Monday, June 25, 2007

Sometimes Overwhelming Pays Off

(Houston, TX) I wrote a couple of days ago about my little league experience and being overwhelmed when I was 8 years old batting against 12 year old pitchers. If you remember I said that the overwhelming moments in life are good for us. Although very uncomfortable in the short run, those moments have a cumulative effect that can end up to be very positive force in our lives.

Tonight Lee Longino and I had dinner together. And I was reminded of that life lesson. About eight years ago, which was a couple of years after I joined the ranks of Corporate America, Lee Longino became my Regional President. Being a small town funeral home operator who had only a few funeral home locations to oversee, the Regional President was not only a long way from me physically (from Georgia to Houston) but also a long way up the totem pole of the company for which I was employed. I had met Lee a few times at meetings in Houston but I did not know him well. I knew him well enough to know that he was a very smart and creative young man and I was very confident that there was no way I had the capacity to do his job. I remember attending meetings and wondering how in the world he kept up with all he had to keep up with.

No different than when I batted against Steve Peacock in Little League 44 years ago.

One day about 7 years ago, my boss at the time called me to tell me he was resigning from the company to pursue another opportunity. I was totally shocked and was nervous about who would replace him. My boss at that time had taught me a whole lot about the workings of corporate America and I had a great relationship with him. My fear was his replacement might not be quite as patient with me. I nervously wondered what would happen.

To my surprise, a week or so later I got a call from the Regional President of our company in Houston. Lee Longino wanted me to fly to Houston to be interviewed for the possibility of taking my boss’s place. I couldn’t believe I would be considered for such a job in the first place. This job was a big one and included operational responsibility for several states and I felt it was way over my head. On the way to Houston that week it dawned on me that I had never been to a job interview in my life. I had worked for myself all my life. When I sold the funeral homes, I came on with the company as an Area Manager but had never been interviewed. I began to get a little nervous about what he could possibly ask me.

When I arrived at his office that morning I was wearing my best suit and attempting to exhibit my best behavior. When I entered Lee’s office I could not help but notice the glass walls and the gorgeous view of downtown Houston. Lee had a lady who I knew (and is now one of my favorite people) in the office to take notes. I was thinking that this sure is a long way from Goddard Funeral Home and Goddard Factory Direct Furniture In Reynolds, Ga. I sat down next to Carol the note taker. Lee was sitting behind his very large glass desk. We said our “hellos and how you doings” and then Lee told me he was going to ask me a few questions. I’ll never forget the first question he asked me: “Bruce, if you take over the job as Area Vice President of the Southeast Region what changes would you make and why?

The first answer that came to my mind came right out of my mouth: “World peace…. Definitely world peace.” As Lee spewed coffee out of his mouth and Carol started laughing out loud, I tried to explain. I told them I thought for a moment I was a finalist in a beauty pageant.

We went on to have a fairly lengthy conversation about the funeral and cemetery business. And I was hired for this job. When I took on this new responsibility I had never been so overwhelmed in my life. I decided I was going to work harder than everybody else and do my absolute best to try to figure out what I had to do. I can tell you those next few months were no different than when I was 8 years old trying to bat against 12 year old Steve Peacock’s fastball. I was overwhelmed but it was very good for me. And I learned a heck of a lot over a period of time.

Today my job responsibility is much greater than it was when I got that big promotion. Lee Longino and I have the same job title now and we are peers. There was a time when I could not even comprehend the possibility of doing what he did. But I now realize I had the capacity to do more than I thought I could do. I have since thanked Lee for giving me a shot at doing what he thought I could do but I could not even imagine. There have been others who have helped me along the way but Lee gave me my first shot. He saw something in me that I could not see myself. And he put me in an overwhelming situation. It was a situation where I could have easily made a fool of myself.

But like I’ve said so many times before: One can never even have a chance at winning until he gets to the place where he is not afraid to lose.

Sometimes overwhelming pays off.


Anonymous said...

What a difference a day makes. I am sure you have followed Lee's footsteps in giving other people an overwhelming experience.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh, I laughed so hard over the “overwhelming” blog…ha ha ha ha! Actually, I laughed so hard I snorted (no surprise, right?). Remembering how serious you looked in that “interview” and then saying “world peace”, I swear, if I had needed to tinkle, I would have done so right there and then…ha ha ha ha!

-The Note Taker

Oh my, thank you for making me laugh today!! I almost spit out my gum when I laughed..ha ha ha *snort*!!!

KAT said...

Mr. Goddard:
I hope the company you work for never, ever, ever forgets about hiring well-known locals who can relate to their clients. That meant a lot to Mom when her father died. She was crying when she told me about this and that person helping them out with her father's arrangements.

My father died at home this Sunday. He barely made it out of the hospital and could barely stand up the night he died.

He chose his regular bed when he went home. I think he knew what was going to happen.

I saw him in the hospital point at least twice to something on the wall. I asked each time and he said, "Nothing". It could have been "the light" or an angel.

Two of my sisters are plodding along taking care of things but my other sister and I are taking it hard.

Later that day I found out Daddy told the preacher who saw him that he wanted to die at home.

The firefighters and deputies who investigated the death scene were nice but professional; the EMS people a little more detached(though the paramedic asked if my mom were ok). The deputy coroner was very pleasant; he was in the funeral business for years.

Death scenes aren't all CSI; they demand people skills and I am thankful the undertakers and coroners are capable of this.


Anonymous said...

I have to tell you how much I liked this blog. My husband has been really overwhelmed by work lately, and all that he doesn't seem to know about his new assignment. I made him sit down tonight at the computer and read your blog. Later, he asked if I had been emailing you about him and his recent challenges. His words were, " Have you been talking to Bruce about me?" My response was, of course "No". Then he said, " Well then, how did he know?" My response was, " God knew." Timing is everything, isn't it?

Bruce Goddard said...

KAT, I don't know who you are or where you are but my heart goes out to you. I have lost both my parents and I can relate to what you are going through. The reason I got in this business in the first place is because I watched my dad walk in those difficult situations you described and relate to the hurting people with professionalism, integrity and sincerity. Our company has funeral homes all over our country and the reason we are successful is because we have caring professionals who live and are a part of the communities they serve taking care of families like yours in your most difficult time. If I can personally help with anything you are going through don't hesitate to reach out to me at I'll even give you my cell phone number.

God Bless you and your family at this time. - BG

Mike said...

Mr. Goddard,
You have found a great friend and co worker. Lee has been my friend for 25+ years. I am very proud of him and all that he has accomplished in life. He is an awsome person.
Take care,
Mike Moffitt