A Winter’s Journey

I was 16 during the winter of 1974.

Ted was 52.

We worked together in a steel fabrication shop in Oklahoma.

I was known as “Schoolboy.”

Standing near the heat of the coffee pot waiting for the horn to signal the end of our break, Ted would tell stories about World War II. Those stories might as well have been about cave men and dinosaurs because Pearl Harbor had happened 35 years earlier and I was only 16.

The story I’m about to tell you happened 42 years ago.

It seems like yesterday.

Do you remember Bluto from the old Popeye cartoons? In 1974 his name was Harold and he was 32 years old. Muscular and angry, Harold got what he wanted through intimidation.

One day I called his bluff. I told Harold “no.”

But Harold wasn’t bluffing.

I regained consciousness at the base of the storage racks where we kept the 6-foot aluminum fan blades. Ted told me Harold’s lightning blow lifted me off my feet and landed me 2 yards from where I had been standing. When I went home at the end of my shift my neck was so stiff I couldn’t turn my head.

My mother knew immediately what had happened.

When I got out of school the next day, Ted was waiting for me in the parking lot at work. He told me not to go inside. Two policemen had led Harold out in handcuffs earlier and his buddies were planning revenge.

NOTE: Never hit a minor when he’s being raised by a single mother. Angry moms fight differently than men do.

I worked in that steel shop for 2 more years.

One day Ted said, “Schoolboy, every person you meet has something they can teach you. Your job is to figure out what their skill is and then get them to share it with you.”

Ted, as usual, was right. When you assume that everyone you meet has a valuable skill, you begin to look at them differently.

Harold was a different person when he came back to work. Crushing legal bills and the humiliation of jail gave him a beating far worse than he had given me. With Ted’s advice fresh in my mind, I asked Harold the secret of knocking a man off his feet.

Harold’s answer surprised me because his technique had little to do with physical strength.

A few years later I learned that success in business has little to do with intelligence and success in selling has little to do with being talkative and success in advertising has little to do with the product.

Business isn’t about knowing, it’s about doing.
Selling isn’t about talking, it’s about listening.
Advertising isn’t about the product, it’s about the customer.

And knocking a man down isn’t about your fists, it’s about your feet.

The next time you’re at Wizard Academy I’ll show you.

But only if you want to know.