Chapter 14 of “A Life Worth Living” – For Every Action, a Reaction

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Chapter 14 – For Every Action, a Reaction

For every action there is a reaction and 2004 continued to prove the validity of that wisdom to us.

Although friends came and went in Sassy’s life, our little yorkie continued to flourish in her new home. As I mentioned before, Sassy’s pleasures were simple: she loved listening to music, she ate food in a style similar to Garfield, and most of all, she enjoyed just sitting in the sun on the back patio or watching the world go by via the window next to the front door. It was a simple life. She was happy.

“Our small lanai is nice, but how about we extend it like Tommy’s?” I asked Anne. “Look at how additional space they have under their extended roof?”

“I love the idea, Michael.” Anne agreed. “But if you’re gonna have a contractor out to do it, I want them to also screen in the front door area too – you have no idea how dirty that space gets!”

“Cool your breeches,woman.” I laughed, using one of my dad’s favorite expressions. I was happy to see Anne agreeing with me but not so thrilled to have her driving up the price of the project. “Let’s get some quotes first, ok? Then we can decide what things we can afford?”

Anne wasn’t amused, “All I’m saying, Michael, is that if there’s enough money to get what you want, then there better be enough to get what I want too. After all, what I’m asking for is only a tiny area – much smaller than your new room.”

“Ok, ok, we’ll see.” I smiled winsomely, hoping she’d forget.

I’m guessing you can figure out what happened next – oh I got the patio extension out back (adding a couple hundred square feet of “indoor-out” space under a covered roof), and of course, Anne got her wish as well since we screened in the front door area. In addition, the contractor told Anne that if we used an extended kickplate, it would keep out even more dirt – that was all Anne had to hear to be sold on the idea and so we ended up with 18-inch kick-plate that lined both the front and back extensions.

“Looking good, huh?” I surveyed ‘my work’ while enjoying a beer under the new back patio. Little did I realize that my satisfaction would be short lived.

“Honey, you’d better come and see this.” Anne called to me from inside. “We have a problem.”

Dreading those words, I set down my beer and begrudgingly made my way in.

“Look at Sassy.” Anne pointed.

Sassy was sitting in one of her beds – in this case the one that gave her a view out the window by the front door. But, enjoying one of her favorite past times and looking through the window to the world outside, now Sassy was just lying in her bed with a hang dog look.

“What’s the matter, girl?” I knelt down beside her to pet her — and then immediately saw the problem.

“She can’t–” Anne began.

“See outside.” I interrupted. “We blocked her view with that dang kickplate!”

It’s true – while that extended kickplate may have done a great job keeping out dust, it did an even better job of obstructing Sassy’s view. Worse yet, this wasn’t just a problem in the front — that kickplate lined the entire back patio too. This meant that Sassy had now gone from having a clear view of the entire backyard and front walkway to having NO view of it! And on top of that there was no way for us to change it – unless we wanted to have the contractor come back and redo a significant portion of the work – which wasn’t really an option because we didn’t have the funds in our budget to spend.

“I feel terrible.” Anne picked up Sassy. “We’re so sorry, girl.”

“What about if we open up the screen door in the back so she can lay in the grass?” I struggled for a solution.

“First off, you know as well as I that Sassy doesn’t spend any more time in the grass than she needs to. Secondly, she’s so small I’m afraid a hawk might come by and pick her up.” And here Anne proceeded to remind me again about recent news articles that described two separate incidents of small dogs being carried away by large birds.

“Perhaps we can just leave the screen door open in the back so Sassy can at least look out?”

Anne thought about it. “Well, it defeats the purpose of keeping out the dust, but it will have to do…for now.”

So, in the end, we lived with a little dust out back and Sassy still got to enjoy a portion of her view. Unfortunately she lost the ability to enjoy any view through the front door – and this lost vision was perhaps an ominous sign of the shape of things to come…


Meanwhile, I had a new job to focus on.

It’s kind of funny to see how interrelated life is. It’s been said that people come and go in your life for a reason – if you are open to the possibilities — I believe Liz was one of those people.I’d spent seven years building a career in insurance with USAA and really loved the company, my friends there, and the work itself. What’s interesting is that fairly early on during my time at USAA (prior to ever meeting Anne), Liz was my original supervisor and later one of my sales managers — she’d helped me to take advantage of a couple opportunities that propelled my career forward. As a result, I’d gained experience in a variety of capacities within the insurance world including sales, claims adjusting, underwriting, and sales management. I’d also acquired so many continuing education designations that I needed two nameplates to showcase them all. Because of my experience and educational success I like to think I was a rising star within USAA, as I’d built a great reputation and by the early 2000’s I was repeatedly offered new opportunities for advancement. However two things were working against me: I was getting pressure to transfer to the home office in San Antonio in order to rise higher in the ranks (while I probably would have done that, Anne had no desire to move to San Antonio) and unless I could rise a lot higher, my financial prospects were limited.

Now as I noted previously, Liz had left USAA in 2003 to get into the pharmaceutical world, and since initially everything was still great with her and Kris, we were all still friends back then — as a result, I got a chance to do a few ‘ride-alongs’ with her and really learn what the pharma business was all about. Once I realized the kind of money Liz was making (almost double what I was as a sales manager at USAA), I knew I owed it to myself and my future family to learn more.

To be honest with you, I’d never pictured myself in a medical career path before and my only prior experience with a pharma opportunity was this: upon graduating from college in 1993 I had one interview with Pfizer and as I’d done no preparation for the interview and balked when they talked about all the travel, I didn’t get that job and really never had any further desire to break into that field. Quite frankly I felt that pharma reps were just a bunch of overpaid hype artists who were part of the problem as to why medical costs were so expensive in this country. However after doing those ride-alongs with Liz, I got a chance to see her in action and better understand the value of her relationships with her customers; in addition, I realized that I too could thrive in such an environment (self-directed outside sales, the opportunity to manage a territory as my personal business, etc). As a result, I revised my views about pharma reps and decided to look into the opportunities that might be available to me too.

Back in 2004, it was still relatively difficult to get into the world of pharma — unless you were recruited out of college, had a medical background, or knew somebody, you’re only choice was to go to job fairs and cattle call interviews. Since there weren’t any openings with Liz’s company, my prospects were nil to start with. Although I felt like I’d built a resume that showed a history of success in sales and management at USAA, I knew my lack of medical experience and my lack of contacts in the industry might pose a problem, so rather than just follow the job fair crowd, I decided to do some research about how best to break in. I’d read a few books on how to become a pharma rep and applied the techniques – fully expecting it would take me multiple attempts to break into the industry and setting a goal of getting an offer within six months to a year.

When I felt like I was ready to finally interview I went to a job fair with a company called “Aventis” in the spring of 2004. When I showed up at the interview site I received quite a shock — there were about 500 people already in line! Suddenly the term cattle-call finally made sense to me. As the line slowly moved, I got closer and closer to the interview room. All along I continued to remind myself of my interview best practices (I was known among my friends and work colleagues as a bit of a guru on the subject of how to interview and truth be told I was the one who helped Liz develop her brag book and prepare for her pharma interview the year prior). Even still, I wasn’t sure my techniques would work in such an environment – where time was so tight and I might not get a chance to employ my special techniques.

When I finally got into the room, I took stock of my surroundings – there were three interviewers set up around the conference room, each conducting an interview. I was directed to the next available interviewer. The man introduced himself as “Thomas Cruise” and took a brief look at my resume. I made an attempt to break the ice by commenting on his name  (probably not the brightest thing to do since he’d surely heard the comparisons to the actor about a million times already that day) – strike one! Without even a smile, Mr. Cruise then asked me to briefly describe my work experience to him, which I proceeded to do — but as I was talking I noticed an ominous sight — my interviewer appeared bored with me and was actually looking around the room at other people – strike two! Getting a bit frustrated by Mr. Cruise’s lack of respect, feeling like I’d already blown this opportunity, and figuring I had nothing to lose I stopped talking about myself.

“Mr. Cruise, it sure seems to me like you’re not interested in what I have to say,” I advised calmly (although I was anything but).  “So here’s what I’m gonna do – how about I ask you what kind of people you need on your team  and then tell you how I can fill that need.”  

Not only did I not strike out, but I felt like I hit a solid single because Mr. Cruise’s demeanor completely changed!

“Call me, Tom.” He smiled. “Can you come back in a couple hours for a second interview?”

As it turned out, not only did I get a second (much longer) interview with Tom later that day, but I also got another with his boss a few days later. During those meetings I used a variety of interview skills to control the discussion and move myself forward in the process, including using a well-validated brag book, a powerpoint presentation about my plans for the territory, memorizing the drug’s package insert and then using it to conduct a mock sales call (naturally remembering my ‘ABC’s’ and closing the deal at the end), and even giving a small gift for the interviewer — in Tom’s case I’d learned that he was a baseball fan and so I brought him one of my authentic team hats from the Little League World Series memorabilia I had at home — it turned out to be a great ‘investment on my part because I got the job! In fact, I was one of only two people to receive an offer out of the 500+ applicants (with the other person an already experienced pharma rep).

“I knew you could do it!” Anne smiled as she held Sassy in her arms when I returned home later that day. “So what now?”

“I guess I give my notice to USAA.” I replied, showering both of them with kisses in my joy. “They want me to start in April – we have some kind of national meeting in Vegas.”

“I’m so happy for you.” Anne replied. “I know you worked so hard and you really deserve it. You’re going to be great.”

“I’m happy for us, honey! Here we are in this new house, we’re happy, we’re healthy, and our whole lives are before us. Soon we’ll be married, then have kids, and the rest is history!”

Ah, if only life was so easy, right? Little did I know that my world was about to turn upside down due to an expected family tragedy…


Sassy’s Life Lesson #14 – For Every Action, A Reaction. 

We got a new patio extension…Sassy lost her view. I got a new job in pharmaceuticals…and I gave up a promising career in insurance that, looking back now, would have easily carried me through to a secure retirement without the many headaches that were soon to come in the medical field. Such is life – for every action, there is a reaction.

Solomon spoke a bit on this subject and I’d like to submit his words for your review. (Eccl 7: 14) “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.”

The fact of the matter is that life has it’s up’s and down’s. We can’t enjoy good times every day of our lives. The scales of life always seek to find a balance. That’s why it’s so critical that we make every effort to enjoy each moment. As Henry David Thoreau once said, we need to ‘suck the marrow’ out of life each day. Pay attention to your opportunities to enjoy life and when given the chance do just that. You never know what awaits you on the morrow.


Points to Ponder

What are some examples in your life where you’ve experienced an Action/Reaction situation? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Is there anything you’re considering now that might lead to an Action/Reaction situation? Perhaps it might be worthwhile to talk things out with a trusted advisor.


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