Thursday, July 08, 2004

...Unique Learning Disabilities

I have no “Boss From Hell” stories.

For the majority of my adult life I worked for an amazing sales manager who created incentive through positive reinforcement instead of fear of termination. While many people in the technology business have a tendency to turn into fossils once they achieve a cushy management position, Bob consistently stayed on the absolute cutting edge of our industry, always filled with new and creative ideas. He encouraged hard work through example, not hypocrisy. His was often the first car you’d see when you pulled into the office in the morning, and it wasn’t rare to see that his car was still there when you went home at night. Bob was one of those important figures in my life, like my parents, who believed so strongly that I had the skills and ability to be successful that eventually I started to believe him.

When Bob approached me about partnering with him to create our own business I felt as giddy as the homely schoolgirl who gets asked to the prom by the captain of the football team.

Although our business officially has four owners, there is little question as to who has done the most to get our company off the ground. In addition to being by far our strongest salesperson, Bob personally set up our company’s Local Area Network. He connected and programmed our phone system. He is the only one of us who really understands the very complicated financial aspects of running our business. With only a high school education under his belt, Bob has learned to design complex systems integration projects that are usually the domain of those with advanced electrical engineering degrees.

To be honest, though I consider Bob a personal friend, he is one of those people so multi-talented that you sort of hate him too, for the way he (unintentionally) makes you feel inadequate in comparison. This is a guy who built a horse rink by hand in his backyard, can play multiple instruments at a professional level and can fix virtually any household problem without having to pay a professional. But everyone must have one tragic flaw.

The dude can’t spell for shit.

I’m not talking about the garden variety spelling mistakes many of us make, like forgetting the correct number of c’s and r’s in “occurred” or how the “I before E” rule works. Bob’s problem is serious enough we've had to implement a rule that he is not allowed to send outgoing emails without letting one of us proofread, lest any of our customers or vendors think we are not an actual business, but a group of children playing pretend. Spellcheck is useless to Bob, as he can’t even recognize the correct spelling of a word when he sees it.

Part of the problem is that he wants to spell everything phonetically. All incoming invoices to our company are put into a folder Bob has labeled “Payabills”.

My unique learning disability has to do with putting stuff together. Just as a dyslexic can read a book, it just takes them a lot longer than the average person, I can finish “Some Assembly Required” projects, just not within any sort of normal timeframe.

For instance, I recently replaced my old, rickety entertainment center with this. I completed the project, it’s just that it probably should have taken 2 or 3 hours as opposed to 19. And most people probably wouldn’t have broken one of the pieces of wood due to their own negligence, or SuperGlued the piece back together unevenly, or had to deinstall the entire unit when it didn’t ultimately fit together properly, forcing them to return the unit, in individual pieces, back to the store while desperately trying to convince them the broken piece of wood was actually a factory defect (Thank you, Liberal Exchange Policies). Come to think of it, the doors probably shouldn’t fall off completely everytime they’re opened either.
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