Friday, February 25, 2011

That's what I call gumption

The dictionary defines gumption: 1. initiative; aggressiveness; resourcefulness: With his gumption he'll make a success of himself.
2. courage; spunk; guts: It takes gumption to quit a high-paying job. 

A news report that aired on local TV prompted my brother-in-law to recall a time when he displayed gumption.

The television screen showed a worker in something that looked like a space suit spraying a chemical coating on playground equipment that had burned children playing on it in the record-breaking heat last summer in Dallas.

The white suit reminded David of a job he had between his freshman and sophomore years in college.

Showing vs. Telling 

David had gone to Baytown, TX to stay with his friend for 2 weeks until school started at Southwestern University at Georgetown.

"I needed to get a job. My buddy took me to apply at a company that did contract work for an oil company where his dad worked. But he said, 'You won't get a job working for them.'"

"Yes, I will. You just watch me."

The line of prospective applicants was long, David said, but before he got in line, David went to the bulletin board to read the job postings. "The only help wanted was for experienced sandblasters."

When David got to the front of the line, the man asked him what he could do.

"I'm an experienced sandblaster."

"Where have you worked?"

"All over Dallas," David said.

"Okay, we'll give you a try." And then the man told him how much they would pay him per hour.

"That's not enough. I'm an experienced sandblaster."

So the guy raised it to $6.00 per hour, "which was a lot of money back then. An obscene amount," David said.

The next morning David showed up for work and they gave him a 3-man crew, and then took all 4 to a work site.

David put one man in charge of the sand, another the machinery, and the third man to feed him the line. David did the actual sandblasting wearing a protective suit. He climbed up to a platform and blasted the top of a tank, finishing the job in 4 hours.

When the foreman came back at lunch, he was astonished.

"This is a cost-plus job. You've got to slow down or we won't make any money," the foreman said. "This job should have taken all day or a day-and-a-half."

David said he took lots of breaks after that. And when he quit at the end of 2 weeks, the foreman said, "Is it the money? I can get you more money."

"No," David said, "I gotta go back to school."

Now that's what I call gumption. 

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