Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Rooting for the underdog.


I was managing a fitness facility in 2005-06 when I was first introduced to the underdog. He came to us by way of a teleconference noting he may fill our HR void because he was “not fitting in” with another team.
*Of note, 85% of that “team” did not make it into 2007, while the underdog would continue to record one of the best retention records in our organizations history across +/- eight year span of service.
 

The underdog was unique, no doubt about it, but the beauty of judgment is that we all have personal & professional areas of strength & improvement. I preferred to see what made the underdog unique on the other side of the spectrum which was a solid work ethic, loyalty and tenacity to pursue goals no matter how small or large they were.

Mid way through his career, the underdog hinted at a possible long term tenure with the fire department. Ultimately, this was his life long dream. I can distinctly recall people laughing at the prospect. The underdog was undersized, of mixed race and through his career suffered multiple injuries that would have been legit excuses for lesser people to continue. I recall speaking to the underdog about an interview he had ‘how’d it go’ I asked, ‘ah, not very good at all’ he said, with his familiar underdog half crooked smile – gazing off into space. ‘There’s a lot of things I need to do to improve’, and improve he did.

See the underdog didn’t quit when he was told no once, twice, three times. Instead he took the feedback and, after each time he got knocked down – he got right back up. Eventually, it was challenging NOT to root for the underdog. Days passed and I lost touch. I would hear he was going to be a husband... then a father... then a volunteer intern and finally, after years of effort, he would make the team in the job of his dreams.... as a firefighter.

Jeff Iwanaka, you are the consummate example of someone who, despite every opportunity to deploy your raft and float downstream, kept swimming against the current. As a result, you are no longer the underdog - you are a champion. All of us who surround you are better for knowing you and just before Christmas to have this fortune bestow yourself & family we wish you nothing but the best!


Merry Christmas Jeff.

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