Turn a minus to a plus
Throughout my career, and my life, I was faced with assignments that on the outset seemed to be off target from where I wanted to be. Rather than complain about my job and focus on the negative, I searched for the upside and looked for ways to use those assignments to better myself.
A real downside to the Pentagon was that duty there is a “desk job”. BUT that minus could be turned into a plus by joining the Pentagon Athletic Club. It was fully equipped: a swimming pool, handball courts, weights, a steam room, lockers, and a snack bar facility—built underground just outside the 8th corridor about a 50-yard walk from my office. I tried to get down there daily; played handball or took a run over to the Lincoln Memorial and back. I kept in great shape and it helped to keep the pressure down in the Boiler Room activity of day-to-day work.
Find the opportunity to grow and excel in every job/task. Remember that in every task you have the opportunity to impress or not impress someone.
In Japan on Occupation Duty, I was put in charge of a major construction project building and supervising troops barracks, etc. without speaking Japanese or understanding engineering designs. I realized this was a chance to learn a new language, and finally understand the esoteric principles of engineering by applying it hands on. Here was my task:
- Construction of Barracks for 2700 troops and Mess (Dining Halls), Kitchens,
- Living quarters and a dining hall for Bachelor Officers.
- A Water Plant and Water Supply System.
- A Sewage Disposal plant and disposal piping,
- 210 residences for American families,
- Seven Boiler Houses and facilities to steam heat all buildings, and
- 14 miles of paved roads with Drainage systems.
I was an Infantry Lieutenant who had never broken the code at West Point on the cryptic, arcane mysteries of anything dealing with Engineering – except surveying. So what did I do? I hired an excellent English-speaking Japanese interpreter to help me supervise the Japanese contractors. I pulled out my Engineering manuals, which began to make more and more sense as actual construction began and took form. I began to study spoken Japanese intensely and soon was able to understand and converse to a limited extent in that language, immersed as I was all day with the Contractors. It was fun! Then, when it was all built, the General made me the Post Engineer – responsible and accountable for maintenance of several million dollars of Army property. I did that job for a few months –still a lieutenant–until an Engineer Major took over and I went back to duty with the troops in “E” Co.