Archive for January, 2021

Don’t Let Worthless People Make You Feel Worthless

Friday, January 29th, 2021

  I once walked into a hiring manager’s office after two interviews and readied myself for the news I knew was coming. After all, I had heard the whispers from many of the grapes that were hanging from the vine. One of the tiniest and most immature grapes of the season had opened its mouth, spewing juice down the fencepost as he told the others on the vine that he had been promised the job, so nobody else had a chance.

   As I closed the door behind me, the manager began to shed tears. They slowly ran down her face as she told me there was nothing she could do because she had been forced by one of her leaders to select another person for the job. Smiling, I told her I didn’t expect anything more than that, especially from the captain running the ship. Although my skills and experience were far superior to any other candidate, I was passed over yet again. I just didn’t fit into the clique. Nothing was based on actual skills or experience, and I had grown accustomed to lame, unthoughtful reasons for rejection. Some of them made me laugh. I heard them all, including my favorite: “I’m sorry. We chose a person who is more qualified for the job.” Although I had every qualification on the job posting, the person who was hired didn’t have any of them. As the rejections increased in number, I became numb to the process. It became fun to watch the reactions of the deliverers of the news. Everyone had a different style.

  Eventually, I learned to go along with it and laugh things off. I can’t say it didn’t get under my skin, especially when I watched people gain titles that would be beneficial for their future job searches. The only thing I knew I had on my side was that I was watching the Peter Principle take effect on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. I was a witness to a slew of people being promoted to their level of incompetence, and I could do nothing but watch it. 

  That’s when I decided to do something about it and help myself grow in areas where I could gain more experience in the communications/journalism field and use it for my own personal endeavors. Since my skills would never be recognized and my value would never be utilized in corporate America, I made a choice to pursue success on other avenues that would take me to the arenas where the gladiators who shared my passions resided. In quick fashion, I found my way onto a bestsellers list and won a few awards along the way. Gaining traction with that, my presence was requested in schools to speak to children about a variety of things, including their career choices. Heck, I even had the opportunity to speak to younger children, and I listened to their dreams as they expressed their curiosity about Todd Mead and what it meant to be an author, lecturer and world champion. From there, the journey brought me into lecture halls at outdoorsman shows and into churches to speak to fellow outdoorsmen. The journey has been incredibly rewarding, yet I still sit behind a computer within corporate America, where I am “unqualified” to do any “meaningful” job. Many people ask why, and I even ask myself that question from time to time because I’ve never really been able to figure it out. I’ve applied a number of places and have only been called for one interview. I still go through the daily grind, but I find incredible peace and fulfillment from my hobbies. I’ve often considered doing something different and turning the hobbies into a job, but I’ve always wondered if the love of the game would disappear at that point. 

So why do I share all of this with you? Recently, I’ve witnessed an incredibly sad chain of events, and as I sit back and observe, I know there’s not much I can do other than offer advice. Sometimes I feel the advice is hollow due to what I’ve experienced throughout my working life. Ive seen how the job search goes. However, I try to give hope to people and help them remain optimistic.

                                                  January 2019

    A few winters ago, I was feeling the effects of an injury to my surgically repaired shoulder. In the late summer, I had reinjured it while playing softball. I had gone to an orthopedic surgeon for an initial consultation but was waiting to get a second opinion from a doctor in Albany, N.Y. Meanwhile, I couldn’t shoot my bow. The pain was excruciating.

  Loving archery as much as I do, I’m a certified range rat. I will hang out at the range and talk if I can’t shoot my bow. I love archery, and I love being around archers, especially when they are friends. During my first couple of visits to the range in early January, a few of the regulars told me that a young guy in a wheelchair had joined the league, and they were trying to help him. After hearing the news, I made it a point to meet this young lad, who I would later learn was a 6 ‘8’ giant of a man.

  As I tried to catch up to him, I had a hard time doing so. Eventually, I learned that he had signed up for the leagues, so I made it a point to show up on league night and observe him. It didn’t take long to see him when I walked in. His wheelchair was backed up against the wall on lane 14, and his mom sat behind him in a chair, although I didn’t know it was his mom at the time.

  Watching from a distance, I saw a handful of experts telling him how he should be shooting. I could see some frustration building inside the melon on top of his shoulders. He was slamming the trigger like a jackhammer pounding the concrete off a sidewalk that was going to be rebuilt. I knew we would have to put his jackhammer aside so he could learn more about archery, patience, and discipline. I quietly walked out the door and let my observations lap around the inside of my head for countless hours the next few days….. Why was he in a wheelchair? It looked like he could use his legs, so did he really need that chair or was he recovering from an injury? How old was he? Did he go to the range with his mother – or was that his girlfriend? Would he be insulted if I offered to help him?

  The following week, I went to watch him again. Getting closer this time, I watched closely. A slew of clowns began jumping out of the clown car to offer him help, but I stayed in the background and listened. Finally, I walked over and asked if he would like some instruction to make a good shot, hopefully to increase his enjoyment of archery. He quickly said he would like some help, and I told him that he was not to listen to anyone else for the time being because we had to straighten out a few things that had gone awry. He graciously made it clear that he could do that.

                                                   The Discovery

  In a matter of days, I learned that the lad’s name was Chris Hall. He had been able to walk until he reached the middle of his teen years, at which time a wheelchair became his best option. He and his family had traveled to many hospitals across the country to get help, but nobody could provide any answers. Eventually, Chris lost the ability to walk. Although he can feel his legs and move them around, his legs don’t work like mine. It’s almost as if the nerves don’t fire to get his legs moving in the right direction as the right time. While learning these things, I also found out he had dexterity issues in his hands and fingers. This would play a part when I decided to teach him how to shoot a caliper release the correct way. I didn’t feel confident that he could succeed with a hinge at that point in time. 

  We began working tirelessly at the range to get him headed in the right direction. It didn’t take long to see that Chris was a quick learner. Within no time, he had the general concept down. I felt confident knowing I got him to a place where he could shoot accurately. He also hadn’t had time to pick up any of the bad habits that the clowns jumping out of the clown car were trying to sell to him.

 In late March, we “rolled” into Turning Stone Casino in Verona, N.Y., for the Beast of the East Vegas Tournament. Chris was nervous but confident. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. After the round was over and he had finished his first tournament, we found out he had shot his highest score of the year. His work had paid off. 

                                                   Flash Forward

  When COVID-19 put a crimp on everyone’s lifestyle last year, Chris’ life changed too. Since his immune system is already compromised, or we are led to believe it is, he decided to stay on unemployment to avoid any potential risks associated with going back to work. He worked at the service counter for a local Harley Davidson dealer and loved his job. He was good at it and enjoyed trying his hardest to keep the customers informed, satisfied and happy. He knew the ins and outs of service and made it a point to exhaust all efforts to extend great customer service to anyone who walked in the door. 

  He has made every effort to enjoy the things he loves, which allowed him to go to Colorado to pursue antelope in mid-August. After seeing a different world and experiencing a successful hunt, his eyes were opened to many possibilities that might not have otherwise existed. 

  Upon his return, he made a concentrated effort to better his life and took courses for web development and began pursuing employment in the field. With the unemployment number creeping higher and higher, this task became far more difficult than expected. Instead of giving in, he decided to apply for any of the jobs he found that he could do without having the use of his legs. That’s when the phone began ringing and interviews were scheduled.

  After going to a handful of interviews and experiencing things that no normal human being should ever hear or see, he began becoming depressed. He was asked how he could be a service manager if he couldn’t drive any of the cars on the lot. Well, how about that … Chris can drive a car and does it well. I’ve ridden with him many times and feel as safe as if anyone else is driving, although I got him in trouble with his mom when I told her I was behind him when he was going 75 mph on a country road one night. Maybe the guy should have been more welcoming. Maybe he should have tried learning about how Chris’ previous jobs could have helped this company. Maybe if he hadn’t looked at Chris sitting in a  wheelchair and instantly formed an opinion of the so-called “handicapped” man, he would have learned that Chris’ customer service skills far outweigh most people’s.  Maybe he would have learned that Chris just wants a fair opportunity, in which his worth isn’t based on his disability. Maybe Chris wants to be treated like every other person who applied for the job. Let the “handicapped” man work for a week without pay to show his worth. Maybe that would have been a better idea than shooting him a look and making a sarcastic comment. 

  Why do these things happen every time Chris applies for a job? Why do people stare when they see something that doesn’t live up to their expectations of how or what things should be? I guess I’m lucky in that aspect. When I met Chris, I saw a guy in a wheelchair. When I offered to teach him how to shoot a bow, I looked at him as Chris the archer. Instantly, he was one of the guys. 

  As Chris began going to a few tournaments, everyone on the shooting line treated him no differently than anyone else. In all reality, he is no different than me. He loves archery, and he loves the outdoors. We both find our peace while doing the things we enjoy. It’s definitely easier on me, but the man doesn’t let anything hold him back. If he must crawl 400 yards across a field to hunt, he never says a word … he just does it. I never tell him there’s anything he can’t do, because I have witnessed firsthand that any man can do anything he wants if he puts his mind to it. Although we make our own luck, sometimes we can’t avoid the shitty hand of cards that the dealer lays down in front of us. That’s when we must find a way to survive, for we can only bluff for so long. 

                                                     Final Thoughts

  I’m not sure what made me write this, but I believe it’s because I’ve been spending a lot of time at the range with Chris and I can see the frustrations he has encountered over the last few months. Nobody is willing to give him a chance to prove himself, simply because he is in a wheelchair. When corporate America stomped on my dreams in the early days, I felt the same way: I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do. The people staring back at me didn’t care and didn’t want to put me in a place to succeed. It felt better to look at an ice sculpture on a warm winter’s day and watch the fingertips drip off from it and fall to the ground, eventually leaving nothing more than a puddle of dirty ice and snow that people walked over and commented on without knowing the story that was waiting to be told. Instead, they were all about themselves and the people within their tiny circle. It’s unfortunate that people can’t be fair to everyone. Instead, they take sides and become overly biased, showing favoritism at every turn.

  I’ve learned that the world is an incredibly big, small place. I’ve learned that people will crush your heart, shoot down your desires, and try to destroy your confidence. I’ve seen people who can’t look into your eyes after they’ve screwed you over, or if they do look, they smile because they know they’ve purposely handed you a voided check to prevent you from cashing in. Many people hire others who are inferior because they’re afraid of your experience and intelligent. They never want to be challenged, so it goes back to the Peter Principle and they hire people to the level of their incompetence. If you stand tall and walk the line, you can find a calmness beneath all the pettiness that surrounds you. When you are turned down, you can thank the person because you don’t have to become a part of his thought process. He has allowed you to do your own thing and chase your own dreams. If you must work to get a paycheck, that’s OK too. You can still give everything you have to your employer and leave the job at the office when you walk out the door every day. There’s nothing wrong with that approach. The greatest gift these people have given to you is the ability to do what you want to do on your own time. You will have more free time by not being involved in all of the petty tasks that supposedly make people more important, even though we all know most jobs – no matter the title – are the same. There aren’t many jobs in corporate America that any individual can’t learn to do with a little training, but so many people are supposedly unqualified to do them.

  Chris has taught me to accept things as they are at that moment in time. He was able to walk, run, skate, and jump when he was growing up. He did everything other kids did. Then, as time moved along he had to adapt to the changes he encountered. These didn’t make him any less of a man. He’s still smart, caring, outgoing, and funny. He can still do things that others wish they could do. Every person has skills that others do not have. Finding your skill and recognizing and rewarding the skills of others is a trait that very few people share. Instead, it has become a society full of “All About Me” people. They don’t fight for others, and they don’t have anyone’s back when it’s necessary to stand up and be heard.   Instead, we have piles of “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” people as leaders. If I could give any advice to anyone, it would be to stand up for the people who work for you. You can never achieve respect without earning it, although it comes freely from many in this participation-award society that we have become. I want to be respected by respected people. Any other respect is truly hollow.

  If you ever find yourself interviewing a guy in a wheelchair, think about the questions you should ask him. Getting to know him might allow you to hire the best employee the company has ever had. If you find yourself looking below his chest, reevaluate what you are doing. It’s time to listen to what he can do for your business. If you’re in corporate America, have the courage to do the right thing instead of doing what you’re told. Stand up for yourself and the people you believe in. Don’t hide behind the masquerade that encompasses you.

  When I met Chris, I knew I wanted to help him become the best archer he could be. Within a few weeks, I forgot about the wheelchair. I don’t treat him any differently than anyone else. I tell him to go get my stuff when I don’t feel like retrieving my arrows from the target. I tell him to carry my bow from the truck to the range, and he does it. It doesn’t take long to realize that we are two people playing the same game: life.