Monthly Archives: October 2012

Safety First

In the latest chapter of “Good Guys, Wise Guys, and Putting Up Buildings”, Florman talks about a developer he met who built apartment complexes with metal exterior fire escapesImage.  These fire escapes were old-school but effective.  They also provided an extra escape for residents compared to other recently built complexes.  It’s safe to say that the developer’s top priority is safety.  In an essay by Ernesto Haibi, Haibi describes his time in Iraq as a doctor in the army in which he witnessed soldiers taking care of the Iraqi people so that they felt safe.  After insurgents let off several car bombs, American soldiers fought the insurgents for more than eight hours until the insurgents backed off.  These resilient efforts by the soldiers showed that the Iraqi people’s safety was more important than their own.  In the past I have driven friends around that would not wear their seat belt.  Instead of telling them to put it on I would completely ignore it and not say anything.  Fortunately, I have not been involved in a car accident in my 3 years of driving and I would like to keep it that way.  However, I know that things do happen I could be involved in an accident with one of my friends in the car not wearing a seat belt.  I know this is unlikely but I still need to make my friends’ safety a priority and tell them to put on their seat belts. 

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Being Competitive

In chapter 5 of Florman’s book, Florman begins to work for a construction engineer named Joe Blitz.  Joe is extremely competitive and assertive.  When he was bargaining for a price he would “make an offer and then outwit his quarry”.  If he got the bid his surliness would take over for his own people.  He would demand his team to get off their butts if they began to fail.  He had the “nice guys finish last” mindset.  A huge part of competition is risking failure.  In Jon Carrol’s essay, “Failure is a Good Thing”, Carrol writes about his younger daughter who is a trapeze artist.  After doing the same act for a decade and finally became bored when she realized that she was not learning anything new, so she changed the act.  She risked failure and public embarrassment.  However, she took risks just like Joe Blitz. I remember back in high school, I had a football coach that liked to take risks.  He would alter the playbook on a weekly basis to adjust to the other team, knowing that there was a high risk of failure because we only had less than a week to practice.  There was also the chance that the other team could adjust as well and we would be caught off guard.  Our coach would demand that we get the adjustments down and was quite surly to us much like Joe Blitz, yelling at us when we would screw up.  I believe that taking risks is a huge part of being a successful competitor.

Putting the Blame On Others

In Florman’s book, Florman hires a specialized underwater welder named Barney to help repair wooden fenders on the Cross Bay Parkway Viaduct in Queens.  Barney studied the plans carefully, and informed Florman that he would have no problem with the project.  He was so sure about this that he went ahead and gave Florman his staggering hourly rate.  However, when Barney actually arrived at the site, he noticed the tide was too powerful to work six times a day and he would only be able to work at high or low tide. which would cost Florman three times as much to pay Barney.   Not only did rip Florman off by not making sure that he could finish the project with no problem, but he also put his blame on Florman by saying, “You didn’t tell me about the tide”.  What Barney should have done was to actually look at the site where he was working and decide right there whether or not he would have difficulty in performing the task and how much it would cost Florman. Instead, Barney made more stress on Florman by not being observant enough and blaming Florman about it.  In Laura Shippler Chico’s essay in “This I Believe II”, Chico writes about what kind of person she wants to bring into the world while she is pregnant.  She talks about how the first quality that she wants her child to have is honesty, which is something Barney could have used more of.  She writes about how when you’re honest, people trust you, and you trust yourself, and that is the foundation for all the rest.  I remember a time when I accidentally broke a lamp playing with a sponge ball when I was little and my mom asked me who did it.  My initial reaction was to blame it on the dog, which would be a stretch for her to believe, in which case I stopped myself from doing.  Knowing that I would have to pay the price for my own mistake, I told her it was my own fault.  From there, I was grounded and had to be lectured on the importance of not throwing things across the downstairs kitchen, which was worse than it sounds.  I had to pay the price for my own mistake, but at least I was honest.