This I Believe

Leon - Fairfield, California
Entered on December 28, 2007
Age Group: 65+
Themes: work

When I was 18, I left New Mexico to seek employment in the aircraft industry of California. On the day of my departure, my father said, “Son, whatever job you get, do more than is expected of you and you will be a success in this world.” With just a 3rd grade education, he had worked up to construction superintendent for a large mining company. This was his work ethic.

My first job was to smooth the edges of BT13 wing skins measuring about four by five feet in size. Each day there were 50 on a work bench and I had to use a burring tool to walk around the pile scraping burrs off the edge on one side, flip the skin over, walk around again removing burrs and place the finished part on another bench, ad infinitum. It was the most boring job I have ever had, so I decided to see how many miles I could walk going around and around that work bench each day. I was soon almost trotting.

One day my foreman, unknown to me, was watching. I happened to glance up and saw him. He came over and praised me for my increased output. He then asked if I could interpret a blueprint and pass the information on to other employees. “Yes”, I said. On the spot he promoted me to lead man of my section of ten employees. I was only 19 years old responsible for the output of other employees, all in their late 20s or 30s. In the next 2 years, I was promoted 8 times simply because in each job I did more than was expected of me.

Beginning in 1944, I served in the military for 2 ½ years and then attended college. During the next 10 years I worked for three other organizations and for 17 years I was a civilian employee at an Air Force base. In each job, I never had to apply for a promotion—I received them because of my work ethic. At the Air Force base, I went from a GS 9 position to GS 13 in just 3 years, becoming the second highest paid civilian on base. My crowning achievement was negotiating a contract at $3.3 million less than an adjacent city wanted for connecting to their new regional sewage treatment facility. During 3 months negotiations, I kept apace with my normal assigned tasks. In addition, I worked at home late into the night seeking errors in the city’s calculations. For that effort, I received a letter President Carter, Letters of Commendation from the Secretary of Defense, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, and the commander of the 22nd Air Force. Once again, I had fulfilled my father’s admonition to do more than was expected of me. This I believe—any employee who adopts my father’s work ethic will be recognized and receive just rewards, not only in supervisory recognition, but in an inner self-worth.