People: Riley

Riley was angry. Not visibly. But it wasn’t hard to ‘see’.

He had been fighting the fires as they encroached on his house with his father. He could see the fire down the street, but right then he felt it was all manageable. He was about to cut down the fences while keeping the house wet with the water hoses.

That’s when the Fire Department arrived.

“We’ve got it”. They said. “But you and the family need get out to safe ground.”

Riley looked around, the fire was a quarter of a mile away, the Fire Department had arrived, there was a water hydrant right there in the road.

“We’ve got it.” They reiterated – you need to leave.

Riley and the family left. They only took what they needed.

They returned the next morning, their house was gone. All the houses from where the fire was through to his were gone. The house next door was still standing.

Apparently The fire had ‘jumped’, quickly with speed – there weren’t sufficient resources, once a fire took hold the strategy was to not to ‘protect’, but to ‘contain’.

It would have taken them maybe 10 minutes more to load up their cars with the boxes of pictures, the memorabilia, the family history … packed for an entirely different reason, but left behind because they ‘trusted’ the authorities, the professionals, the people who ‘knew what they were doing’. All that was now gone, along with their house.

Yes – Riley was angry. ‘If only’ – he had stayed, it would have been different. ‘If only’ – they had loaded the cars, mom would not be crying every day … 6 months later. ‘If only’ – the fire service had done their job. He had a lot of ‘if only’ in him…

But he knew in his heart that they had done their job. He was really just angry at himself. He seemed to feel that he had failed.

What he didn’t know was if he had stayed whether the outcome would be different. And if it was different, would the outcome be better or worse.

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal held in your hand, with the intent of throwing it at someone else. You are the only one that gets burned.

Buddha

People: Evelyn

“We quit taking credit cards because of the fees.”

“Couldn’t you have passed the fees back to customers that wanted to use credit?”

“That would have been too complicated.”

“And now you are closing down because there aren’t enough customers?”

“Yes.”

Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.

Mark Cuban

People: Enrique

“I was born in Tijuana. I grew up In San Diego. I moved to San Jose and then San Francisco. Now I’m in Oregon. I guess I’ll get to Canada eventually.”

“Always a barman?” I asked.

“Always a barman.”

“Never thought about doing more? Management? Your own place?”

“Nah.” He said. “Increase my hours, increase my responsibilities, increase my workload, reduce my interaction with my customers and slash my earnings? I might be a barman, but I’m not stupid!”

“I recently asked a room full of 100 managers, ‘If you could keep your current pay but go back to your old role as an individual contributor, would you do it?’” Wellins says. “About 90 people raised their hands. It startled me. I see it as an indication that lots of managers accepted promotions for the wrong reasons.”

Richard Wellins

People: Cynthia

Cynthia was brought up about 50 miles away, moved here in her teens, and ‘worked the tables’ for longer than she meant to. On ‘the way through’ she fell into a job that she had for 38 years and had just retired from, not because she had to but really because the market had fallen through the floor.

Cynthia traveled the world working for a single company for every one of those 38 years. She loved it.

Before she got into it, she didn’t even know it was a job to be done. Have to say – 38 years later, neither did I.

Ever wondered what happened to those gold fillings when grandma passed? Cynthia knows. In Cynthia’s words; “Whoever saw grandma last, just before she was ‘planted’ …. that’s who knows where the gold went. And it wasn’t buried with her.”

Bottom line, Cynthia worked for a gold refinery business – ‘recycling’ division. It was ‘big business’ and kept Cynthia in a really good job for most of her working life.

In case you don’t think that there was money to be made, Cynthia assured me that just one old dentist carpet that was going to be thrown away delivered thousands of dollars in gold.

“Gold,” I said. “I thought that market was very much alive and well?”

“It is,” she said, “but not at the dentists. People haven’t been doing gold fillings for years now – and if they aren’t filling their mouths with gold, we have nothing to buy and recycle.”

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.

Orson Welles

People: Graham

The conversation started simply enough. He lived just up the road, had a little farm … “just as a hobby you know”.

Yes, he’s been in farming the whole of his life, always in ‘these parts’.

His son runs the ‘family farms’. We’ve mainly got grain, orchards and nuts.

“Oh. All over” … the answer to where the farms are located.… “and we have patents.’

Which raised my eyebrows … how many farmers do you know that have patents? No, me neither.

Turns out the patents are in water – wastewater specifically.

Turns out that there are many customers from all over the world already using his technology. Paying customers. A global business that emerged from the farming. And you would never know without talking to him. Exploring the conversation. Doing the journey with him.

Without all of that, he was just ‘another’ elderly gentleman, keeping himself to himself, watching ‘the game’, having a glass of wine at the end of the day – like he does every day BTW.

People: James

“I’m descended from a Scotsman who married a Dakotan Indian. That’s how I came to be in the Crystal business.”

James never explained how that particular logic worked. I think that is part of his charm … and, of course was proud of his lineage.

“But I am Gay – who KNOWS where that came from,” he then proclaimed … in that wonderfully affirmative, standing proud way that some people have.

James. Lovely. Outgoing. Humorous. Positive. Self-Effacing.

Is it because I’m English that I value that trait?

Then again, a six foot, loud, witty, dyed blonde, gay guy selling crystals in a town of less than 30,000 – can you be self-effacing?