Posts tagged: oakland athletics

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.”

Tell People What you Want

It’s all over the news. A lot of people are being laid off and losing their jobs. But there are still plenty of people working and it won’t do any good to focus on the negative stories anyway. Tim Allen’s character in the movie Galaxy Quest is always saying, “Never give up. Never surrender.” I like that motto.

Clint Eastwood’s character in the movie Heartbreak Ridge said, “Improvise and overcome.” He was leading a Marine Corps recon unit. It seemed to work for them and they were being shot at. Bing Crosby used to sing, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.” It can’t hurt.

I know what it is like to not have the money to pay the rent or mortgage. I know that it is not always easy, but you might be surprised how quickly people want to help you if you just ask. Some problems are more difficult than others. But it never hurts to ask. If you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know. Everyone, at one time or another, has been job hunting. I should also add here, email everyone you know. Ask them to tell their friends you are looking for a job. Be as specific as you can about what you are looking for.

Being as specific as you can with your description is best, but having a couple of alternatives won’t hurt either. If you know what you want, you can target companies that have those kinds of jobs. You might even know what company you want to work for. If so, you can ask people you know if they know anyone who works there. You should also ask them to ask their friends if they know anyone who works there.

I attended a class at Mercer County Community College many years ago. I met a man in the class and we started talking. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was looking for a job. He worked for Merrill Lynch and they had a huge office complex nearby. I gave him my phone number and he said someone would call me soon.

Within the next couple of days a woman called me. She was very nice and asked me what kind of job I was looking for. I didn’t know and I couldn’t tell her. “Anything” is what I answered. That was the wrong answer. She had no idea what to do with me after I said that and the conversation ended.  I should have had some idea of what kind of job I wanted and I could have gotten an interview. Be ready to answer that question and tell the person what you want.

A lot of people don’t know what they want, so they end up with what they get.

In one of my top ten favorite movies, “As Good As It Gets”, Greg Kinnear tells Jack Nicholson how lucky he is because he knows what he wants. Nicholson wants Helen Hunt and is miserable because she won’t talk to him. Kinnear inspires Nicholson to go over to her house right away and tell her how he feels.

A few years ago I attended a Christmas party at the home of a friend of mine. I was standing around in the living room with some food and a drink. I introduced myself to another man who was in the room. He recognized my last name and asked me if I had a brother named Howard. I said yes, I did. He said that he used to work with him and he asked me how my brother was doing. For a minute, I thought of saying he’s fine and letting it go at that. The truth though was that he was looking for a job.

I decided to go for the truth. I told him that my brother was looking for a job. He immediately gave me his business card and phone number and said to have my brother call him. He thought that he could get my brother a job where he worked in the solar energy business. My brother ended up contacting him and was working again in just a few weeks. He stayed at that job for five years or so. If I hadn’t said something, he  would not have found his way to that job.

My wife Mary Lynn and I used to go to a bar called Ernie’s when we lived in Hamilton Square, New Jersey. We liked to go there on Friday nights for a few hours. There was one gentleman who I used to see there a lot and speak to fairly frequently. I knew him for about six months when I overheard a conversation he was having with someone else. He said that he was looking for a job and had been for quite some time. I waited for a pause in the conversation and interrupted. I asked him what type of job he was looking for.

I told him that the company I worked for was always looking for new people to install and repair phone lines. This was back in the day when everyone was getting a second phone line for their modem. He said that he would be interested in that. The next day, I contacted the human resources department. I knew everyone in the department and they liked me. They were always going through resumes and trying to recruit people. They WANTED recommendations from employees. My friend got the job and I think he enjoyed it for at least a few years. The point is though, that I knew him for six months and only found out that he was looking for a job when I overheard a conversation. If he had been sitting on the other side of the bar, he might still be out of work! My hearing isn’t that good.

I was walking down the street a number of years ago, unemployed and wondering what exactly I was going to do next. I was less than one half mile from my house. I happened to notice a man installing cable TV service while I was walking past a house. I walked over to him, introduced myself, and started asking him about the cable TV business. He was very happy to answer my questions and said if I was interested, he would give me a call the next day. I said yes. Go ahead and give me a call. The next day, he called me and arranged to pick me up and take me with him while he worked. I learned enough to know that I would like to try it. He was a sub-contractor and I went to work as his helper for a few weeks.

I still remember climbing my first telephone pole with Bernie. He was laughing his head off because I would not let go of the ladder and cable strand to work with both hands. It was in the middle of a snow storm too, on South Broad Street in Groveville, New Jersey. You just can’t work on a pole like that using only one hand. Bernie was an excellent teacher who had infinite patience with me. I’m really not that mechanical. Ask my brother. I eventually let go, finished the job, and survived. I eventually went on to get my own truck and equipment and work alone. I only stayed in the cable TV business for a year, but the point is that I asked questions and let Bernie know that I was looking for a job.

After I graduated from high school, I sat on the couch for a month watching TV. One day my mother asked me if I was going to look for a job. So, the next day I went looking for a job. I wanted to work for the local electric and gas company and be a serviceman that repairs appliances. I am not sure why I picked that. While I was in high school I wanted to pitch for the Oakland Athletics. I gave up on that too soon and switched to the repairman scenario. I think it seemed like a good steady job at the time.

I took the bus into town and went into the Public Service Electric & Gas Co. office. I filled out an application and took a test a few days later. The only problem was that I was at the commercial office, not one of the electric or gas offices. They didn’t have any repairman jobs. I started out as a building attendant and became a meter reader after that. I didn’t ask the right questions when I first applied. I suppose I could have left as soon as I discovered I was in the wrong place, but I didn’t. I was young.

In ninth grade I didn’t dance at the school dances because I was too afraid to ask any of the girls to dance. I didn’t really know how to dance anyway or at least I didn’t think I knew how to dance. I never really tried so how could I know for sure? If I had tried, I bet I could have danced well enough to get by. Most of the boys, myself included, leaned against the bleachers and acted like we didn’t really want to dance. We did.

Do you want to dance? Go out there and ask someone.

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