By Tim Hayes
On the old “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” cartoons, the two characters often would hop into the “Wayback Machine” – an invention of the genius canine Mr. Peabody – to pursue some adventure from the past.
That sounds like a lot of fun, jumping into your very own Wayback Machine to relive some moment from years ago. In my case, though, any such journeys would first entail making a number of stops to slap some sense into my younger self.
This would be especially true regarding statements I can recall making with machismo, bravado, complete ignorance, and breathtakingly unearned confidence. Permit to explain.
“I can’t wait to be done with this place! I can’t wait until the biggest decision I’ll have to make every day is what color of necktie to wear to work!” – College Apartment, Senior Year, 1982
Spoken with the stunning self-importance of a college student, tired of books and papers and professors, convinced that the world on the other side of graduation could not possibly throw anything worse at him than a 2,000-word essay and a color-in-the-bubble biology test.
Five jobs, three kids, one layoff, a cancer scare, five moves, and a few stretches of income drought later? This statement from my youth has been nominated, and the committee vote came out unanimous. It has earned a permanent home in the Dumbshit Hall of Fame.
Plus, I haven’t worn a necktie to work in 15 years.
“There are only two industries I will never – ever! – work for. Tobacco, and nuclear power.” – Newspaper Newsroom, 1984
This one may be viewed as a cousin to the first quotation seen above. I crowed this declaration to a fellow reporter one slow news day when we had been discussing what we would do next in our careers. It illustrates brilliantly my naiveté about life at that point in time, and the deep-seated liberal bias of most young journalists, yours truly included back then.
After making the leap into corporate public relations from newspaper reporting, I worked for an electric utility. It operated its power plants very responsibly, with a two-unit nuclear plant sporting a stellar record, as well. In time, I got promoted to serve as the lead communications support person for that nuclear plant – one of the best jobs I ever had. Nuclear power, contrary to my earlier faulty assumption, was not inherently evil.
During one of my brief stretches working for a large PR agency, our group had been hired to conceptualize, organize, and execute the international sales conference for a global manufacturer of consumer goods where one division, but not the biggest by any means, included tobacco products.
My role came in coordinating the messaging of the main speakers, helping to craft their speeches and eliminating duplication, so that every presentation had impact and moved the narrative of the larger event forward. Again, one of the most exciting and rewarding moments of my career, one that actually served as the springboard to much of what my practice offers today.
Yet I can picture and hear myself spouting off about never coming near such industries, cocooned safely in that small town newsroom, knowing nothing about the basic decency of people in every business and the opportunities for growth available anywhere.
You know, thinking about it some more, you can keep that Wayback Machine after all.
Copyright 2014 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting