#Winning

Remember when Charlie Sheen went off the deep end?  When he unashamedly and publicly immersed himself in a world filled with drugs, hookers and money?  He made popular the hashtag #winning and gave a catchy slogan to what most Americans have been striving for throughout our nations history.  Not necessarily the women, drugs and money but the desire and ability to win at life, whatever that may mean for you. The quality is so prized in our culture that people like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant get endless praise for their drive and “do whatever it takes to win” attitude while LeBron James, who is in the same breath in terms of skill level, gets an insane amount of ridicule because he seems to be lacking that over the top quality.  LeBron, all we want you to do is publicly berate and belittle your teammates because they aren’t good enough, is that too much to ask?? We just want you to care so much about winning that you’ll push everyone out of your way and leave a path of destruction behind you until you get it! Remember the look on your face in game 6 against the Celtics in 2012? Why can’t you be like that all the time!

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Sports are an easy example of our desire to win but I’ve realized it permeates through all aspects of life. Business can be even more cut throat than on a playing court. I’ve seen a previous boss of mine get so fired up about a contract negotiation that its scary. Actual quotes from him include: “you got to have your weapons if your going to war!” “Do you want me to just pull my pants down and bend over? Because it seems like you want to screw me!” And “sometimes you just need to ask them, ‘where do you take your kids to the pool’ because that might be the only way they’ll pay you your money!” Mind you, these are all quotes that are during or preceeding a conversation with a client to discuss the finer points of how we are going to pound some steel into the ground. Mine and any normal persons thoughts are simple: “you’re insane. It’s a construction business and there is no need to get so worked up. These people aren’t out to get you, why do you feel like every conversation you have is a battle that needs to be won?” It’s evident after the “battle” that he’s so proud of himself.  The door to his office opens and he comes strutting out, chest puffed, with the aura of a champion. The only thing I see accomplished is he successfully made the other person hate their lives every time his name pops up on their phone. He successfully beat them down in such a way that it’s easier to give him what he wants then to spend one more minute in conversation. But what do I know, the company is doing well and making a lot of money. I guess that’s #winning. I also know he’s not alone. Names like Steve Jobs, George Steinbrenner and George S. Patton come to mind. These men were highly successful leaders who took what they wanted and by all accounts were absolutely miserable to work for.

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Winning also isn’t only for the rich and successful, though they are clearly doing it better than you. No, even a layperson can succeed in winning.  If I’m having a conversation with you about why the Bears are the greatest franchise in the history of the NFL and you happen to disagree and say, no it’s the Steelers, look at their six Superbowl victories, the Bears only have 1.  True, but before the title game was dubbed the “Superbowl” there were still title games, and my beloved Bears have won 9 of those. We could go back and forth like this for some time, and eventually whoever knows the most about the history of the NFL will be deemed winner of the conversation.  Simple questions like “what’s the most you’ve ever benched?” “What did you get on the SATs”? Or “what’s the fastest you’ve ever driven”? May all seem innocent enough but in reality they satisfy a hunger in us to want to be better than our peers.

 

This is about the point where my pride becomes most apparent.  The will to win can be an admirable trait when it reveals itself in such a way that causes you to work hard and not succumb to the temptation of leading a slothful life.  It’s when it gets to the point where you can’t be happy unless you beat the person across from you that it becomes damaging and ultimately futile.  There is always someone bigger faster and stronger, and even if you do become the number one person in your field, it only lasts for a very short time before you lose the edge that got you there.  It’s all vanity, a chasing after the wind.  Jesus is the only one that can truly satisfy, the only God that can give peace.  Not only is he the creator of the world, but he won the only battle that matters, the battle over death.  The fact that he cares enough about us and is willing and wanting to share that victory with us is truly amazing.  That is what I would call #winning.

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Incompetent People

In my 18 months of working in the construction industry, one thing has been consistent throughout.  Nobody knows what they’re doing.  At least if you listen to anyone talk for more than 10 minutes, that’s what they’ll tell you.

Common phrases you’ll hear on any jobsite in Chicago:

1. “These guys don’t have a clue.”

2. “They’re a bunch of cowboys out there.”

3. “They act like this is the first time we’ve drilled anchors.”

4. “That guy is dumb as a box of rocks.”

5. “How do you expect me to dig this?? With a China man and a couple of spoons??”

6. “All they do over there is drink coffee and smoke cigarettes.”

It’s amazing to me that all of these incompetent people who don’t have a clue what they are doing are the same people that build things like the Sears Tower, Trump Tower, the John Hancock.  Granted, I’m sure none of those projects when perfectly without any mistakes, but c’mon man…nothing goes perfectly ever.  We all know that.  But in the end the job still gets done and usually it’s pretty dang impressive.

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Lunch Time

The twelve o’clock hour provides more stress and manipulation than almost any other time of the day.  Most of it is focused on how to avoid the Baldwins. (refer to previous post on Patcher for more info on the Baldwins)  I feel like a boss should realize that their employees probably don’t want to go to lunch with them every day.  When else do employees have time to talk about their superiors with coworkers without fear of being overheard?  Well it appears the Baldwin brother’s haven’t quite grasped this concept and it’s a constant scheming each morning to try and figure out if they are going to be around for lunch or not.  When they aren’t around for lunch, it’s the best time of the day.  Laughter and joy abound with free flowing conversation and a good break from the work day.  However, when one or both of the Baldwin’s are around they always join us for lunch.  When they are present it’s a completely different atmosphere, they dominate every conversation (usually about work) and can just be draining to be around.

Hans, the elder brother is just a strange person.  One day we’re at Taco Hell and he goes to the cashier and asks, “What do you have that doesn’t suck?”  I just kind of lower my head in embarrassment that I’m with this guy, the cashier doesn’t know how to respond.  I think he ended up ordering a burrito, but things like this are NORMAL for him.

We also can never decide where to go.  Options are extremely limited in Gary, IN.  The big Z is the normal place which is just your average gyro stop, but they have almost everything for pretty cheap.  The other deals are 5 buck lunch at DQ, free frosty at wendy’s because I bought a coupon for $1 at the beginning of the year, little squeezers (little caesars) or the snak pak meal at Culvers.

Moral of the story is I need to start bringing my lunch, but that brings up a whole other set of issues…

Life is a Marathon

I ran my first marathon last weekend.  Couldn’t have been a more perfect day.  50 degrees, not a cloud in the sky.  45,000 runners, and spectators lining the entire 26.2 mile track.  I woke up at 3:30am no doubt because I was afraid of missing my alarm.  I peed for the first time that day and went back to bed.  I woke up 2 hours later, drank a little bit of smoothie, threw on some sweats and started the 3 mile bike to the starting line.  I biked slowly, taking in the calm of the city right before the sun comes up.  A few others were heading towards Grant Park, shouting their well wishes as they passed me by.  I arrived at the starting location and got into the line for the bathroom.  There are never enough porta-potties at these things.  They should just expect that 45,000 people are going to have to pee twice before the race starts.  So I find the shortest line, wait 15 minutes and go.  I still have about 30 minutes before the race starts so I meander over to the snack table and try out the weird gels and chews they have for free.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t anything more than fruit snacks.  I then have to go pee again, don’t know why or how…I had only drank about 12 oz of liquid that morning.

It’s finally time for the start.  I cross the starting line, good form, slow pace, ready to make it the entire 26.2.  By about mile 0.14 I have to pee.  Unbelievable.  The first bride we go under there is about 15 guys standing two to a pier urinating right there for everyone to see.  I guess I wasn’t the only one who had to go.  I finally spot some potties at mile 9 without a ridiculously long line.  I’m cruising along, feeling good and then I cross mile 18.  All of a sudden every muscle in both my legs decides to contract and then stay there.  I look at my watch…I had about 1.5 hours left until I thought I would be done.  8.2 more miles.  How in the world am I going to finish?  Well, I had to get back to my bike so I could get home somehow, also I didn’t think I could bear the humiliation of not finishing.  So I did the fat man shuffle for the next 8.2 miles.  I stopped often to try to stretch out my cramps, it would work for a couple minutes and then my legs would return to having a fiery sensation.  My left leg actually quit at one point and I hopped to the sidewalk to try and stretch it out.  A concerned onlooker gave me a bottle of water.  I’m not sure exactly what happened the next hour and half, I must have blacked out or my memory is doing me a favor and deleted it.  One thing does stand out though…

When you get close to finishing the marathon, every spectator likes tell you that you are almost done.  I think I heard the first “almost there!” with about 6 miles to go.  “Almost” is a relative term, but I certainly wouldn’t classify 6 miles as being almost done.  The 21st mile marker was in sight and I hear someone shout “5 more miles!”  Ok…I still have my cognitive abilities, I know that once I cross the 21st marker, I will then have 5.2 miles left.  I think to myself, “No Ma’am you are wrong.”  There is nothing worse than OTHER people miscalculating the required distance that have left to run.  The audacity.  I remember slowly approaching the 25 mile marker.  (Slowly is an understatement, by this time there was 55 year old overweight mothers passing me.)  Someone yelled out “ONE MORE MILE.”  I yelled back “YOU ARE A LYING WHORE!!!”  Not really, but I was thinking it.  1.3 miles later I crossed the finish line at a turtles pace right behind a 78 year old man who’s knees looked like they were about to poke through his skin.  I finished.

there are two types of people in this world

We can choose to actively pursue a relationship or passively let it go where it will.  The latter often leads to a lack of quality relationships, while the former can produce high highs, low lows, and general emotional turmoil.  At times it can be easier to let injustices be ignored.  It’s more comfortable to ignore an issue then to bring it up.  Better to appear thick skinned and not let anything bother you.  Heaven forbid you feel vulnerable to another human being.  And pretty soon the small rift you had in your relationship becomes a canyon impossible to cross.  It didn’t happen over night.  It wasn’t ugly, or noticeable to the public.  There may not be hatred in your heart, but pretty soon the relationship is just gone.   Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:15, that if a fellow Christian sins against us, or something is causing a strain on our relationship, then go talk to him about it.  We cannot afford to lose a single person to the evil one.  We must care so deeply that we do everything in our power to chase them.  There is no room for passivity or indifference.  This must be an urgent matter for it has eternal implications.  Lord I ask that we not be bystanders in your kingdom, but pursuers of those straying.  And if those straying do not come back we must continue to pursue them as though they are lost.  The end result of gaining a brother and restoring a relationship is so great, it far outweighs the absence of conflict and thus the absence of a person in the kingdom of God.

the family business

Working for a small family-run business has it’s pros and cons.  On one hand there isn’t a lot of structure, which leads to a lot of freedom and no bureaucratic obstacles which could prevent things from getting done in a timely fashion.  On the other hand, there isn’t a lot of structure, which can lead to everyone writing their own rule book, taking advantage of the lack of accountability and not having answers to some very elementary questions such as “Do my vacation day’s carry over?”  Now, say that family-run business is owned by two brothers who are as opposite as can be and are always fighting with each other.  Welcome to my life.  The following is a general history from what I have gathered in my 1+ years of working for this company.  Names have been changed to protect the individuals involved.

This company, Patcher, is owned by a family named the Baldwins.  The father, Stan, sold the company to his two sons, Hans and Franz, when he was too old to continue coming to work.  Now you would think Hans, being the elder son, would have assumed a general leadership role in the partnership with Franz, but this is not the case.  Legend has it that Franz was always the favorite child and Hans always struggled for his father’s approval, but never received so much as a pat on the back or a single word of encouragement.  This is probably an exaggeration, but not too far-fetched.  Franz was well-liked by all his peers and went on to many years of advanced education and drinking.  He ended up attending MIT and received a PhD from Illinois.  After he was done partying and being in school for a little too long, he came back to work for Patcher and his father, Stan.  Now Hans is no slouch.  He earned an MBA from USC and then got a job away from Dad.  Hans advanced as far as he could in a short amount of time and decided to come to Patcher where he knew eventually he would have a chance to be a part owner of the business.  I wasn’t around at the time Stan sold to his son’s and slowly phased himself out, but however it went down, Franz took the title of President with Hans being the VP.  It must have been difficult for Hans, working for little bro.  But he presses on and genuinely enjoys what he does and the work required to run a business.

As I said before, Hans and Franz are polar opposites.  Franz is very smart, but also extremely personable.  He feels right at home weather he’s talking to a 4-year-old, a construction worker or a college professor.  Franz is the big picture guy and does all his innovating on the back of a napkin.  He can talk his way out of anything and is a great business man.  His downside is a lack of organization, and wanting to be involved in so many projects at a time, he ends of getting none of them done.  Hans on the other hand is extremely…particular.  Organized is the wrong word, hence why I didn’t use it.  Hans also has a million things going on at once and can’t seem to find what he needs when he needs it.  But as far as contracts or details go, Hans picks through every one with a fine toothed comb.  He makes sure everything is spelled out exactly how he wants it and that no stone is left unturned.   This is a very good balance to Franz flying by the seat of his pants, and probably has saved the company vast amounts of money.  His major downfall is people can’t stand him.  Multiple clients have stated they will only do business with Patcher if Hans is kept away from them.  Hans doesn’t pick up on social cues and doesn’t understand how to treat people.  He can be overbearing and aggressive, often when there is absolutely no need.  He can also be a perfectly fine person to be around.  One of the things that makes him so strange is you never know what you’re going to get.

There’s a short summary of the history and general feel of working at Patcher for the Baldwins.  I will occasionally write about the escapades that go during a normal work day and this will give some background to the craziness that is Patcher.

On Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football is a phenomenon that was started in 1963 by Wilfred Winkenbach and Bill Tunnell according to Wikipedia.  It obviously has boomed since the internet starting taking off and you don’t have to call in your trades to the league commissioner anymore.  My boss was telling me how he used to be a commissioner of his fantasy league before the internet and had to tally everyones scores each week.  They actually had a voicemail box set up where everyone would call in their transactions each week and he was responsible for updating rosters by calling the voicemail to see who called it in first.  Now that this is all automated, being a commish isn’t a 20 hour a week part time job.

One of the sacred parts of fantasy football is being able to choose your own name.  The wittiest name each year, while not outwardly applauded, is usually given silent approval by foes, each wishing they had thought of something better.  Personally, I’ve been playing fantasy since about 2004 and I think 8 out of the last 10 years by team names have included the word “touch,” this year’s team name being “Don’t Touch My Bushrod.”

The draft is by far the best part of fantasy.  Well, the draft and everything before the draft.  The idea of starting fresh and redeeming yourself from last years disappointment is like a shot of ecstasy.  Then after the draft you feel one of two things:  hatred of yourself for drafting such a terrible team or cautiously optimistic.  No one ever feels ecstatic.  I fell just under cautiously optimistic.  We’ll say I feel cautiously optimistic that I won’t finish in last place again.  I have potential, but by no means consider myself a favorite heading into the year.

The result of fantasy and the reason the NFL, ESPN and CBS promote it so much is because it makes any football game that one of my fantasy players is playing in watchable.  Where as before I would only watch the Bears and maybe a primetime big time matchup on Sunday, now I’m going to be watching a random Texans-Titans games to see how many yards Arian Foster is going to rush for.  Woo! I love football!