Rendered Fat Content


Paul Gavarni: Man Walking (circa 1852-1866)
" … winning non-existent races, going places."

Back in the seventies when I began my second career, I still believed in the predictive powers of assessment surveys. Often advertised as psychological tests, whatever that might have been (which they weren't), they claimed to be capable of assessing what sort of a person you might be, for purposes of matching natural inclination to specific job situations. An employer, for instance, would not want an egghead in a meathead job because the egghead might over-think everything rather than mindlessly comply with directions. A popular "tool", as they were referred to, designated some individuals as Ds, or Drivers. My primitive conception of leadership at the time encouraged me to think of the Drivers as the real leaders and the others, the nurturers and philosophers and analysts as somehow further down the pecking order and therefore not really leading. I found that if I answered the survey questions not as I knew myself to be but as I aspired to become, I could easily score as a nearly perfect Driver and thereby reinforce my primitive notions of leadership while also satisfying myself. I reported to a wiley boss who saw right through my ruse without challenging me on it. She figured, I guess, that I'd best teach myself different if I was ever going to amount to much.

And so I fancied myself a Driver.
I would be the one to stand up and take change. I'd work overtime even if nobody else would. I'd, as the saying went, "Drive" results, except I didn't. I learned over time that things tended to take as long as things took and were little influenced by cheerleaders or pushy drivers. Most everything seemed to carry a natural rhythm about it and matching that rhythm usually exerted more influence than shoving along edges. I found roles beyond Driver and a profession beyond pretending, eventually.

When we mustered together our small crew to do this refurbishing, both Kurt and Joel said that they'd willingly work weekends if it came to that. I told 'em that we had no intention to operate with deadlines driving us. We'd observe a decent rhythm without overreaching. Nothing demanded any specific ending date except the weather which we could not predict. We'd get the windows reinstalled before Fall overtook us. Beyond that, we'd put in decent days of work and see where that left us. We would not be over-stretching or sacrificing ourselves for some delusional good. Kurt even offered a friends and family discount over his usual reasonable rate and we told him we didn't operate like that. We'd take his regular rate, no discount, because we felt he was worth that, as should he. This project has been more of a walk than a stretch, more of a stroll that a steeplechase, more of a pleasure than a pain.

I'm learning that this life's not a race, that competition improves little about anything. We can take it easier than we imagined and still produce decent returns, perhaps even more appreciated ones. Efficient isn't the sole property of swiftness and boldness doesn't actually buy anyone much. An ounce of reflection's generally more valuable than any odd pound of initiative. Hug the day, don't seize it. It does not need conquering but nurturing and acceptance. I have become a Walker in my dotage and damned proud of it. I could do Driver all day long and even feel energized while doing it. Returning home with my show paint still on, my first wife would ask me who I'd become. I felt that I'd become the man of her dreams, but I hadn't. I'd become the man of my own delusions, taking charge and storming imaginary pillboxes, winning non-existent races, going places.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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