But.. unintroverted isn’t even a word. Yeah, you’re right. But I think even though it’s not, it represents in every way where I’ve come, my journey, and is the perfect title to the culmination of everything. At the end of it all, while I have not completely conquered being an introvert – I have cast aside so much of that shadow over me, that it resides in a very small part within me.
My interview at Food Lion followed me being terminated from Walmart not even two days later. I got to experience two days of failure, loss, and regret – but my self-esteem was resuscitated by the Store Manager at the particular store I applied for. It was here, I had my second (also probably not the greatest) interview of my life. I started that night. Not only that, I was offered almost the same amount of money as a manager was at Walmart as a part-time clerk.
This golden age of starting at Food Lion was single-handedly one of the best times of my life. I worked very hard, sweat every day, and literally would push myself to my physical limits on a day to day basis. I made a handful of friends, more than I had ever done. It was these friends that eventually formed a small gaming “clique”. I was really poor at this point, I had just bought a house, and had two kids, started a new job as a part-time clerk, and I was fighting for hours ravenously. It would often be, that I was scheduled 20 hours, and I would work so hard, they would give me my 40 hours for the week. The gaming clique that had formed was playing on XBox, and I obviously could not afford one to join in with this group of friends. One of my friends offered me an XBox 360, that had “Red Ring of Deathed” (this was a critical system error where the power lights would flash red). He said if I could find out how to fix it, I could have it. I spent the next two days consuming countless hours of YouTube, and reading numerous articles on how to fix it. It got fixed.
I saved some money and purchased Gears of War 2 on discount, and this small clique we had formed would play “Horde Mode” for hours after work. One of those members of the clique would turn out to be my mentor and teacher. I was working very hard at Food Lion, grasping for full-time, reaching for that next level. I knew what I wanted, just not quite how to get there yet. It was through this mentor, and under his wing, that I began to understand what being a “Manager” was to this company. It was different. Way different. To sum the difference up in one giant word, would be – humanizing.
What’s that mean? Well at Walmart I didn’t have to have “people skills” or “care about other people”, that wasn’t the Walmart way. Food Lion was more personal, more intimate. My mentor was teaching me a lot and he didn’t even know it. I would observe him and how he interacted with people, I would talk to other associates, and they would proclaim how much they enjoyed working for him. I aspired to be like him, I envied his ability to rally the associates around him. As time went on I continued to absorb knowledge, and he taught me the technical aspect of the position – the scheduling, planning, merchandising, freight flow, ordering – but honestly what he taught me the most with just being himself around me and the other workers.
Things change, positions change, people leave, people arrive. I was at another store now, I had been promoted to “Grocery Manager” after jumping numerous positional hurdles. I advanced quickly, almost too quickly, and it was at this point I found out what having bad management was like – when the “humanized” aspects are used against you. I was berated. A lot. I pulled freight off a grocery trailer once, with pneumonia, and I had to pause to take breathing treatments while my management team laughed at me in the office. It was things like these that kind of pushed me to my brink, but I endured and vowed to never be a manager like them, and still to this day it is one of my virtues. I got moved again – and again. There’s almost a novel’s worth of trials and tribulations in between, but to keep it truncated, I will say I came out on top, metaphoric battle wound scars adorned, and became the next level two years later – Assistant Store Manager.
Boy was it strange. Everyone came to me now. I didn’t have a Store Manager to even assist yet, he had went to another store, and I was by myself. I was putting everything I had learned up to this point the test, but even then I was still struggling with talking to other people adeptly. I fumbled a lot, people still saw me as blunt, impersonal, and even rude – but that’s just who I was at that moment in time (and still struggle with occasionally to this day). I cycled two Store Managers before I finally met my icon. Previously in this blogging series I talk about mentors, and people who changed my life, people I have aspired to. They each had a huge part in making me who I was as an individual. This person was my personal messiah.
All my previous Store Managers were nothing like this person. They each had their own strengths and weaknesses, their own faults – but ultimately they were leaders of a store, and ran it to the best of their ability. This person transcended all of that. How is that even possible? Let me explain.
Imagine coming to work, and the first thing you get is a motivational talk. Almost every day. Or every day you arrived to work you were told how much you were valued, your strengths, and just how much to provide to the table – in words. Face to face. Can you imagine what kind of self-esteem you would originate from a Manager / Associate relationship like that? This (I am so thankful) was me for an entire year. It wasn’t just me, or his other department managers, it was every single associate within that store that felt appreciated with his leadership style. Even as I write this, the awe I feel, is still the same awe I was feeling when I observed him talking to me, and others.
He pushed me to be the best human I could be.
I decided to lose weight at that time. He pep talked me every day, told me how much better I was looking. Then, out of nowhere, our region posted a position for a “Regional Lead Trainer.” This position is one taken by someone who is willing to travel to other people of their position, providing guidance, leadership, and training to them. “I could not do this in a million years,” I was thinking. But my Manager told me, and still to this day it sticks to me, “You are excellent at your job, your people skills are getting better, I feel like I don’t even need to come to work because you do such a great job. This will define you, and help your people skills grow.” – “Wow,” I thought, can I really do this? And so through his guidance, support, countless pep talks, and friendship I applied.
Third interview. I killed it. I am now Regional Lead Trainer for my region.
I have done three presentations since then to my peers, and corporate management. The first one I was absolutely nervous, and practiced for hours with my girlfriend. I still remember those butterflies I mentioned earlier the entire day before, during the practice, and the moments leading up to that presentation. What I found out that day, is my passion for gaming, my raid leading in World of Warcraft, all the past I’ve worked through, and learned – flowed into this singular moment. The nerves melted as I spoke, and I still remember taking total control of the situation. Everything came naturally.
Thanks to all the past mentors I’ve had, and my personal messiah – I can now easily interact with others, can do presentations, public speaking, and be a better human. This transformation has seeped into my fatherhood, made my ability to communicate with my children, and emphasize with them that much easier. It’s amazing how one person can have such an impact on your life, so if you are in a position to impact someone, take a step back and look at your interactions, and how you could be that one person some day.
And that is my story how I went from an Introvert to UNintroverted. I really hope you enjoyed it.
Until next time,