You are a trend setter when it comes to the definition of Democracy and an example for any emerging country that would care enough about it’s populace to protect their freedoms.

Civil Rights

None of this came without a cost.  You have had your share of conflicts to resolve and growing pains when you learned to stretch the definitions of personal freedom.  Through it all, you have kept your poise.  Your fifty children have followed your example and each…

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Lost and Found

If you have ever lost anything you will understand the irony of how lost things have a way of being found.  I recently, very recently, lost my wedding band.  Now as far as things you don’t want to lose go, a wedding ring is right up at the top.  Just the symbolism tends to drive your spouse to the edge.  I must say though that my wife reacted in a pretty understanding way.  She reminded me it was just a thing and she wasn’t going to get angry.  Even so, she had torn the house apart before I even returned home from work.  I meanwhile had searched every area of the office I was sure I had been in and even emailed the staff to organize a treasure hunt.  Three days later, no luck at all, and I am convincing myself the ring will never be found.

And then came Friday.  This is where the story begins.  I was finishing a client appointment and somewhere in the discussion, I had mentioned the lost ring.  My client looks at me and says, “I think this is your day to be lucky.  You are going to find the ring today.”  Now I was sure that wasn’t about to happen but still.  As I drove into my driveway that afternoon, I found myself stopping outside of the garage.  I wanted to drive my car in and planned on using my wife’s car later when we were to go out, but something told me to leave it there and switch the plan.  As I walked into the garage heading for the garage door opener, a cloud rolled by the sun and a beam of sunlight floated into the garage.  And then it happened.  A glint of light reflected up from the sawhorses stacked there in the corner.  I stopped, stepped back, and saw sunlight bouncing back at me.  I couldn’t see what it was, only the reflection.  As I reached down to the slot at the bottom of the sawhorse and placed my finger in to the groove, I felt the loop slip onto the end of my finger and there it was, my missing ring.

The irony here is the circumstances that had to align.  If I had put the car in the garage, if the cloud hadn’t rolled away from the sun, it the beam hadn’t been just at the right angle, if I hadn’t been just where I was.  I’m sure you get the picture.  Some things just want to be found and this wedding ring was one of those things.  The symbolism is not lost on me.  I love my wife and I love my life.  The ring is a symbolism of that unity.  Maybe its absence was meant to remind me of its importance.  Duly noted.

It wasn’t until later that evening that my wife eventually noticed the unification of the ring with my finger, and that is another story, but the expression of relief on her face spoke volumes.  It wasn’t just another thing one loses and forgets.  It was clearly so much more.  Guess I better be careful to make sure it stays on my finger.

Thanks for reading, and in case you’ve lost anything lately, take heart.  If it wants to be found it will find away to find you.  I guarantee it.

 

Always give ’em’ options

When we set about teaching our daughters independence while at the same time keeping our relative sanity, we decided to give them options.  Now please understand, we were at least smart about it.  We would creatively come up with three options knowing full well that we couldn’t lose.  No matter which they picked, we could easily live with the choice.  Now all these years later we can see that it worked.  My daughter Bailey and her husband John, are practicing the same technique with our grandson Jackson.  Here in lies the story.

The other day, while visiting their house, John and I were attempting to watch the Packer game.  I say attempting because Jackson had decided to not watch the game and instead to get us involved in his own game.

Scene one, Jackson enters the room and asks in his 2 1/2 year old style, “can Jackson play tablet?”  After an explanation by his dad that he had already had plenty of tablet time, Jackson comes back with “then Jackson reads daddy’s favorite book?”  Strike two as John explains that he is trying to watch the game and he will read the book later.  Wait for it, Jackson is ready to prove the lesson and win the game.  Without so much as a deep sigh, Jackson reaches over dad’s lap and as he grabs it, says “then Jackson gets the nuk”.  Point, set, match, you’ve all been had by your own game.  And he’s not even 3.

As I explained to John that we had just been schooled, it became clear to me that Jackson is one sharp little guy.  Of course I am his Opa  and couldn’t possibly think anything less.  But then he did figure out the game; give them three choices, all of which are wins and you can’t lose.

So a little advice for those who will be the influences in their grandchild’s life, remind them of this wisdom and urge them to always give themselves options.  Options that can’t lose and that will only lead to success.

It’s all about one’s options.  Nice play Jackson.