Adventures in Drywall

It would have been nearly impossible to ignore the hoopla surrounding the recent television show “Survivor.” While Bill and Kevin would like to consider themselves above such pedestrian behavior, they found themselves—if not publicly, then secretly—rooting on their favorites. They found they could legitimize their actions, at least to each other, by relating the show to daily life.

The lessons learned from this paragon of voyeurism are numerous.

Most importantly: In order to succeed you must have a plan. Not only must you take the appropriate steps in formulating this plan; you must be willing to follow through with this plan, no matter what. This is sometimes done at risk. You roll the dice with your future, your friends and often the ones you love. At times, people may view you as a heartlessly driven, focused pain in the ... well, you know the rest.

These are the same self-serving pariahs who will sell the two things they legitimately know about you to the National Enquirer, three seconds after you sign a six-figure deal. Their inventive memory will include anecdotes of times and occurrences that never happened, while recounting how they always were supportive and they just knew you would make it.

The “Survivor” that seemed to pull this off successfully, if not seamlessly, was Richard. While we at home judged and second-guessed every reptilian move he made, he approached this challenge as a business, the same way a CEO approaches each day. While the decisions they make are driven by the bottom line, they sometimes are faced with doing the right thing (read: maintaining integrity) … bottom line be damned.

Some members of the cast were content to wake up each morning and do nothing. Not only did they do nothing, they reveled in it. They bragged about it. While not wanting to issue social commentary, suffice to say, no feature in Fortune will be forthcoming.

Still, others tried to face the challenge like a business but were unable. Whether due to poor planning or training, emotion got in the way. When this realization finally hit them, they whined about how unfair the game was and how they wanted no part of the strategy that was required of them to win. We think the line that summed these up the best was, “I’m just not having fun any more.” Fun. The word that drives Generation X. God forbid these spoiled self-gratification-driven brats not have a single day without some fun.

Down the hatch

Perhaps the most confusing of all were the ones that thought that they could will their way into winning. Whether by just being a nice person or by being a tyrant who would make it happen. I’m sorry, but when we’re on a deserted island with you, we will be demanding more of you than an occasional song, even if sung from the heart. And write this down: If you are an annoying know-it-all, you are going to get voted off the island. Conversely, being nice is not enough. You have to contribute. Also, trying to be everything to everyone is irritating, even if you can back it up with actions.

Next, we come to everyone’s favorite, Rudy: Who among us wouldn’t have loved to see this icon of the greatest generation debate with George and Al? This man personifies everything you want from a friend, business partner or leader: He is driven by doing the right thing. You watched as he approached each day with the same driving work ethic. While not wanting to get caught up in a maze of lies and deceit, he realized that a strategic alliance would be required to win the contest. Considering all of his options, he bases his decision on hard data. He then makes the decision with whom to align himself. Once the decision is made, that is the end of it.

He plays with the strength and determination you expect of him. When the end comes, and he has to cast the determining vote, he honors his commitment. Why? Because as he most eloquently put it, “I gave my word and that’s it.” You could feel the pride well up in your chest. Groups of old Marines could be heard from coast to coast toasting their comrade. These men had grown up in the same era as Rudy. Their word was their bond. It was a time before it made it necessary for you to hire five lawyers to create reams of unreadable disclaimers before you could bring a new product to market, for fear some litigious piranha would sue. Not only you, but also everyone you had ever spoken with since puberty.

While in the end Richard won, we ask: Whom would you rather have running your bank, your insurance company or your drywall dealership? Richard or Rudy? While they will both take the task seriously, which one do you feel will do the right thing when faced with the Firestone challenge?

Pure in heart

While this article may have seemed nonsensical to you, apply the lessons to real life. Every day you deal with the Richards, Gervaises, Colleens and Rudys. These people each affect your business in their own way. You sometimes feel that the big business of Richard cares a little less about you than he cares about the bottom line. You sometimes feel you are being manipulated, between big business and big builders. We are sure you have had more than your share of the Gervaises of the world, willing to show up on your job, but not much more. Then you have the Colleens complaining about the fairness of everything.

And then you have our man, Rudy. He is the guy at the yard who takes care of you. He makes good on anything that may happen. He’s the rocker who works well past dark because he knows you are in a bind. He may be the finisher who goes above and beyond in the way he leaves your job when finished. He is everyman’s man.

They say that fiction often follows fact. Many pundits have dismissed the TV show as contrived foolishness. Richard has gone on to grace (we use the words loosely) the pages of America’s most popular magazines since, and has been fiscally rewarded for his ethics.

Rudy, meanwhile, has returned to the rewards of virtue and self-respect. When we say Rudy “rocks,” he may not be hanging 16-foot lids solo, but if he were, he’d do it without a peep.

Watch for Richard. He’s out there with you everyday. And with or without Rudy, it’s still drywall, and it’s your life.