Your Passion Tilts the Playing Field
(From Work For Yourself No Matter Who You Work For © 2001)

A man stands in his own shadow and wonders why it’s dark.
- Zen saying

As soon as Len appeared at my door I wished that he hadn’t. As he spoke I was preoccupied with how to humanely reject this man whose speech and appearance were severely impaired by a cleft palate. He had chosen to wade his way through the late winter’s slush in Cambridge, Massachusetts and show up in person rather than calling as the ad requested.

When I asked why he came without an appointment he answered “I don’t like to fail and calling would have guaranteed failure.” He was right. His speech impediment would have eliminated him over the telephone. I invited him to sit by my desk and read him the ad.

‘Canvasser Needed - To call on markets and homes to set up appointments to discuss the benefits of frozen foods. Good appearance, speech and attitude a must.’

He sat smiling as I explained that the concept of keeping frozen foods at home was relatively unknown in 1959, and my new and only representative would have to make a great first impression. He asked if I had a prepared cold-call script, and when I produced one, asked if he could take it and come back in an hour to give a presentation. When he returned, he gave the most enthusiastic, professional presentation I could have hoped for. Although I was enthused about my new business, I wondered how anyone could be that passionate about frozen food. Eighteen months later, largely due to Len’s irresistible enthusiasm and determination to succeed, the business was thriving, and when I decided to take a position in the insurance business I gave Pioneer Frozen Food Service to him. Len and his wife Judy ran it successfully until his premature death in 1963.

Len only wanted to do well for himself and his family. It wasn’t his intention to teach me anything, but the lesson of that experience lives within me to this day.

In most workplaces the playing field is not level. In varying amounts, bias and prejudice still plague our society. Race, gender, ethnic, age and impairment-related bias exists. But there exists another type of bias as well. It’s the positive bias toward people who have great attitudes and are dynamic, intense and committed to the work they do. There is as much positive bias shown to people like Len who refuse to be average, who are unwilling to give up when rejected, as there is negative bias shown toward anyone else, for any other reason.

So few people view their work as an opportunity to thrive, grow, excel and make a contribution, that a virtual paradise exists for those who do. For these people the playing field is never level. It is always tilted sharply in their favor.

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eye off your goals.
- Unknown