Demma's Notes Book Summaries

Sad News, New Territory, 2 Great Books: 3 short posts in 1

What follows is a somewhat disjointed collection of updates from the past month. I probably should have made this three separate posts, but I’m short on time and I wanted to memorialize some thoughts while they’re fresh.

Sad News About Our Move

About a week after we arrived in Virginia we learned that the tractor trailer that was moving our belongings, along with the belongings of four other families, was in an accident. The driver died in the accident. It was a terrible tragedy.

I won’t go into too many details out of respect for his family, but I do want to share some thoughts. The driver was a great man by all accounts. He was one of the top rated drivers in his company and he had been driving for 40 years. He had a reputation for being “the best in the business.” I got to spend the better part of a day with him in Seattle. He was professional, warm, kind to the kids, and you could tell he was a decent fellow. When he told me he would see me at our unload in Virginia, I was surprised. I didn’t know the same driver stays with our stuff along the way. We talked a bit about his work and what’s its like on the road. You can tell he took his craft seriously and found the art in it. He finished loading up the truck and then James played a cute “bye bye” game with the movers that I took a picture of and posted on Instagram.

james bye

This man’s death had a big impact on us. He was such a great guy with a great story. His coworkers were all so broken up at the loss that they could hardly break the news to us on the phone. Imagine how skilled this man must have been at driving, after 40 years of doing what he did at the highest level. This was a tragic reminder that bad things can and do happen to good people. This quote from the Book of Matthew keeps coming to mind:

“For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

I think it’s important to try to find some good in any tragic event like this. For us, and for many of the people who knew the driver, his loss served as a reminder of what’s important in life. Family. Health. Make the most of our short time here. Everyone I talked to at the company “hugged their loved ones a little tighter” in the days that followed. It’s my hope that the impact he had on his friends, family, and colleagues will enrich their lives permanently, perhaps one hopeful meaning we can take from the tragedy.

We’re happily rebuilding now, grateful to be back home and grateful that we made it back east safely. Thank you to everyone who supported us and wished us well over the past month, especially our kind neighbors who gave us toys and comforts that were morale boosters.

Lastly, next time you move make sure you don’t waive the “full value protection” on your belongings. This saved us from a real financial disaster. You can save a couple bucks by waiving the coverage, but these types of losses are more common than I thought, and I thank God that I didn’t cheap out this time like I usually do.

New Work Assignment

I’m up and running in my new territory. This past month I prioritized visiting each location, and I hit my goal of visiting all 26 sites by 7/6. It’s a cool territory, with lots of small towns and rural locations. Many of the original founders and early employees are still around, which is great. One of the coolest parts of this new assignment is that I get to work with 2 sites that are very close to my home town. This past week I visited the sites and got to see my family afterwards, which was a first for me. The last time I worked in that area was 18 years ago, and I was delivering pizzas.

Anytime I start a new assignment I think about what I will do to add value to the team. I remind myself of the basics of leadership. Be humble and listen to everyone. Be optimistic and remind people why they should be hopeful for the future. Pay attention. Start to map out the new environment. What are the goals of the individuals on the team? What do their individual aims have in common, or what is the meta-goal, which will become our vision for the future? I’m working through this now.

The Servant and Man’s Search for Meaning

I finished a couple great books in the past month.

The first was “The Servant” by James C. Hunter. This is probably the best selling book of all time on the concept of servant leadership, which is the stated leadership model of my company and the cornerstone of who I am as a leader today. It’s short and basic, some might say cliche, but the lessons ring true. It’s a great refresher for experienced leaders and a great primer on leadership for new leaders. I’ve been assigning the book to new leaders on my team for the past month.

The core principle of the book is that servant leaders help their teams achieve a common good by meeting the legitimate needs (not wants) of the people on the team. The servant leadership journey starts with being a person of strong character and listening to people on the team. Servant leaders are: patient; kind; humble, respectful, selfless; forgiving; honest; and committed. And here’s a graphic of the how servant leadership manifests itself through the leader:

servant

The other book I read this month was Viktor Frankl’s classic “Man’s Search for Meaning.” Frankl was a Jewish-Austrian psychologist (a personal contact of Freud’s) and neurologist who was imprisoned in and survived the Nazi Concentration Camps. The book has two main parts. The first part is Frankl’s account of his time in the camps, including Auschwitz and Dachau, told not as a narrative, but as an extended essay on the psychological condition of a typical concentration camp prisoner. The second part is set up as an essay style description of Frankl’s therapy style called Logotherapy (derived from the Greek Logos, or the way, the word, the truth), but is really more an articulation of Frankl’s philosophical outlook on life that emerged through his experiences.

800px-Viktor_Frankl2

The entire book is captivating, devastating, shattering, humbling, complex, and in the end inspiring. For me, it stands among the greatest books I’ve ever read. I won’t attempt to summarize the book here. Maybe I’ll do that in a stand-alone post down the road. I’ll just share what I took as Frankl’s 3 ways to find meaning in this life: through labor, through suffering, or through love, with love being the most powerful of the three. In his direst of moments, when he was stripped of his humanity and when his strength was gone, it was the image of his wife that gave him the gift of survival (camera cuts to me sobbing while listening to the audiobook in my car on I-81 somewhere in Pennsylvania). I will definitely read “Man’s Search for Meaning” again when I build up the courage.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

Welcome to my blog. I have been a manager for fifteen years, and for the past five years I have been leading teams of 500 people or more as a director and VP for large growth companies. I share my leadership journey and thoughts here with the hopes of helping and inspiring other leaders.

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