Article by Gary Corley, TXAPA Historian and Paving & Compaction Specialist for Kirby-Smith Machinery
It's quite natural for us to remember the “firsts” in our respective careers—those events that set us on the path to our life’s work and hopefully lead to gratification and happiness. As you can tell from the attached sales invoice, my first experience as a young construction equipment salesman in 1972 was a reasonably spectacular event. Indeed, the dollar amount is impressive by any standard, and you will notice that the sales tax was 5 percent, which coincidentally was the commission paid to me for the sale of this piece of used equipment—undoubtedly a windfall.
As for the equipment itself, she was a thing of beauty, complete with weeds growing out of her concrete ballast. As I recall, the operator had to undergo intense training for three days to grasp all the onboard computers and related technolo-gies on this cutting-edge wonder.
Hmm. Perhaps I don’t remember that part so clearly. Oh well.
And yes, gentle reader, Browning-Ferris was a heavy construction equip-ment dealer before they decided to sell out and make a kajillion dollars in the solid waste business—a concept, by the way, my then 22-year-old brain struggled to comprehend.
This hand-typed, yellowing piece of paper has hung in my office for many moons now with the original intent of serving as a reminder of what I’m supposed to do when I get up and hit the road. It still fulfills that purpose as I remain hard-wired to sell construction equipment. But sometimes over the years, career memen-tos such as these can take on a broader meaning. With time, our thoughts tend to mature, and our understanding of things and events deepen. So is it with this sim-ple sales invoice as it has come to repre-sent more than just a “first,” but rather the sum of my career. Let me explain.
When we start out on our career path, if we are fortunate, there are many people we encounter along the way offering guid-ance and encouragement. They console us when we fail and help us celebrate the victories. We learn by their example and from their skills and their ethics. They keep us on our path. They mentor us. These serendipitous benefactors, as we could call them, act well beyond the bounds of any professional obligation, but they have conditioned themselves to help. They are inherently good people.
We all encounter folks like this as we do our life’s work, and in my personal experience, there were many. It took many mentors to get to the point of that first invoice in 1972, and then there was so much more positive interaction with good people in the ensuing years. I was fortunate.
It also seems quite natural for people to want to return these acts of kindness for the goodness others have demon-strated to them. However, one of the greatest underestimations of human-kind is the positive impact that we can have on the lives of others through small acts of caring. Interest in a young person’s career, leading by example or listening to a coworker who is going through a tough time—all these simple acts can have a huge and lasting influ-ence on another person’s life. Young people especially are so in need of our interest, time and our learned skills to set them on their path to the “first” that will launch their career.
Indeed, TXAPA offers so many ways for us to serve our industry and leave a lasting mark. We often lament that the industry needs good people. How else are we to carry on our historical mission of quality?
Part of the solution is within our control: take the time to teach. What better legacy can we leave? These are the things that will be remembered and hopefully become the hallmark of our own career experience.
Now, I understand TXAPA has charged me with writing history articles, so consider this article to be about our collective and personal accounts and how they intersect for a greater good. We will measure our personal histories in large part based on what we have done to help others. When we embrace a philosophy of mentoring, this behav-ior becomes an integral part of our professional and personal lives. Then, we are much more likely to fulfill the quest for gratification and happiness we were seeking when we started on our path.
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