Pulling Through... And Beyond


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  1. #1

    Pulling Through... And Beyond

    I knew when I was promoted to manage two material issue points, there would be times like this. But knowing about problems is one thing. Knowing how to react, adapt and overcome adversity is another. That process takes the proper tools, patience and correct attitude.

    The correct attitude is one of no surrender. There is no "giving up", and handing your responsibilities off to someone else. Here's my O.K. Boomer moment: Own It. Some are innately more assertive and aggressive than others. Others, less so. So what? You be the best damn you that you can. The process is work. Most times, it's thankless, monotonous and painful. But avoiding those things is not "smart". It's cowardice. By backing off, and not giving it your all, you cheat everyone around you. Including yourself. You do not know what you are capable of until you push your limits. Comfort is not your friend, it is the soul-sucking nemesis you do business with... on your way to victory.

    Going over the events of the last two weeks, an old book came to mind.
    Pulling Through (1983) by Dean Ing is a Cold War story / how-to book on surviving a nuclear attack. Is it still remotely relevant today?

    Pulling Through would never rate high for literary excellence. It's characters are two-dimensional, it's plot only semi-plausible and the story has the depth of a sheet of graphene. But it was still a fun read. Why? Because by the end of the book, not only did I learn a few things, it gave me confidence. Can I survive a nuclear war? Probably not. But the topics discussed overlapped to other survival scenarios. Knowledge, with the correct attitude, is power.

    I'm not going to go into details about the book. It's only 150 pages, take an hour or two and read it yourself. But here's the takeaway: The main character (Harve) is a smart risk-taker. He pushes himself, and looks for opportunity. His family is knowledgeable, proactive and forward thinking. He befriends and utilizes resourceful people. That's all you need to know.

    I am simultaneously reminded of a cheesy movie called Dodgeball. While training, the protagonists are told "If you can dodge a (thrown) wrench, you can dodge a ball." So it goes with nuclear war I suppose. If you can survive that, you can survive anything.

    My recent "war" was moving a couple of tons of racks, bars and assorted equipment from one end of the building to the other.
    They chose December 26 for the move date, because no one in their right mind is working the day after Christmas ('cept for folks like my daughter working retail, regards). We got the building to ourselves. Yippee.

    Despite how many folks are misinformed today, a "team" is not a group of weak individual specialists that create a greater good. Your Borg Collective sucks. No. Functional, productive teams are comprised of resilient, independent individuals that learn to tap and exploit the strengths of themselves (and others) to crush goals. Not limp over the finish line, so they can Doordash some take-out for a Netflix And Chill night.

    My "team" is a mixed bag. Let's start with the "weaker" players. My boss is a nice guy, whose strength is delegation. He has no real skills (think Henry Blake from MASH). He brought a couple of new employees, including an alcoholic (he works well when he shows up). But being an alkie, he likes to blame and complain alot.
    The stronger team members included the shipyard coordinator, who was smart, efficient, attentive and thorough. The riggers who lifted my stuff were real pros. And the shipyard overtime "volunteers" were young kids that didn't have much knowledge, but had the right attitude.

    The main move took two days. By that, I mean my stuff was where it needed to be... mostly. This is the point where my "team" members slink off, and now MY department is MY responsibility. Any mistakes, I fix. Any loose ends, I tie-up. And there were a lot. For the last couple of weeks, I was operational to issue material to the machinists, but it was a clusterf**k. My customers got their stuff, and I was fixing things while doing my daily tasks.

    But I had some help. The shipyard coordinator (Alicia), she understands follow-through. She kept checking back with me, and helped wrangle the mechanics and electricians for my industrial saws. I worked with the folks on the other end of the building. They lost all their printers and computers in a freak flood during the Christmas break. I left my printer in their area, so they'd have one. Make friends and allies where you can. Don't be a dick.

    No man is an island, but God gave you a brain. Use it. Life is more than a cerebral pursuit where you climb the ladder of success, so other suckers can get their hands dirty. Nope. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, but you will have to do-it-yourself. Some day, you may need to dodge a wrench. And in those very rare instances when life or death is on the line, do you really want to exclusively place your future in someone else's hands?

    I could write an entire book on group dynamics and management, but here's the condensed version... People are who they are. Remember Sun Tzu: Know yourself, know others, know your terrain. You want to tap the strengths of the capable WITHOUT placing an undue burden on them. You need to manage and mentor the young and willing, so you can utilize their strengths later. And, unfortunately, you must deal with the sub-par players. You'll usually have the three groups, just like I did.

    It still comes down to you, and managing yourself. I messed-up my back during this s**tstorm. I knew it as soon as it happened. My wife berated me, telling me to fill out a report and take the day off. I didn't. This is not stoic macho excrement. I know my body, because I work out and use my muscles daily. I took it as easy as I could, popping ibuprofen and getting adequate rest. I slowly re-entered my work-out routine. My back is now at about 95%. If I had taken a couple of days off, I'd probably still be in the same shape physically, but with three times as many problems to fix.

    On top of everything, we had snow and ice issues, and a bunch of (key) people haven't been showing up. I had to order a lot of prioritizing and following-up. For a while, I didn't even have my computer for email. I just got my phone installed yesterday. (Note: cell-phone use is highly restricted for security reasons). My boss has occasionally asked how things are going. At least he's been smart enough to stay out of my way. He has that going for him: He knows his limitations.

    Oh, did I mention that I actually manage two shops? Meanwhile, at the cable shop I also run, they dropped-off 25,000 feet of cable and two hundred blast hoses on different days. I put them all away, still leaving work on-time. No overtime. Some play the overtime game, for fun, but mostly profit. Call me stupid, but it's that damn work ethic.

    On the icy days recently, my family has taken turns shuttling me down to the ferry so I can get to work. I usually ride my motorcycle. I guess they prefer me alive, and not skidding on black ice. None of them bitched about driving me, they did it gladly (well, as glad as one can be at 0530). They knew I was grateful. I don't call into work. I got stuff to do.

    At times in the past, I've been resentful having to tell people in a higher grade level how to do their job. But it's a dance. I know I need the resources they can provide, and they know they're ignorant. It's Adam Smith mercantilism on the personal level. Eventually, some of my "superiors" gain skills to the point of actually being productive. Then there's guys like my boss, the "delegater" that's always aiming for the lowest friction trajectory possible.

    The end result has been that I indeed did "pull through". My back is better, and the ice is melting. I have operational saws, a crane, computer and phone. My printer is still down at the other area, but I'm still managing that. My work area is more cramped than before, and more noisy. My office is spacious and cold. I didn't even have a designated parking area for my buggy, so I just drove it into the building and made a spot in my area next to a metal bar rack. Are you supposed to drive indoors? I don't care. I just did it. I'm not asking permission, I'm making some safety hack tell me I can't.

    Pulling Through is more than some dated Cold War book. It's an attitude, and a way of life. If I asked permission, and waited every time I had a problem, NOTHING would ever get done. Life is learning, and implementing what you learned. You know about things, about people, and about the world you live in.

    In contrast, Things Fall Apart is a good, but tragic story. But things really do fall apart. Okonkwo was a strong man, but inflexible. As his world changed, he was unwilling (and unable) to adapt to the changes. Don't be that guy.

    Here is where I diverge from my "prepping" cousins. Preppers buy stuff, maybe they get strong and practice skills like shooting. Some have developed networks with like-minded individuals. And THAT is a problem. The world isn't full of clones of you. Despite how awesome you think you are, there are billions of others out there that think, and do differently than you.
    Those are the people you need to learn to work with.

    All the crazy stuff on the news doesn't scare me. The Good Book tells us "There will be wars, and rumors of wars..." I'm not afraid. Not because I'm cocky, or over-confident. My whole life has been Pulling Through. Unless the ICBM drops it's megatons directly on my head, it's game-on. I just heard a new virus is spreading from China. Pandemic? So what! My family and I can shelter in place for a long time.

    I talk with my neighbors. I gave them some homemade beer for Christmas, and loan my snow shovels to clear their driveways. Too many people focus on what they won't do for their neighbors if the Stuff Hits The Fan. I stay strong, my family stays safe so we can help our community pull through. A town up north just spontaneously formed a relief column to provide supplies to people cut off by the recent storm. There was no government direction, just citizens doing the right thing. It can happen, and it does. And if I have my way, that grassroots sufficiency will continue.

    Surviving a nuclear war sounds ludicrous. But just stop and think about what you survive each and every day. Personally, I learn, develop new relationships and adjust to my surroundings. Comfort and complacency are not your friends. A catastrophe will not kill you. Your passive attitude will.

    These are just my reflections. I personally scoff at and I'm repulsed by these lone-wolf preppers that expect 99% of the world to die, with only their tiny group surviving. Depending on the catastrophe, I do expect many to not Pull Through. That's not my wish. But to me, that's a personal choice. It's a choice that impacts much more than you and your life. Choose wisely.

    "Wubba Lubba Dub Dub!"



  2. #2
    Supervisor velo's Avatar
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    Thanks, Winston, a good read.

    The only nit I'll pick is masking out the 'cuss words.' I've always felt if you're going to use the words, commit to it. I find masking out a letter or two intellectually dishonest. We all know what the word is, we hear it in our minds when we read. You've used the word in a manner close enough to be recognised so own it.
    "Don't fuck with writers, we will describe you." -unknown

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  3. #3
    The Fox Smith's Avatar
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    My only nit is that, much like how you tie it up by calling-back to "Pulling Through", maybe you should also make mention (and expand on) "Things Fall Apart" earlier in your piece here. This could serve to strengthen the contrast you have set-up. Besides that there was the occasional spelling or grammar error, but nothing worth mentioning; that's easy stuff.

    I feel like I got to learn about a philosophy, a way of life, through your personal experience Winston. Thought-provoking read that succeeds in making me reflect on whether or not I can pull-through. Engaging and well done!

    If you wrote a book about management, I would buy it. I do not understand how to work with people and consistently get what I want, although it does sound like the key (or a key) is discerning strengths, weaknesses, and give-and-take.
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