Monday, October 3, 2011






When I was 22 years old, I was a contractor who, for the most part worked as a subcontractor for a couple of warehoused who contracted with different property management groups and small apartment buildings for floor covering replacement. It was lucrative work with minimal headaches, as most jobs could be completed with in the span of a day (granted, sometimes the days were excruciatingly long) and there was no sales or bidding of jobs -- which is really a headache. Work was often cyclic with the summers being the busiest times.

I remember the summer when I was 22 quite well. It was the summer that I eventually made the decision to get out of the construction business and move to Colorado. But that is a different story (kind of) and several months before I had the inkling that I would be moving out of Oregon (born and raised in the eastern edge of felony flats of Portland) I found myself trying to manage the flow of work, which was good. Between myself and my crew (a couple of friends who had as much experience as I did in the business, making the "boss" a title in name only) we sometimes came across apartments that needed carpet and pad replacement that still had quite decent padding. Perhaps the tenants made quick work of the carpet, staining it with various fluids (that I won't go into) and who knows what, but the carpet wasn't actually that old. These cases were candidates for leaving the existing padding, and just installing new carpet over the top. After all, who would know? This was especially tempting on concrete subfloors, as it means the pad was glued down and was really a pain in the rear end. Really, except for the fact that the property owners were paying for product they weren't actually getting it was a high reward, low risk type of risk.

One afternoon, somewhere in the west hills of Portland, I got a call from the warehouse manager who called to inquire about a unit that my crew had done a few days prior. It was a unit in the same complex that I was working at when I got the call -- we had actually been there working all week. The manager asked me if we had replaced the padding in the other unit. I could tell she wasn't happy. After a big breath and a big cringe, I decided to 'fess up. I also told her about another unit that we did in the complex without replacing the carpet padding. 

This is not one of those stories where I do the right thing, never to make another mistake again. This was just one in a long line of lessons learned. I really have no idea if that warehouse manager even remembers me, or that incident, but I sure do.

I was thinking about this today when I had the radio on coming home from school and the radio guy was talking about the 49ers win over the Eagles yesterday and how he thought that just the fact that they were able to pull off the comeback would yield one or two more victories this season. He wasn't saying that the abilities that got them the win yesterday would pay off, but that the momentum and the confidence that arose from the specific parameters of the victory was valuable in and of itself. I can't completely disagree. It got me to thinking about how I've heard others say (and have been known to say myself) that 'you just have to fake it until you make it.' Well, I would argue that faking it only goes so far, unless you do, indeed 'make it' at some point. I'm sure we can all envision that character who has shown so much confidence but failed to produce anything of value. That person sure was faking it, but just never made it.

That one incident, in what at times feels as if it were from another life, kind of allowed me to remind myself that I could indeed stand up and do the right thing. By no means have I always done the right thing in every situation since then, but I do think that it may have gotten me out from under the temptation to do the wrong thing, at least once or twice since then.

In medical school, we are taught to introduce ourselves as "student-doctor Smith" while in our doctoring labs, and I'm fairly sure that is how we'll be instructed to do it once in the clinical setting, you know, like, for reals. Perhaps I should amend that 'fake it 'til you make it' to a more situation appropriate 'forsake it 'til you make it' as far as thinking of myself as a doctor. Obvious, but sometimes I can get ahead of myself, no doubt. Especially after killing the test this morning -- finally, a performance I can be proud of. Granted, we haven't gotten the results back, but I already know that my amended studying techniques have payed off. Thank God . . .

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