Several blogs ago I wrote about “Three Experiences That Shaped My Life.” In the interest of space, I didn’t try to explain how each affected me. Here in today’s blog, I’ll try to explain what I took away from each of those experiences.
My college experience at UCONN, as part of an inter-cultural fraternity, was such an important factor in my life because it validated all my early beliefs that people were people and that race or religion didn’t matter. You would like someone or not as individuals.
I not only got to know the 70 odd members of that house individually but I was the House Steward, nominally in charge of the kitchen and dining room (the chef really was) but I did the bookkeeping, learned a little about a very small business and dealt with the vagaries and problems the members had with the menu and/or the food (two meals a day).
My biggest problem was my friend Morty who always wanted credit for a meal “because of his ulcer” and then I would find out he ate at the greasy spoon called Fred’s off campus.
I became the third president of the fraternity after the two founders graduated and had to weather the storm of a few people who wanted a quota system on new members.
All-in-all, it was a genuine learning experience about people and the operation of a small, very small, business.
My eight or nine years as part of the Phoenix Jaycees was meaningful on a number of different levels. First, it was a lot of fun and learning on a whole different scale. I gained a lot of experience in planning and executing community affairs, as well as in non-partisan politics. The projects that benefited the community were satisfying and fulfilling and led in no small way to my career in association management and producing tradeshows.
As treasurer of the 500-member organization, I was again involved in the business operations of an organization, including the renting and operation of our own building.
The Jaycee experience gave me a chance to spread my wings and expand my horizons beyond just trying to make a living and support a growing family.
Most of all, I learned about myself. Having lost two elections for president (a record), I found out I was not an out-front personality; and although I had some interest, I would never be a good political candidate. On the other hand, I was a very good backroom staff planner. That was my forte.
The exhilaration and excitement I felt on coming back to my first personally produced Arizona Home Beautiful Show at the Phoenix Coliseum that Friday night has never been surpassed. I had arrived in a number of ways.
I saw the crowds and I saw a bunch of business executives somewhat befuddled about what to do. The Fire Marshal instructed the coliseum staff to stop selling entry tickets. There was a confused waiting crowd trying to get it. The crowd inside was somewhat confused as well. They couldn’t get through the aisles or find floor seats to watch the Dancing Waters Show.
I put some sponsor executives in the ticket booths and had them start to resell tickets and then I had the chains removed to the seating areas and allowed people to have comfortable seats to watch the show. Lucky for me, all the coliseum management had left to go home.
I’m not sure exactly how, but I was able to take charge and direct people to do what was needed. I’m not even sure how I knew, but I did.
I was hooked. I learned that this was something I had to do more of. It was too good to be over.
The exhilaration I felt was a high and the satisfaction of reorganizing and solving a crisis was very fulfilling.
The Labor Day Fishing Derby, the Christmas party for the southside children, the model legislature, the mock constitutional convention and the extended effort to try modernizing the Arizona Constitution with me as chairman, as well as participate in the 4th of July fireworks show and the annual rodeo and parade—they were all eye-opening experiences.
I certainly learned from many other experiences, but perhaps none more forcefully than these three. They each made an impact that formed the parameters of my career, the start of my business, and my personal life.