Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Having this blog to maintain has added yet another layer of pressure and expectation to my already convoluted life. It's interesting, though, because I occassionally catch myself thinking, "hmmm... this will be good to write about," whenever I encounter a character-building situation.

Speaking of character-building situations

I used to spend a lot of time listening to Jim Rohn personal development audio-cassettes. Just couldn't get enough of the man's wisdom and insights. From him I learned that there are two types of situations. There are favorable situations, where everything seems to go according to my plans, nothing can go wrong, and I'm at the top of the world. Then there are the character-building days, when nothing I do can seem to lift me out of the muck I'm in. The more I struggle, the more I get stuck, stuck in the muck.

Yesterday I was in one of these character-building situations. It was a pretty good day, and I got a lot of things done. The challenge started when I called one of my business prospects to confirm a 3 pm meeting. The lady at the other end apologized and said that her boss lady had asked for a postponement. Fine, though I was rather irked by the fact that they hadn't called me to inform me of the cancellation. So I texted my partner to inform him that the meeting was off.

So by 2 pm I had another gig going, when my phone rings. It's my partner, announcing that he's on his way to see boss lady, and that they spoke, and the meeting is on, as scheduled. Dang! My problem now is how do I get out of the current activity. Fortunately, the presentation I'm giving goes without a hitch, and there aren't many questions about the software, so I'm done by 2:35. Not a graceful exit, but I jump into my '89 Toyota Corolla XL 5-speed (Hah! Better than saying, "I jumped into my beat up, old jalopy!") and zoom on over to the meeting place, which was only a couple of blocks away, anyway.

I get there ten minutes past 3, which isn't too bad, and my partner's in the conference room doing his thing with Mr. Chairman, one of the city's hotshot businessmen. I'm there for another purpose, and to meet with Boss Lady, who's with my partner and Mr. Chairman in the conference room. So I quietly take my seat on the lush looking couch, which tries to swallow me up as I sit. One of the most frightening, or at least extremely uncomfortable situations I've ever gotten myself into is sitting on a couch that's too soft. It always feels like I'm squatting in the middle of the room, in my barong tagalog, no less.

3:30. I've been there 20 minutes. Nobody has attempted to offer me coffee. Or water. Fine.

3:37. My phone rings. It's the lady who scheduled and coordinated this whole thing. "Hi!" her tone sounds eerily like a flight attendant asking, "Will it be quiche or omelette?"

"Has your partner contacted you?"

"As a matter of fact, we've spoken."

"That's good. So you know that your meeting with Boss Lady is on."

"As a matter of fact, I do."

My rudeness fails to dent her wall of happiness. "So what time will you be here?" I stare at the ceiling for about 3 seconds. This can't be happening, I say to myself.

"As a matter of fact, I'm right outside Mr. Chairman's office." I wanted to add, "being assaulted by an overt couch, yearning for a cup of coffee, and silently contemplating how to incapacitate this guy who keeps changing the channels on the cable TV in the lounge so that nothing in the world made sense anymore." But I held my tongue.

"Oh, you're here na pala!"

"Yes, I am."

"Ok, sir, I'll just get everyone together. Please wait." She called me sir.

3:40. Channel Surfer Guy seems to have made up his mind. We're now watching a really bad action-thriller on HBO. Something about gargoyles coming to life and shredding the people to meaningless bits. There was a really cool feature on the National Geographic channel. It would be a simple matter to press on the channel selector. The couch held me in its tight embrace.

4:00. I've made up my mind that everyone in this place is a moron. And I'm convinced the couch is in love with me.

4:10. Boss Lady walks in and goes to her table. I am smiling like the suitor waiting to be ushered into the house. Boss Lady makes a quick phone call, grabs a map from the table, and walks right back into the conference room. It's the couch, I tell you.

4:15. I am sulking, and thinking of a few dozen places where I'd rather be.

4:18. Just as the couch and I are getting quite intimate, Boss Lady walks out again and calls me to the other conference room. I am barely able to hold the tears back, and that couch fought a good fight to keep me in its embrace. But just the same, I walked out on our budding relationship. I couldn't help feeling pangs of guilt. But I was quick to justify my actions. I'm a C.E.O.-in-the-making. And I don't want you to have unrealistic expectations. I must focus on my goals. There is no 'us'."

And with one last, painful look at my couch, I walked into the other room.

Oh, yes, I started off writing about having a character building lesson. No, it isn't that couches make for lasting, fulfilling relationships. The experience emphasized in real-life terms that patience is, indeed, a virtue. And humility can open doors.

After an hour of waiting, I had sentenced this prospect to an eternity of name-calling, and a lead role in my up-coming book, "One Hundred Ways NOT To Do Business." I am, after all, the C.E.O. of my life. If the importance of that fact escapes these people, then they had no business doing business with me.

I hear a buzzer go off in my head, the kind you hear when a game show contestant gets it ridiculously wrong. Good thing, too. Had I given in to my hyper-participative ego, I would've lost sight of the opportunity offered by this prospect. As it turns out, they were indeed ready to talk business, and Boss Lady apologized profusely for making me wait.

I keep forgetting that I am but a rivet in this complex system of gears, and washers, and levers, and springs, and cogs, and such, with each one thinking the whole universe was created for its own benefit. I'm the snake oil salesman in the plaid suit standing in the middle of the train tracks waving the train to stop so I can get on. How successful at this I am depends on how well I can convince the engineer that he needs to stop and let me on.

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