Thursday, March 25, 2010
This is a picture of Whitney and I in Houston. That is not the setting for today's story, however. Our story takes place in Provo Utah exactly one year before this picture.
When Whitney and I were married, we kept both of our cars. We didn't insure Whitney's car but just had it sit for awhile, as we drove "The Buick." "The Buick" was a big boat of a car that my parents gave me when I returned from my LDS mission. The car meant a lot to us as a couple because it was part of our courtship at BYU. Not only did we have our first kiss there (front seat people, front seat), we also drove that car to the red woods in California for our honeymoon. It represented a lot of great memories.
As we neared one year of marriage, we saw that we really didn't need two cars. We decided to keep Whit's Nissan Altima and get rid of "The Buick." I put an ad on KSL and Craig's List at a little above the blue book price.
People came by and were very skeptical of the price. If we would have accepted the offer, we would have ultimately made more money than we did 2 months later. But I was hard-nosed. I barely came down for anyone. Eventually we got tired of showing it to people. In addition, the car began self destruct. The computer panel blanked out so that people couldn't see the air conditioning and radio information. The cost to fix the panel was more than the value of the car. The seat belts in the back seat broke. I could tell that this beloved car didn't want to leave me.
I finally dropped the price to half of what I originally offered. A Finnish man came and looked at the car and really liked it. He had just bought a lemon and was not very happy about it. After some negotiation, we determined a price for "The Buick" and I signed over the title.
As I walked away from the car with my cash in hand. I heard the Finnish man try to start the car. It didn't start. I was making a crazy sound in fact. I ran back to see if everything was okay. We thought that the car must have just run out of gas. I ran to get a gas can from a neighbor and drove with the Finn to get some gas. We filled up the car as best we could and it still wouldn't start. I was pretty low. I offered him his money back and we scratched out his name on the title.
I had the car towed to the shop and found out that everything should be okay but that there could be one very expensive repair that might need to be done. The car ran fine for the next two weeks, and I eventually did sell the car.
In life we sometimes sell "The Buick" only to have it not start as we walk away. We could wash our hands of what is done. I had legally sold that car and had the right to walk away. I was so disappointed that I still had this crummy, self-destructing-before-my-eyes car. At the same time, I knew that as a man and as a decent human being I couldn't let this Finn sit there with his awesome new car.
Optimism in many ways is like hope. Even if this experience was going to ruin my day and require me to do a lot more work over the next few weeks, I knew that the car would sell eventually. I was optimistic that this tragedy would eventually become a story I could laugh about...and I do. There's always time to be optimistic, and in the end optimism births more time and more help from those around you. The hope that things will get better is always stronger than the mire we find ourselves stuck in.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
El Paso Oil was a great experience for me. It solidified in my mind that HR is definitely the career I want to pursue at this point in my life. I learned a lot from day one. In fact, "day one"is the topic of the day.
The first day on the job, you obviously want to make a good impression. Midway through, I thought I was doing pretty well. There were 2 other HR interns, Ashley and Clair, and we were all in the same boat. Rob, the recruiter, took us around to every single office on the 28th floor to introduce us to all the corporate HR employees. After about 10 people, I totally lost track of who was who and who did what.
Later in the day, we went to a Hurricane preparedness training. I was a little shocked that I was in hurricane country, growing up in the corn fields of the midwest and all. I sat down next to a woman and joked about my unfamiliarity with hurricanes. She laughed and joked back. I didn't recognize her so I introduced myself and stuck my hand out. Her eyes narrowed a tad and she simply said, "We met this morning."
Whoa. Hand retracted. Conversation over. We didn't really talk much the rest of the seminar. I found out a few days later that this woman was the VP of HR (Sue Ortenstone), and that I, the lowly intern, would have to work with her one-on-one in one of my projects.
I decided to forget our second meeting (I had obviously already forgotten our first meeting). I went to her office on the appointed day and we had a great conversation. She took a lot of time to get to know me and learn about BYU and my family.
It turns out that names are very important to Sue. She had started in "Big Oil" back when there were NO women in the industry. She graduated in petroleum engineering and worked on an off-shore rig where she had to work her tail of to gain the respect she should have equally received like the males. Through time, Sue took positions that led her to be CEO of an oil company in Austraila. She became a leader known for remembering names and details about people and leveraging her relationships to get ahead.
I still keep in touch with Sue even though I was just an intern and no long work at El Paso. I found out that she was a good lady- but a busy one. One that has a lot on her plate and has bad days just like all of us.
I think that part of optimism is looking past the negative experiences we have with people. One bad encounter sometimes ruins relationships, jobs, families, etc. At times I think that we just have to pretend it didn't happen. Now that may seem like I'm comparing optimism to ignorance or stupidity. Its not that at all. It's forgiveness. It's gratitude. Part of enjoying life to the fullest is choosing what you want to dwell on. I choose the good. I choose the best.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Many of the life lesson's I've learned have come from working. During the summer of 2007 I worked for Magleby's Custom Homes with my friend Merrill Madsen. In the end we both determined that construction wasn't for us, but that's another story for another blog post. Each day we would drive up to Wolf Creek Mountain by Heber, UT and work for 8-9 hours. The drive was about an hour and arrived each day on site at 7:00am. Merrill and I were not framers, in fact it seemed that many days we weren't allowed to even pick up a hammer. I was what's know as a "gofer." Or I was the one that was told "Go fer that wood over there," or "Go fer that sledge hammer in trailer." Having owned my own business and worked hard most of my life, I struggled with my new role.
To understand this story it is important to understand the amount of money the land owner had. This man had paid over $20 million for the lot alone, at the very top of the mountain. It was so high up that the construction team was struggling to get the water pumps to work properly because of the change in pressure. This lot would include a home, a care-taker's home (bigger than most the homes I grew up in), a barn, a yurt, a man-made lake, a baseball field, and a snowmobile trail through the woods. Along with these amenities, Russ Taylor, the manager of this job, had talked the owner into building a jeep trail.
Now most jeep trails are made naturally by vehicles traveling over grass so much that two ruts are formed a little wider than a tire width wide. This jeep trail, however, would be fabricated. Before we could put fresh dirt down and seed the middle of the trail, we dug down 2-3 feet to put down varying levels of rock. This rock was sifted from the property itself by a large machine. The sifting machine did not sift out wood and sticks very well, as they most likely seem much like rocks to a sifter.
This jeep trail, 1 foot into the ground, is the setting of my story. Merrill and I had been assigned to pick sticks and wood chunks out of the rocks for 2 days. That's 16 hours of leaning over 50 yards of rocks, sitting on rocks, kneeling on rocks, and hand sifting through rocks to find any wood pieces. The reasoning was that the pieces of wood would disintegrate and cause dips in the jeep trail. I highly doubted that a few sticks here or there would make a difference in the more than two feet of varying sizes of rock in the long run. After two days of working on this jeep trail, I was bored out of my mind and loosing patience with my job.
On day 3, my superiors determined that they wouldn't have work for Merrill and I until later in the day. They once more sent us to the jeep trail to pick out wood. I was upset to say the least. I felt like I could do millions of other jobs besides construction where people would respect my talents and where I could do useful work. As I sat on the pointy rocks in my all-but-worn-out work jeans, some of the excavation guys came over to talk to us. The head excavator hadn't been on site for about 2 weeks because he had been in prison. This didn't really surprise me when I had heard. I knew his lifestyle would eventually lead to incarceration for some extent of time, and that he had already previously served time. For our purposes, we'll call him the "ex-con."
The ex-con came up and immediately started telling us about prison and what it was like this time. I didn't join in the conversation, not having a whole lot of experience with the topic, and also not really wanting to talk or smile for that matter. The ex-con noticed my unusual silence and he said,
"How's the jeep trail com'n?"
"It's okay. I'm kind of tired of picking out sticks though. We've been at it two days."
"Easy money man! That's a sweet job."
I noticeably grimaced. He saw my grimace and fixed his eyes on me with cold stare. He proceeded to cuss me out. He called me every name in the book for thinking I was above the work and for being such a sourpuss. I immediately picked my head up and smiled to show him I wasn't above picking up sticks and to get in his good graces again. But in my head, I still hated the work.
Today I think about that story and immediately think of a time when a little more optimism would have helped me out a lot. The ex-con may have gone about it differently than most people I've worked with in life, but he taught me to enjoy what I do and do it well. I'm not saying that we should all go after "easy money," because I don't think that's exactly what Mr. Ex-Con meant. I feel like he was saying that I should make the best of every situation. If all you can do is pick up sticks, do it in a way so that no one can ever doubt who you are or how hard you can work.
I don't know what happened to this excavator, but I do know that I won't soon forget the lesson he taught me in his rough language about being optimistic in any job is required of me.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
My adventures with airports did not stop in Utah. I flew to Illinois several weeks later to visit some friends. I stayed a week and had a great time seeing everyone before I left on my mission. I stayed up late every night- especially the last night. Sitting around the table with my friends the Todd's as we played 'Maw' until the early morning.
After an hour or two of sleep, Carrie and Matt Todd gave me a ride to Rockford where I caught a bus to O'hare Airport in Chicago. I got to my terminal just fine. There were no knives stowed in my bags and none of my bags were over 100lbs--which was good. I promptly found a seat and fell fast asleep...
I woke up and saw that it was 3 minutes before my plane was scheduled to leave. I shook off some sleep and sat up and waited for boarding call. I waited some more. I got antcy about 30 minutes after the flight was scheduled to leave. I walked up to the desk and asked about my flight. They asked if I was Joe Hardie.
"Yeah, that's me." (Man, everyone knows me!)
"Did you not hear us call your name 3 times over the intercom?" (uh oh...)
"No, I...um...fell asleep over there." (For shame...)
"The plane is on the runway, sir, there's no way you can make it on."
"What should I do?"
"Sir, let's see if we can reroute you."
They did. I ended up spending an extra six hours traveling from O'Hare to Dallas, then to Tulsa, instead of straight to Tulsa. On the up side, I got to go to Dallas for the first time in my life.
This is one of my favorite memories. That might seem strange, but let me explain. I kept the plane ticket and wrote on the back "don't sleep through life." That ticket has become a symbol to me to never rest when there is work to be done and life to be lived. I still take a nap every now and then, but I will never let life pass me by--it's just too good to sleep through.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
What a country! I'm back and it feels darn good. My good friend Nate Black started his doctoral degree in nutrition this past fall at the University of Hawaii. Before he left, he said, "Joe I need you to to keep exporting optimism. I depend on it!" So thanks Nate for inspiring me to continue blogging. Despite taking a heavy class load, working part time, and having a new baby girl, I think that this blog is important to my sanity.
I am taking a new approach to exporting optimism this year. My aim is to share one story a week from my life. Some of these stories were turning points in my life. Other times they will be just fun stories that illustrate who I am.
2004 was a rough year for me in airports. It all started when I tried to bring my whole dorm room home with me on the plane. I had just completed my first summer term at BYU and was headed back to a different home that I had left. BYU summer term started just 10 days after my high school graduation and the day I left with my mom to travel to Utah, my dad left with a Uhaul for Sperry, Oklahoma. I am convinced that this was an inspired move for my parents, but that fact doesn't make moving any easier on a teenager.
Coming home from an eventful summer to a new place with no friends was like leaving the pool party to go mow your parents lawn (aside: this is much more than a clever simile- there were in fact many pool parties at BYU, and I did in deed mow my parents lawn in OK). Thinking about moving to this new home lead me to not think much at all as you'll soon see. I told my parents that I wasn't going to send anything home, and I was just going to pay for an extra bag on the plane.
I got a ride to the airport from a good friend and walked confidently into the Salt Lake City airport to check my bags. Who knew that bags over 100 lbs are considered air freight? Not I. Who knew that checking an extra bag was twice as expensive as shipping UPS? Maybe I. The kind Delta Employee allowed me to get my 107 lbs bag down to 99lbs, and I headed to the security check point...with two carry-on bags, and 8lbs worth of blankets and cloths underneath my arm.
I was confident that my troubles were behind me. I walked into security with my head held high and a smile on my face. My backpack and blankets went through with no problem. I put my flip flops back on (essential college footwear) and watched as the X-ray technician sent my stuffed duffel bag forwards and backwards what seemed like 8 times. Then he called over a supervisor. He pointed at my bag and said something inaudible. I racked my brain for what I had put in my bag. It held everything that was previously on my desk. I couldn't think of anything that would have compromised others' security on the plane. They pulled the bag over to a secured area and asked me sit down. They pulled out item after item. Socks, pencils, mugs, notebooks, sidewalk chalk, a sidewalk chalk holder, a football, frisbee, a tissue holder in the shape of a bathroom, and other college essentials. They didn't seem to find what they were looking for, however.
They asked me to open the tissue holder. Now, before I go on, you need to understand this object. It is a setup of a toilet, electric razor, blow drier, sink, and mirror. The objects had little red buttons that made noise--a flushing toilet, a mirror breaking, etc. This was pretty much an heirloom passed on from my cooler older brother when he left for college. Receiving such a sacred gift was like a rite of passage to enter into a new phase of life. I had no one to pass it on to when I left for college so I kept it, and thus stayed in my high school-like mind set.
I opened the back of the tissue holder and took out a yo-yo, several packs of gum, a few tissues (used and unused), and...What in the world? How did my buck knife make it in the carry on bag? This knife when unfolded is about 5 inches long. I don't think I used it at all during my first term, but a guy has got to have his knife right? Well I was taken in for questioning and we talked for probably 40 minutes. They looked at the other objects in the bag and noted how deeply the knife was buried. It would have been literally the last object I could have gotten to in the bag. In the end they just laughed and ask how my summer at college had been. They could see from my demeanor that I was not there to hurt anyone, just trying to make the journey home. They allowed me to mail the knife home in a bubble-wrapped envelope and I sprinted to my gate to make my flight. Oh what a way to end a great summer! That's when my airport woes began. I was halfway to aptphobia and didn't even know it.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
My Personal Code of Ethics
Value: Honesty and Integrity
Honest with my fellow man
- I believe that it is possible to be %100 honest in my business dealings. Though it might not be popular or land every business deal, honesty will be in every aspect of my business career.
- A lie will easily get you out of a scrape, and yet, strangely and beautifully, rapture possesses you when you have taken the scrape and left out the lie. ~Charles Edward Montague, Disenchantment
- Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world. ~Thomas Carlyle
Value: Citizenship and Obedience
Obey The law
- I believe that the laws of the land are to help us guide our decisions. I will not break the law to further myself or company in any way. I will understand the regulations and rules regarding important decisions.
- For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. ~James 2:10 Bible
Value: Hard work and Dependability
Earn every dollar
- I believe that when I am at work that I should be working. There are times when we take breaks, true, but to have the character that I desire and the moral integrity of my father I must earn each dollar by dedicated service to my employer.
- Do not wait; the time will never be "just right'. Start where you stand, and work with whatever tools you may have at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along. ~
- Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all. ~Sam Ewing
Value: Appropriate Disclosure
A right to know
- I believe in ethical communication. There have been times in my life when I've seen people lose their jobs simply because no one would sit down and give them the facts straight. Everyone should have an informed chance to try again at a first impression, or understand the nature of their work under given workplace norms.
- The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said. ~ Peter F. Drucker
Value: Ethical Leadership
Lead for Good
- I believe that I have been given a gift to lead others. I am aware of the power a leader holds and pledge to choose judiciously, act fairly, and inspire others to do better.
- The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision. You can't blow an uncertain trumpet. ~Theodore M. Hesburgh
- I believe that everyone can overcome prejudice. I desire to have no prejudice in working with others. I will regard each coworker as a friend.
- I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks. ~Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird