Posts tagged: Bell Atlantic

Inspiring Your Audience

I wrote this and delivered it as speech number ten for my “Competent Communicator” designation in Toastmasters. I hope you enjoy it. The purpose of the speech is to inspire your audience.

“Never Give Up, Never Surrender.”

That is what Tim Allen says throughout the 1999 movie “Galaxy Quest.” It’s kind of corny, but I like the movie and the quote. In the movie Tim Allen plays Peter Taggart, the captain of a starship and crew on a weekly television show. It’s totally a parody of Star Trek. Real, friendly aliens from another galaxy watch his show after the television signal travels through space to reach them. They base their whole society around the show. Those aliens are on the verge of being wiped out by real, unfriendly, unattractive aliens. They come to earth to recruit Tim Allen and his crew to help them. They don’t realize that Tim is just an actor on a television show. Naturally, Tim and his crew never give up and never surrender, although of course it looks hopeless for a while.

Jack Cust was signed to a professional baseball contract by the Arizona Cardinals after he graduated from high school in 1997. He went right to the minor leagues and stayed there for 10 years. He made very brief appearances in the big leagues with 5 different teams, but always went back down to the minor leagues. In 2007 he was playing for the San Diego Padres in the minor leagues.

He told his agent to see if he could get him a contract with a team in Japan. On May 2, 2007 his agent called him and told him that 2 teams in Japan were interested. Twenty minutes later his agent called him back to say that the Oakland Athletics wanted him to be their designated hitter. (Mike Piazza had gotten injured and the A’s needed a new designated hitter.) He is in his 4th season now with Oakland.

The July 31, 2007 Sports Illustrated has a story about him called “The Legend of Jack Cust“. The last paragraph of the article says: Cust was five years old and sitting behind first base at Yankee Stadium when he first told his father that he wanted to be a professional ballplayer. “As long as I can remember my goal was to be a big league player — to make it in the big leagues,” says the legend. “I keep saying that this, right now, is my last chance at it. But really, it’s my first.”

Jack never gave up. Not even this year when he was sent to the A’s AAA team in Sacramento to start the season. I admire him for that.

In 1994 I found out that I did not get a job with Bell Atlantic that I had interviewed for and had wanted for a long time. I was crushed and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I put on a suit, grabbed a copy of my resume and went down the street to talk to a small company that sold computers. A few minutes after I got back home, about an hour later, I got a phone call. It was an offer from Bell Atlantic to start working for them on Monday. This was a different job than I had originally applied for, but it turned out to be the best job I ever had, at more than twice the money I would have accepted, and I ended up working for them for 12 years. I went from despair to wahoo in an hour. You just never now what might happen if you don’t give up.

In 1967 I was the starting pitcher on Hamilton PAL, a Babe Ruth League team in Yardville, New Jersey. I was 14 years old and Jack Cust’s father was the center fielder. Bob Demeo was the catcher on the team (Demeo Field in Veterans Park, Hamilton, NJ is named for him.) I couldn’t throw a curve ball to save my life. Bobby always put down a 1 for a fastball. I would shake him off and try to throw my curve ball. I can still see him shaking his head in disgust. I lost every game I pitched that year except for one and my arm hurt. I still wanted to pitch though.

In 1968, I was 15 and I taught myself to throw a great curve ball. I can’t remember how I learned. I think I just experimented in practice until I got it right. Jack Cust was still the center fielder, but I had a new, younger catcher. That one pitch made all the difference. I could throw it for a strike whenever and wherever I wanted. I won every game I pitched that year except for one that I lost, 1 to 0. I shared the leagues best pitcher award that year with Kenny Andrews, another pitcher on my team. 1967 was a terrible year and I could have given up. But I knew that I could do a lot better. I didn’t give up and 1968 was a great year.

Let’s go further back in the “wayback” machine.

June 4, 1940
Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” speech to the House of Commons following, “Operation Dynamo,” the evacuation of 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk, France to England during WWII. These are the last few sentences of Winston Churchill’s speech.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

I’m certain that Winston Churchill meant every word he said. He was the right man, at the right time, in the right place.

I very good friend of mine, Larry Lewis, used to say, ” The only way you don’t get what you want is you either give up or you die.”

I’m not giving up. Don’t you give up either.

In the immortal words of Captain Taggart, “Never give up. Never surrender.”

You’ll See It When You Believe It

In 1989 I was laid off from a job working for Purolator Courier. I delivered packages like a UPS or Fed Ex driver. I then went to work for a small local courier service as a contractor. That was a really crummy job with no benefits and lousy pay. After a few months of that, I decided that if I am going to do this, I should work for myself. I just didn’t know what else to do. So, I started my own business, Voyager Express Courier. I worked at that for about 4 years and struggled along. In the course of running the business I used to go to my brother Howard’s house to use his computer. I had a typewriter at home and was familiar with that, but I wanted to create a customized letter that I could use to market my business. My brother had WordPerfect on his computer and a big, noisy dot-matrix printer. I remember having to yell to him whenever I had to print, “what’s that print key?” If I remember correctly it is shift + F7. I laugh about it now, but I suppose I should have written it down. It was really great to be able to backspace over mistakes instead of using white out, correcting tape or just ripping the paper out of the typewriter and starting with a fresh sheet. I finally broke down and bought a computer at the Trenton Computer Festival. It was held at Mercer County Community College. My brother Howard and my friend Carl helped me pick it out. It was a x286 with a 40MB hard drive and 1MB of ram. I couldn’t wait to get it home and have Carl hook it up for me. The operating system was DOS 5.0, I think, at the time. I didn’t have Microsoft Windows. It was all text based. I got a copy of WordPerfect since that was the only program I knew anything about. I still remember getting the modem to work for the first time, late one night. It was 2400 baud. Listening to the crashing, squealing sound of the modem negotiating with the other modem for the first time was awesome. I used to stay up until 2 o’clock in the morning playing with that computer. I became more interested in the computer than in the courier business.

You\'ll See It When You Believe It

Sometime in 1993, I picked up a book by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer called, “You’ll See It When You Believe It, The Way to Your Personal Transformation.” I don’t remember exactly how or why I picked up the book, but I did remember him for writing “Your Erroneous Zones.” The book is worth buying and reading for the introduction alone. I highly recommend it. It changed my life and, to this day, I consider it the 2nd most important book I ever read. I still have my copy and it is highlighted through out and the pages are yellowed with age. I used to keep extra copies in my house and car and give them away to people. I was sitting at my home office desk one night reading chapter four on “Abundance” when I read the following 3 sentences
starting on page 130:

“Imagine what gives you the most pleasure and makes you feel purposeful. What is it that when you finish doing it, you feel immeasurably fulfilled, and while you are doing it, time just seems to be nonexistent? Invite that into your consciousness, and then proceed  to follow your bliss.”

I immediately turned to my right and looked at the computer equipment sitting on the desk a few feet away. I thought to myself, maybe I can make a living doing something with the computer. I loved playing around with that thing and I stayed up all hours of the night, completely forgetting what time it was. It was an amazing moment and it was right in front of me the whole time.

I started to investigate the different types of jobs or things you could do with a computer. The BASIC software program came with DOS at the time so I bought a book for $20 and experimented on my own for a month . I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk all day typing on a computer so I looked for something else. I discovered in a computer magazine that computer networking for business was in its infancy and Novell Netware was the biggest network operating system. Microsoft Windows crushed it later, but in 1994 Novell was the king of the hill. There were “boot camps” to teach you how to become a Novell CNE. It was basically a crash course to teach you how to pass 6 or 7 exams to get your certification. The courses were run by independent businesses. For $2000 or so they would cram you with information over a 6 or 8 week period. I found a school that I wanted to attend and offered my business for sale to an another courier service that wanted to expand. I had a major account that they were interested in and a few smaller ones. I made enough on the sale to pay for my school and a little extra. My friend Carl enrolled with me. He had much more PC experience than I did, but he was new to networking too. We drove to the classes together and quizzed each other before the exams. The school was located in Somerset, NJ. We drove back roads as much as we could. There was a farm along one of the roads and it had a fake cow, about 3 times the size of a real cow, on a trailer sitting in a field. Everyday when we drove by we wondered what that was all about. One day we finally stopped and drove into the farm. The guy who ran the place explained that it used to be taken to trade shows and fairs at one time.  I have a picture of it somewhere and I used to take it out and show people. We finally passed our final exam and became Novell Certified Netware Engineers. I started looking for a job. It wasn’t easy. I started working for a small company outside of Princeton, NJ. I drove around with the owner and visited customer sites every day to fix or repair whatever problem they had. I remember he liked to drink a lot at lunch. He was the stereotypical 3 martini lunch guy. It didn’t work out and I was politely let go after about 2 months.

I stumbled across something called the Online Career Center. I can’t remember exactly how I found it, but I was browsing around on my modem. It was an entirely text based web site housed at the University of Minnesota. It has since moved elsewhere. I was searching one day and found an agency listing for a computer job with Bell Atlantic in Pennsylvania. I contacted the agency and they sent me on an interview in Valley Forge, PA. Bell had a big data center there. I thought the interview went very badly. I waited to hear something from the agency, but nothing happened. I called them every two weeks just to check in. By this time I had been out of work for months. I finally called them about 7 weeks after the interview. The woman at the agency said that Bell decided they weren’t going to fill the job. Right. I never heard that one before. I was very disappointed, but I was determined to find work in the computer field. I put on a suit, grabbed a copy of my resume and drove over to a computer store near my house. I can’t even remember the name now, but they were a small chain of stores. I chatted with them a little while and went home. I was sitting at my desk again when the phone rang. It was the woman from the agency saying that she had found me a different job with Bell Atlantic and I could start Monday! It seems that another supervisor from Bell had called the agency about a different job request, totally unrelated to the first job. She told them about me and the first interview. I’m sure I was still fresh in her mind because of our conversation only an hour before. The Bell guy called the original person who interviewed me and that person gave me a favorable rating. At least, I think he did. Why else would they hire me? I’m surprised he remembered the interview at all. Maybe he took notes. I was hired sight unseen for the second job. An hour before, I was crushed and despondent upon hearing that I didn’t get the original job.  An hour later I was ecstatic. I would have taken the job no matter what it paid, but they offered me $45K. I was a contractor and there were no benefits, but that was more money then I had ever made before. Over the next two years I worked for Bell Atlantic in Wayne, Conshohocken and Philadelphia, PA. I also went to Pittsburg, State College, Scranton, Harrisburg and Reading. They were the two best years of my working life. I enjoyed the work I was doing, the people I worked with, made good money and got to travel a little. Things were looking up.

A good friend of mine used to say, “The only way you don’t get what you want is you either give up or die.” I guess the moral of this story is that I didn’t give up. I knew what I wanted and pursued it. Even a failed interview ultimately helped me get what I wanted. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

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