An Odd Celebration of First Days

Think twice before starting new gig

I have an odd – super odd trend in first days. By “First Days” I am referring to the first day at a new job. These are usually awkward enough as you begin to learn names, get a glimpse of the culture, and figure out where the bathrooms are. As I run down a few of my select first days, you’ll see the trend. Adding to the odds, I have admittedly started more than my fair share of new jobs… but this is bizarre.

April 19, 1995 I landed and started a job in Automotive. I had worked in Powersports and Aviation Prior but this was my virgin run at automotive service. I was to be the new Service Writer at Pollard Pontiac, AMC, Jeep – Eagle. I found myself young, and surrounded by salty car guys. Russ was the Service Manager and had a kind smile and disposition, but not a leader by definition. Vic was the “leader” as he controlled the dispatch sheet and the flow of work to the technicians. Hal was a heavy, sickly man in a stool that served as the Service Writer with a transistor radio on his desk set to the “News”.

This was prior to smartphones and a computer on each desk. In fact, I had to write the repair orders by hand and everything we did was a manual process. The only computer we had access to was connected to Chrysler to check the warranty status of the vehicles we wrote up. All of a sudden, as the Service Drive is full of people and Jeeps coming in for service, Hal grabs his radio and pulls it close. Something horrible had happened and it was being streamed through that transistor radio.

Oklahoma City was BOMBED?!?!

Years, and jobs later, I was settling into my newest position acquisition. Technically, I had started a week earlier but this was my first day functioning as the new Service Manager of the Aurora Pep Boys in Aurora, Colorado. It was April 20, 1999 and Judy was manning the counter at the front of the store, while I was busy trying my best to build relationships at the back of the shop.

I went up front and Judy was staring up at the television they had available for customers, tears in her eyes. Once again, I was starting a new position and surrounded by grief. The Columbine High School Massacre had just occurred and although horrible, was exacerbated by the fact that it was local to us.

Columbine

Fast forward to the fateful day that changed so much in our nation. I was thrilled that an old friend had invited me to help out his Service Department at Landmark Lincoln Mercury. I was stationed on the Service Drive with a super heart filled older gentleman – Ron. Ron smoked a lot and needed frequent breaks from the counter. He took each transaction to heart and made problems his own.

It was a great lesson in Sympathy vs. Empathy working with Ron. I went into the waiting room to alert an older gentleman that his scheduled maintenance has just been completed. He was staring at the TV. I looked over to see the second airplane colliding with the tower in New York. It was September 11, 2001. That event turned the business upside down and I watched my savings disappear as our Sales Department didn’t sell a car for like 90 days after that, and service was a struggle too.

Now for the really transparent part. I look back on those events and while my heart goes out to those even today, after all those years, I can’t help but look at my own reactions. I was not a “Leader” back then. I had the internal makings of one, but did not work to exercise them. Some people in the Automotive field had looked to me as a leader in field and I performed well individually — but I was not a leader.

My response to each of those events was poor. I brushed off the events and their impact and attempted to proceed as normal. I thought leadership then was strength, not being affected by external issues, and I struggled with people that were affected. I had little empathy. I didn’t ask co-workers and customers how they were doing. I didn’t care about the well-being of my circles.

Now that I am older and have focused more on Leadership as a lifestyle, I find that I am much more in tune with people. The opportunities for success in the chaos is much better. Just as John C Maxwell says “People don’t care what you know until they know you care”. I challenge you to take a moment at the end of this article and ask yourself:

  • Where were you during these events?
  • What was your initial reaction?
  • How did you grow afterward?
  • What growth or preparation would you like to work on for future events?

I became very focused on Personal Growth and Adding Value to Others as I became John Maxwell Team Certified. I look now at the COVID Crisis and the impending disaster it will bring to our communities and I feel cautiously prepared for what is to come. I have a list of men I stay in touch with, emotions to check, and honestly, news to filter out. Mental and emotional health is so much more important than I afforded it on those “First Days”. I also feel I should mention that each of these “First Days” resulted in a stronger “us”. What a trend, Huh?