In 1999 I started a career with Olan Mills Portrait Studios as a photographer in Denver Colorado. Eventually, I moved up the ranks to be a District Manager where my job consisted more of hiring photographers, conducting photography workshops and choosing photos and writing verbiage for the company’s ads. It was fairly short-lived as the age of digital cameras saw our studios closing their doors one by one.
My supervisor’s name was Eric and I had never met anyone like him. He was a single guy trying his darndest to move up the corporate ladder. He was motivated and dedicated. He was originally from Texas and had the accent to prove it. He loved the three Georges: George Straight, George Sr. and George W. Bush.
Boy oh boy could that guy to sell. We used to get a big bonus if we sold an over-sized canvas portrait to families. Eric was great at it. It did not matter what goofy stage your child was in or how fake their smile was, Eric could talk the parents into a gallery-sized canvas of their child with the cheesy grin.
He would look at them with eyes that sparkled more than the stars over Texas and say, “This is the most beautiful child I ever did see. Yes ma’am it sure is.”
Next thing you knew, he was selling his fifth canvas of the week.
I was not as good at it as he was. I knew my facial expressions would tell the truth when maybe I was stretching how beautiful I thought a baby was.
That was only one of many ways Eric and I differed. What we had in common was we both had gypsy souls that led us away from home, like many young people starting out in life. What we also had in common was the belief that home was where the heart was, thus we were both respectively working our way back to Wisconsin and Texas as soon as we could.
When I received news a position with the company was waiting for me in Wisconsin, Eric threw me a surprise going away party. He gifted me a journal, as he had one where he wrote down his future goals. Throughout the book he gave me, he sporadically jotted down words of wisdom.
There are still times in my life I open up that journal, read his words and reignite my need to follow his advice.
One entry said, “Never accept work where you’re not learning. Don’t ever become a person who believes they know everything better than anyone else. Never stop being curious and never stop learning.”
He’s right. Nobody and I mean NOBODY really likes the person who thinks they know everything better than everyone else. You may think it makes you a leader, but it doesn’t.
Another entry shared said, “If you meet a jerk once in a while, then that person is a jerk. If you meet a jerk every day, then you’re the jerk.”
I have to say this hits the nail on the head. Also, I must admit that was not a true quote. He did not use the work jerk. He used a word that was not newspaper appropriate, thus I cleaned up that dirty Texas talk.
He wrote, “Be the type of person you want to meet. Be the type of friend you want to befriend. Be the type of partner you’d want to date.”
Something so simple, yet sometimes it takes reminding.
I think my old pal Eric truly knew what he was talking about. He followed his own advice (which is another piece of advice) and it has served him well.
Today he is a single father of 10-year-old twin girls outside of San Antonio. He is no longer selling canvases, but has not lost his touch. Living the words he shared with me, along with some southern charm, has led him to a successful real estate career.
As much as most of my readers do not need the following advice from him, I would like to share one last bit just in case. Knowing I was heading back to Wisconsin, he said, “When you drive in snow, just pretend you are taking your grandma to church. There’s a platter of biscuits and two gallons of sweet tea in glass jars in the back seat. She’s wearing a new dress and holding a crock pot full of gravy.”
I enjoy sharing my thoughts with you, and look forward to readers sharing their thoughts in return.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, write me at P.O. Box 424, Amery WI, 54001 or I can be reached by phone at 715-268-8101