If corporate America was the military, it could be said that I became an officer as an enlisted man. Up through the ranks. I got into sales and marketing via the Dupont loading dock. That’s not the norm, though. Officers usually get picked to go to OCS, officer candidate school. Sales people usually came out of college.
After eight years of humping radioactive packages onto 30 foot trailers, someone thought it might be a good idea to put a fast talking street kid into a sales territory. (It was not a unanimous decision) The VP of Sales would wonder out loud, “Whose idea was this, anyway?”
So in 1990, I stepped on to an America West airplane headed west to live, or die, by my own hand. I lived..and very well, thank you.
In my career, I had occasion to travel with all the best and brightest. Some rolled out of IVY League schools and the rest were usually business majors.
When you spend hour upon hour in cars, planes and airports with these folks, it becomes abundantly clear that they were studying while I was doing time, doing drugs, getting my ass kicked or laying down a base of fire in a jungle with an M-16 rifle.
The Tucson to Phoenix trip is a straight two hour shot with no lights and no turns. This is where most of the beans got spilled.
The hopes, the dreams, the fears and the paranoid fantasies of these corporate ladder climbers would get projectile vomited onto my dashboard.
It was stunning how ill-equipped these studious little buggers were for the road ahead in life. Naive beyond comprehension.
Now I see them on social media like LinkedIn, in desperation mode. They are now surely over qualified for anything that would put some food on the table. They can’t hustle because they don’t know how to.
They can’t hustle because there’s no business plan.
They can’t hustle because someone changed the game.
They’re helpless because they’re all doing what they’ve always done but they’re not getting what they’ve always got.
Times have changed.
There’s not even a box to think outside of.
I feel for these people. I used to think the “Peter Principle” would get me and I would be exposed and sent back to the hot, nasty kitchens I came from. Didn’t happen.
In the years since I left the corporate world I have been rode hard and put up wet. I lost everything in the struggle. My business, my marriage, my money and my sobriety.
I was arrested, audited by the IRS and had to be detoxed off of drugs and alcohol at the ripe old age of seventy.
I survived all that and I am flourishing because of street smarts. Plain and simple. Emotional intelligence. Which I did not acquire in college.
I am often reminded of just how important street smarts are when, after a rewarding career in Big Pharma, someone asks me “What year did you graduate high school?”
I don’t have an answer, because, I didn’t.
When I do get asked how much formal education I have, I usually respond with, “Not enough to hurt me.” 🙂